First Take, Part I: Scouting No. 5 Georgia

Aaron Murray Todd Gurley

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

Each week this season, you’ll get an early yet detailed peek at Clemson’s upcoming opponent right here on the Tiger Tracks blog. Be sure to like us on Facebook.

Who: No. 5 Georgia (12-2, 7-1 SEC last year) at No. 8 Clemson (11-2, 7-1 ACC)

When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Memorial Stadium (81,500) | Clemson, S.C.

TV: ABC

Radio: Clemson Radio Network | WQSC-AM 1340 in Charleston (Affiliates)

Line: Georgia by -1.5

Continue reading

Clemson’s Most Valuable Player in 2013: QB Tajh Boyd

Tajh Boyd

BY AARON BRENNER AND DARRYL SLATER
abrenner@postandcourier.com and dslater@postandcourier.com

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.

Tajh BoydHonestly: 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.
-Aaron Brenner

TAJH BOYD
Position: Quarterback
Year: Senior
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

THE ENTIRE LIST
No. 12 Jr. DT Grady Jarrett
No. 11 Jr. LB Stephone Anthony
No. 10 Fr. TE Jordan Leggett

No. 9 Jr. RT Gifford Timothy
No. 8 Fr. CB Mackensie Alexander
No. 7 Soph. FS Travis Blanks

No. 6 Jr. WR Adam Humphries
No. 5 Jr. DT Josh Watson
No. 4 Jr. DE Vic Beasley

No. 3 Sr. LB Spencer Shuey
No. 2 Jr. WR Sammy Watkins
No. 1 Sr. QB Tajh Boyd

Tajh Boyd dishes on Johnny Manziel, Sammy Watkins and Howard’s Rock

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

Tajh BoydCLEMSON — Tajh Boyd is a humble dude. (I’ve never met him. But I’ve been told this countless times by people who have, and on the limited occasions I’ve heard him speak, I believe those people.)

Tajh Boyd is not necessarily a politically correct dude. And that’s just fine.

Tajh Boyd won’t walk up to you and say, “Hi, I’m the best quarterback in college football. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” But if you ask Tajh Boyd if he thinks he’s the best quarterback in college football – which Ryan Russillo did Tuesday on ESPN Radio – Boyd’s not shy to agree.

So that’s cool and all. Boyd’s got limitless potential this fall, and so does his team.

Clemson AD Dan Radakovich joins NCAA advisory council

If you just can’t get enough Tajh during the dead days of June when college football is as quiet as it ever gets … here are four more snippets Boyd shared yesterday on the radio.

On what advice he’d give Heisman winner Johnny Manziel about living his life in the limelight:

“For me, it’s all about staying humble and continuing to work. I know a lot of guys are the social type. I just try to be a good example for those guys. It’s never to a point where I allow myself to send an emotional tweet or be an emotional media type. He’s just got to kind ignore some of the stuff he’s getting from people.”

On how he handles a social media presence maturely and responsibly:

“It’s extremely difficult sometimes. Today, this is an opinionated country. You want to be able to speak yours as well. But when you’re in a position that you’re in, it comes with some things, and you can’t forget it. You’re almost an exception, being an athlete. You’ve got to hold yourself to that. As much as you want to say that you’re no different as anybody else, at the end of the day, you really are. And you’re given a platform, so any platform, you’ve got to take advantage of it, and use it as positive reinforcement. That’s how you’ve got to look at it.”

On the outlook for Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, looking to bounce back from a sophomore slump:

“Honestly, this has been the best summer I’ve seen him have so far. He’s been working as tirelessly as I’ve ever seen him work. And he knows how important he is to this program. Of course, there are going to be guys that have to step up for the team as well. But he’s handling himself like a veteran. He’s handled the controversy as well. He’s a crucial part to what we want to do and where we want to go. It’s going to take everybody to reach the goals we want to reach.”

