Heisman Hopefuls: The Invisible QB, Tajh Boyd, Is Ready To Take Center Stage

Tajh Boyd rung in the 2013 New Year the right way. As the East Coast clock ticked down to midnight on December 31, Boyd was consumed with getting his Clemson Tigers offense down the field before the Georgia Dome’s game clock ticked down to 0:00.

Boyd had just led his offense into the end zone, but failed to convert a game-tying two-point conversion. On fourth and 16, Boyd gave Clemson’s comeback bid CPR by dropping an immaculately placed pass into DeAndre Hopkins’ arm 26 yards downfield. A few plays later, Chandler Catanzaro kicked the game-winning field goal.

As America was celebrating a New Year, Boyd celebrated the Tigers’ Chick-fil-A Bowl win. College football fans outside of South Carolina were too busy partying to notice.

Boyd should be used to being overlooked by now. Unlike Johnny Football, he’s been The Invisible Man at the sport’s most visible position for his entire collegiate career. Before he vaults himself into a Heisman conversation, he has to become the BMOC on his own campus. In his first two years as the Clemson starter, his receivers Hopkins and Sammy Watkins have been tanning in the spotlight and raking in the accolades.

Even among NFL Draft-eligible quarterbacks he rarely earns much mention despite first-round projections. He’s more low-key and polished than Manziel, but not as elusive of a runner. He’s more comparable to Teddy Bridgewater, but he’s not as tall.

Boyd has been inextricably linked to Jets rookie Geno Smith since they were 2009 High School All-Americans. After Boyd decommitted from West Virginia, Smith swooped in and assumed command over the Mountaineer offense. In the 2012 Orange Bowl, Smith engaged in a shootout with Boyd who ran out of bullets in the Tigers 70-33 loss.

Clemson is finally the preseason favorite to win the ACC, but the conference has been FSU’s domain for the last two decades.

Boyd was named ACC Preseason Player of the Year, but the last two ACC Heisman Trophies belonged to Bowden’s boys, Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward. His Heisman candidacy isn’t even the most locally hyped one in the Palmetto State. Boyd is already second in the minds of South Carolinians to Jadeveon Clowney, who threw him around the field like a game of 52-card pickup in their loss to the Gamecocks last November.

His final two drives against LSU would ordinarily serve as an adequate Heisman highlight reel, but they occurred too late. His best hope for a Heisman moment may have to come in a showdown against Clowney or Florida State’s defensive pass rushing dynamo Mario Edwards.

If you’ve been paying attention, though, you would have observed Boyd flinging 36 and then 33 touchdowns over the past two seasons for the purple and orange.

Last fall, Boyd threw for 3,800 yards, 36 touchdowns to 13 interceptions and completed 67 percent of his attempts while finishing second nationally in “points responsible for” (which accounts for total touchdowns and two-point conversions scored) to the eventual Heisman Trophy winner. Unfortunately, faltering against the Gamecocks and Seminoles last season kept him from getting Heisman notice.

Boyd’s talent has lifted him to the top spot in the school record book, but he’s got to make up some ground in the 2013 Heisman race. If Boyd’s going to win college football’s most prestigious award, he’ll need to be his own PR team on the field.

He needs a marquee moment against a ranked foe to get some shine. Unfortunately, he’s just 5-4 against ranked opponents as Clemson’s starter. But Boyd will get an early opportunity to make his mark in a duel against UGA’s senior Heisman-caliber signal caller Aaron Murray to open the season.  

It’s not how you start but how you finish that matters. If Boyd does his thing for four months, maybe voters will give him his overdue acclaim. Who knows? He could ring in 2014 as a Heisman Trophy winner.

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