To help get you through college football’s slow days of late June and early July — before conference media days launch the preseason festivities — we’ve counted down the 12 most important South Carolina Gamecocks and 12 most important Clemson Tigers for 2013. One Gamecock and one Tiger every day, so you can spend part of your summer studying the players who will make a difference for your team come autumn.
CLEMSON’S MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
TAJH BOYD, SENIOR, QUARTERBACK
Like it could really be anybody else.
Honestly: Dabo Swinney, Chad Morris and Brent Venables could all put in the greatest game-planning years of their lives, and it wouldn’t matter if Tajh Boyd takes a Denard Robinson-like plunge or – hold your breath – went down with an injury. It’d be really difficult to argue Boyd out of a debate over the five most important college football players to his team in the entire country. Manziel, Bridgewater … and then a few other quarterbacks right there alongside Boyd.
You know why Clemson fans can’t contain their excitement for the 2013 season? Why the expectations are relatively higher than pretty much any other school in the country? Because they know what they have in their quarterback. A passer. A runner. A veteran. A leader. A gamer. An American Idol, to patriot-ize it up this holiday weekend.
His passing efficiency last year was fifth in the country – higher than Heisman finalist Collin Klein and Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. He’s just the third Clemson quarterback to rush for 500 yards and 10 touchdowns in one year. He’s the only ACC player to be responsible for 38 touchdowns in a season – and he’s done it twice. Clemson has back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in two decades, and Boyd’s started every game since Opening Day 2011. He took a battering from LSU’s powerful defense last year when the Tigers had to shuffle their offensive line on the fly (and Sammy Watkins was gone for the game with an ankle injury) – and he got up every time. Finally, his good-guy persona has been well-documented. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, coming from a good family and constantly doing the right thing while keeping his name clear from rumor mills and police reports.
Boyd could probably transfer to, say, Boston College right now and probably still lead the woeful Golden Eagles to a bowl game. He’s that talented all by himself. This is football. It is a team game. The Tigers need all 12 players on this list and so many more to culminate in a season for the ages. Guarantee this, though: the pen to Clemson’s 2013 memoir is in the right hand of its fifth-year senior quarterback.
Height/weight: 6-1, 225
Hometown: Hampton, Va.
Last year: ACC Player of the Year, completing 67 percent of his passes for 3,896 yards and 36 touchdowns, plus 514 rushing yards and ten more scores in leading the Tigers to an 11-2 record and Chick-Fil-A Bowl victory