On his thoughts about the Howard’s Rock vandalism:

“The thing that shocked me is we found out a few days ago, and it happened earlier in the month. I feel like maybe there should have been a little more attention to it. But it’s an unfortunate situation. We don’t really know who did it, so we can’t accuse anybody of it. Honestly, I think it’s one of the best traditions in college football. So it’s unfortunate that it happened, but we’ve got to control what we can and take it from there.”

Tajh Boyd believes he’s the best quarterback in college football; Danny Kanell buys Clemson as BCS contender

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

CLEMSON – In Clemson’s spring game program following an illustrious 2012 football season, certain statistics are listed suggesting quarterback Tajh Boyd was more effective last fall than Heisman finalists Johnny Manziel and Collin Klein.

Indeed, Boyd had a better passing efficiency mark and more yards per game, touchdowns and yards per attempt through the air than Manziel, who won the coveted trophy, and Klein.

Even with Manziel back for his redshirt sophomore season at Texas A&M, Boyd believes he can hang with the reigning player of the year.

Asked if he believes he’s college football’s finest quarterback by host Ryan Russillo during his ESPN Radio appearance Tuesday afternoon, the humble, well-spoken Boyd had a firm response.

“Me personally? I think so. I think so,” Boyd said. “That’s just me. I feel like I bring a lot to the table, as far as throwing the ball and being able to run the ball. But I really consider myself more of a passer than a runner. I don’t like the stigma of being labeled as a dual threat quarterback.

“I’m a guy that, yeah, I can make plays happen with my feet, but essentially, I like to sit back and throw it around.”

The college football game everybody’s talking about during these slower offseason months is Georgia at Clemson, a Saturday night showdown Aug. 31 at Death Valley which many believe could yield a national championship contender out of the victor.

“It’s going to be an electrifying feeling, man. The last first home game,” the fifth-year senior Boyd said. “I’m just try to enjoy every moment this summer, working out with the team, and every opportunity I get as far as speaking engagements, anything I can do, I try to live in the moment and enjoy it. So Aug. 31 is going to be a special, special feeling. It’s going to be exciting, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Boyd, the 2012 ACC Player of the Year who was named to numerous All-American squads, recognized the anticipation leading up to Clemson’s season, particularly due to the Tigers’ Chick-Fil-A Bowl upset victory over LSU, completing Clemson’s 11-2 season.

“I think we’re a very, very confident team. I just don’t think people kind of understand what type of program we have,” Boyd said. “That’s one of the things that’s been holding this program back for a long time, is trying to win signature games. I think it was a step in the right direction for the program. It makes that (Georgia) matchup more intriguing, and everybody that much more excited about it.”

Stand-in host Danny Kanell, a former NFL quarterback who started for Florida State from 1994-95, weighed in on the Tigers’ 2013 outlook.

“I’m buying into Clemson as a national title contender,” Kanell said. “I love Tajh Boyd. Chad Morris, their offensive coordinator, is a genius. He’s one of those guys that’s just going to come up with plays in the dirt that’s going to give defensive coordinators (fits.) You’ve got formations you’ve never seen, motions you’ve never seen, he puts guys in unique situations specifically to find mismatches.

“Tajh Boyd, having some experience in that system, knows how to find those mismatches. That’s why I think they’re going to give Georgia trouble, because they’re going to have all offseason to gameplan for that.”

With a fairly manageable conference schedule following the Georgia opener, goals are gargantuan for Clemson, expected to begin ranked as a top 10 or top 15 squad in the preseason Associated Press poll.

“If they can win that game, and then they have Florida State at home?” Kanell continued. “Other than that, the rest of the ACC schedule … now historically, the ACC has always managed to shoot themselves in the foot by losing a game they shouldn’t, no matter who it is, whatever the team that’s hot that year. But those two games are something to watch out for, and I think Clemson could make a run.”

With Chad Morris and Brent Venables, Clemson might have the hottest one-two coordinator punch in the country

Does Chad Morris take the ball away from Andre Ellington too early in games?

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com
@Aaron_Brenner

Success is a double-edged sword in the realm of keeping top assistants.

