Boyd and the rest of Clemson’s senior class dubbed the “Dandy Dozen” in February 2009 by then first-year coach Dabo Swinney make the traditional game-opening run down Memorial Stadium for a final time today when the Tigers (9-1) play The Citadel (5-6).
“These guys are leaving quite a legacy here at Clemson,” Swinney said.
Swinney said Boyd has elevated the Tigers from a solid program to one that competes for championships each season.
Boyd had strongly considered Oregon and Ohio State before selecting Clemson. He’s since set 52 school records and is the only Atlantic Coast Conference quarterback with more than 10,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing.
“You don’t come in with expectations to do all that, you just want to get out there and compete at a high level,” Boyd said. “Playing for a university like Clemson, you want to come in and impact the program if you can.”
Swinney remembers trying to get talented players like Boyd to buy into the vision of an untested receivers coach given the keys to run Clemson’s highly regarded program.
Boyd helped Clemson to its first ACC title in two decades as a first-year starter back in 2011. He was critical to the team’s 11-2 season a year ago, winning ACC player of the year.
Boyd’s dreams of a national title and a Heisman Trophy faded in October after Clemson was drubbed 51-14 at home by No. 2 Florida State. Still, Boyd has rallied Clemson to three consecutive wins.
“Any time you have a football program, you envision yourself playing your best ball at the end of the year,” Boyd said. “I think that’s what we’re doing now.”
Five things to watch for when No. 7 Clemson plays Citadel:
SAMMY’S LAST GAME?: This should be the final time home fans see junior receiver Sammy Watkins catching passes for the Tigers. Watkins is considered by several experts as the best available receiver in next spring’s NFL draft. Watkins says he’s not thinking about that yet, concentrating on Clemson’s final few games. Watkins surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for the second time in three seasons and is tied for the ACC with nine touchdown catches.
FCS AT DEATH VALLEY: Things haven’t gone well for Football Championship teams at Death Valley with Clemson holding an all-time mark of 27-0 against teams from the former Division I-AA. Only once has the Tigers winning margin come by less than 10 points, when Wofford kept things too close for the home fans’ comfort in a 35-27 Clemson victory in 2011.
CITADEL’S OFFENSE: Usually, the Citadel’s triple-option offense would represent an unfamiliar, change of pace adjustment to Clemson’s defense. But the Tigers last game came against similarly schemed Georgia Tech and they held the Yellow Jackets to 248 yards rushing, far below than their 311-yard average coming in. “They’ve had three weeks of preparation with the bye and Georgia Tech,” Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said.
MILITARY APPRECIATION DAY: Clemson is honoring the military, an annual celebration at Death Valley. Expect plenty of flag waving and action for junior receiver Daniel Rodriguez, who received a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device for fighting in the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan.
PASSING THE TORCH: Tajh Boyd’s departure at Death Valley means the fans focus will be on highly regarded incoming quarterback DeShaun Watson, who has signed a financial aid agreement with Clemson and is expected to enroll in January. Boyd’s hosting Watson this weekend, but downplays the impact a true freshman might make next year with junior Cole Stoudt and freshman Chad Kelly ahead of him. “Got some guys that can play right now. Those guys have proved they can play right now,” Boyd said. “I just think it will be an interesting competition.”