Tajh Boyd leads Clemson with efficiency

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Tajh Boyd could be first Heisman winner in Tigers history.

The 2013 college football season has the potential to be one of the greatest quarterback classes ever. Eight of the top 10 teams in last year’s final AP Poll return their starting quarterbacks, and every conference except the Big 12 returns either their first- or second-team quarterbacks from last season.

In preparation for the 2013 season, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top QBs entering the fall. The list is built off of Phil Steele’s list of top QB units. Today we will look at Clemson’s senior QB Tajh Boyd.

A Look Back at 2012

Tajh Boyd broke his own school records last season with 3,896 passing yards and 36 passing touchdowns, leading Clemson to its most wins (11) since the 1981 championship season. He was responsible for 46 touchdowns, seven more than the previous ACC record. Over the past two seasons, no player has been responsible for more touchdowns than Boyd’s 84.

Boyd’s passing totals last season were similar to his 2011 numbers, but he was much more efficient. His completion percentage rose 7.5 percentage points to 67.2 percent and he led the ACC in passing efficiency.

Most Completions of 25+ Yards
FBS Last Season

A big reason why Boyd was more efficient in his junior season was he was responsible for an FBS-high 48 passes of 25 yards or more, 18 more than he threw as a sophomore.

Another area in which Boyd made strides was the running game. Boyd ran for 514 yards, an increase of 296 from 2011, and he doubled his rushing touchdowns in 2012.

Boyd’s legs played a critical role in extending Clemson’s offensive drives. The Tigers finished fifth in the nation in third down conversion rate at 51.5 percent, an increase of 8.2 percentage points from 2011. Boyd converted 28 of his 58 third-down rushing attempts into first downs (48.3%), as opposed to 9 of 39 in the previous year (23.0%).

What’s Ahead for 2013?

Boyd will have a chance to become the most established passer in ACC history. However, Boyd will be without DeAndre Hopkins, who was his favorite target last season. Hopkins ranked fourth in the nation in receiving yards (1,405) and set an ACC record for receiving touchdowns (18).

Boyd threw 130 of his 427 pass attempts in Hopkins’ direction. Sammy Watkins, the 2011 ACC Rookie of the Year, was second on the team with 79 targets.

When targeting Hopkins, Boyd had an 18-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In comparison, he threw three touchdowns and three interceptions when targeting Watkins in 2012.

Watkins missed three games at the beginning of the last season, but his lack of production in key situations was alarming.

DeAndre Hopkins vs Sammy Watkins Receptions By Situation in 2012

DeAndre Hopkins is not the only receiver that will not be back. His top TE Brandon Ford and top RB Andre Ellington will both be in the NFL next season. Those three players combined for almost half of Boyd’s targets and three-quarters of his touchdowns.

The loss of this talent makes it even more important that Boyd re-establish a rapport with Watkins. Additionally, he must improve his ball control after turning the ball over 16 times last season.

His 16 turnovers were more than all but 14 players, and his 3.0 percent interception rate was 76th out of 111 quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts.

If Clemson is able to restock its skill position players and Boyd can take care of the ball, the Tigers could have their first ever Heisman winner.