Put it this way: if Chad Morris or Brent Venables (or both) are holding a press conference introducing themselves as new head coaches somewhere else within the next year, it probably means Clemson had a wonderful 2013 football season.

Morris is on Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart’s level as one of the country’s hottest head coaching prospects, and Venables isn’t far behind, wrote Travis Haney on Friday for ESPN Insider. Haney’s a former Post & Courier beat writer, with experience covering Clemson and South Carolina.

Here’s what Haney wrote about Morris Friday, in dignifying the Tigers’ offensive coordinator as Smart’s equal as the top coordinator on athletic director’s minds:

“Morris, when I met with him in April, felt as if Clemson was not far off the championship pace. Really, that has only been the case since he arrived … the Texas Tech job would have been ideal if Kliff Kingsbury were not available or interested. So, let’s say Texas goes after Art Briles or Gary Patterson when Mack Brown retires, whenever that happens. Baylor or TCU — or the like — would be pretty logical spots for Morris, a native Texan.”

Brent VenablesAs for Venables, Haney ranks him eighth on the list of coordinators soon to be sitting in the big man’s chair. Writes Haney: “His name was hotter a few years back when he was at Oklahoma, and that’s one reason some people close to Venables told me he ultimately left OU for Clemson … The personable, energetic Venables is a dogged recruiter. He loves it. That is attractive to ADs (it helped get Dave Doeren the NC State job). He’s proving himself on the field, too.”

Of the 13 coordinators Haney identified, they represented powerhouses Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Ohio State and Texas – which have combined for seven of the 15 BCS Championship Game victories.

But there was only one school who saw BOTH their coordinators identified: Clemson.

*****

For kicks, let’s check out a baker’s dozen former coordinators who capitalized on their assistant tenure to earn head coaching jobs:

Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh. Took him a while for everything to click, but a remarkable seven-year run in his native Madison culminated in a couple of Rose Bowl appearances for Wisconsin.

David Cutcliffe, Duke. Being tight with Peyton Manning has its spoils. Reviving Tennessee’s offense again with Erik Ainge a decade after guiding Manning proves his ability.

Dave Doeren, North Carolina State. He capitalized on a couple of Rose Bowl appearances leading Wisconsin’s defense, and then rewarded Northern Illinois with a BCS berth last year before moving to Raleigh.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina. His spread offense evolved Oklahoma State into the high-octane attack it remains today.

Mike London, Virginia. Picked up where Al Golden left off with the Cavaliers’ defense the middle of last decade, and now both guys are at the helm of ACC Coastal programs.

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State. Look, you produce back-to-back stingy defenses at Ohio State (including a championship), other schools start to notice. Like Cincinnati and the Spartans.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech. See: Manziel, Johnny.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn. See: Newton, Cameron.

Todd Monken, Southern Miss. He isn’t starting in the most lavish locale, but his fine work with the Oklahoma State offense speaks for itself.

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State. Tim Tebow’s offensive coordinator at Florida, Tebow scored two BCS Championship rings with the Gators. The guy who supplanted Mullen, Steve Addazio, also qualifies on this list as he’s now at Boston College.

Will Muschamp, Florida. The ultimate laundry-list-of-accomplishments coordinator: LSU, Auburn and Texas convinced the Longhorns to designate him Mack Brown’s successor, but the chance to replace Urban Meyer allowed Muschamp not to have to wait that long.

Mark Stoops, Kentucky. From the plum gig in Florida State to a fixer-upper in Lexington.

Gene Chizik, formerly Iowa State & Auburn. For all his bumblings as a head coach (you know, except that 2010 Cam-paign), people forget Chizik led defenses to undefeated seasons at Auburn and Texas – in back-to-back years (2004-05.)

If you’re someone like, say, Jimbo Fisher (Florida State) or Bret Bielema (then-Wisconsin), you can be named head-coach-in-waiting. Or like Scott Shafer (Syracuse), David Shaw (Stanford) and Mark Helfrich (Oregon), wait until your stud boss flees for the NFL.