Clemson has its quarterback -- and the ACC has a legitimate Heisman candidate and national title contender -- for 2013.
Tajh Boyd’s announcement Wednesday afternoon that he has decided to stay for his fifth and final season in Death Valley was an instant validation of Clemson’s hopes for a national championship season this coming fall. Boyd should be the best quarterback returning in the ACC this season and one of the best in the country. He was good enough this past season to be a Heisman finalist (though he wasn't), and most importantly, his experience and leadership will be priceless to a program looking for something more than a second ACC title in three seasons.
When asked on Wednesday afternoon if his decision to return was more financially or legacy-driven, Boyd responded with an answer that defines him as a leader:
“I think more team-driven, honestly,” he said.
“When Coach [Dabo] Swinney came in here, he had this dream for this program. I had the same type of deal. I feel like we have an opportunity to create something special here. We’ve gotten better each year. I’ve gotten better as a player each year. I feel like the way this offseason is going to work, and the way these players are going to be pushed, I feel like it can become that more special.”
With Boyd returning, along with offensive coordinator Chad Morris and receiver Sammy Watkins, and most of the offensive line, there will plenty of pieces in place for another year of eye-popping offensive numbers. Should receiver DeAndre Hopkins return, it would be a roster bursting at the seams with talent in the passing game. Boyd is the first player in ACC history with two 4,000-yard seasons of total offense.
To think that Clemson’s offense -- which was No. 6 in the country at 41 points per game -- could be better should scare the bejesus out of the rest of the ACC.
In an Atlantic Division race that has boiled down to Clemson and Florida State, Boyd’s return could be the difference this fall, as one of the biggest questions facing the Noles this offseason is how they will replace starter EJ Manuel. That’s not to say that Florida State won’t reload at the position -- there is talent waiting in the wings -- but Boyd’s return gives the Tigers the edge at the position heading into the season.
Winning a national championship is going to be extremely difficult for Clemson, though, considering the Tigers will face two of the best teams in the SEC East. Clemson opens the season against Georgia (12-2) and closes it with rival South Carolina (11-2) -- a program the Tigers have yet to beat during Boyd’s career. Boyd’s performance in the 25-24 win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, though, was proof that Clemson can beat some of the SEC’s best.
First, though, Clemson will have to beat the ACC’s best -- Florida State. Clemson's only two losses in 2012 were to FSU and South Carolina.
“Whatever you do you want to be your best at it,” said Boyd, who was projected to be taken anywhere between the late second round to the fourth round of this year’s NFL draft. “I feel like this team has an opportunity to be mentioned among some of the great teams.”
Boyd’s decision to return instantly increases the chances of that happening.