By Will Vandervort
Four years ago when he came out of Phoebus High School in Hampton, Va., Tajh Boyd told the world he was coming to Clemson and he was going to make the Tigers winners, again. Well, he has not disappointed.
Boyd has not only made Clemson a winner, again, but he has helped put the Tigers on the fringe of something special. In his two years as a starter, he has led Clemson to a 21-6 record, guided it to an ACC Championship in 2011 and last year to the program’s first 11-win season since the 1981 National Championship team went 12-0.
Boyd enters the 2013 season as not only Clemson’s top player, but as a legit Heisman Trophy candidate. Clemson is the odds on favorite to win the ACC this year and is considered one of a select few that most of the so-called experts think could challenge Alabama and the SEC for a national championship.
Maybe that will be the case, but first Boyd has to knock off Georgia on Aug. 31, and if he and the Tigers can get through the Bulldogs and then navigate themselves through challenging matchups against Florida State and Georgia Tech—also at home—then the sky is the limit as they head to Columbia to play archrival South Carolina.
- 1. Tajh Boyd, 6-1, 225, QB: He has a strong arm and his stats are what they are. Few in college football have consistently put up the big numbers Boyd has put up the last two years. But as good as he is as a player, Boyd is even better as a leader. No one of the Clemson team works as hard or studies the game more than Boyd. He leads the way in organizing summer passing workouts with running backs, wide receivers, linebackers and defensive backs. He never misses a voluntary workout and tutors his fellow quarterbacks so they too can become the best they want to be on the football field.
- 2. Brandon Thomas, 6-3, 305, LT: Right now, Thomas is expected to start at left tackle again, but the coaches hope they can move him back inside to his more natural position at left guard. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris and offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell would like to see Isaiah Battle take over at left tackle in fall camp. This way Thomas is available to play both tackle and guard and gives the coaching staff a few more options.
- 3. Chandler Catanzaro, 6-2, 195, PK: Boyd likes to call Catanzaro money, and for good reason. He knows if he can move the football to his opponent’s 33-yard line the Tigers have almost guaranteed points. Catanzaro was 18 of 19 in field goals last year, including 5 of 6 on kicks of 40 or more yards. The senior from nearby Greenville, SC has already won two big games in his career with a winning field goal as time expired, and odds are he is likely to do it again before his Clemson career is over.
- 4. Spencer Shuey, 6-3, 230, LB: He is one of the strongest players on the team, but the better news is he is one of the smartest, too. That’s why defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Venables is moving the senior to the weakside backer position. It gives Venables the luxury of putting one of his best athletes in Stephone Antony on the field at middle linebacker with his smartest as well in Shuey. This move should make for a good combination. Last year, Shuey teamed up with Tig Willard in the second half of the season to really improve the Tigers’ production at the linebacker position.
- 5. Tyler Shatley, 6-3, 295, LG: It’s no surprise to anyone what Clemson is going to do when it runs the football – it’s going to send the running back or quarterback usually in the direction of right guard Tyler Shatley. The converted defensive tackle really came into his own at right guard last season as he started every game, while recording 26 knockdown blocks in 939 snaps. It also helps he was a strength and conditioning All-American in 2012. He had at least one knockdown block in every game last season.