CLEMSON — Before the cameras Wednesday afternoon, Tajh Boyd wasn’t exactly committal about returning to Clemson next fall.
“I’ll give it some thought, sit down and talk with my coaches and parents, it’s something I’ll have to look at,” Boyd said at a press conference to discuss his selection as a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association and ACC Player of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.
“We’ll get into it at a later date. I’ll enjoy the bowl game and get ready for it coming up.”
If you read between the lines, however, Clemson fans shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about their star quarterback’s future.
Boyd will submit paperwork to the NFL’s draft advisory board, but it’d be surprising if he wasn’t in Memorial Stadium next fall for his senior season.
The junior has pro potential, but he still has plenty to work on before he leaves college for good.
“I think he still has a lot to prove,” Boyd’s father, Tim, told The (Charleston) Post and Courier recently, adding that he believes that quarterbacks should start at least three seasons in college, a fact backed up by quarterback guru George Whitfield, who spent time with Boyd last summer.
This is Boyd’s second season as the Tigers’ starter.
He made a quantum leap forward as a junior, leading one of the nation’s top 10 offenses.
Boyd averaged 336.8 yards per game of total offense (eighth-best nationally) and was responsible for a Clemson-record 43 touchdowns. He also led the ACC in pass efficiency (168.5, fourth-best nationally) and touchdown passes (34).
Following an offseason that saw him drop 20 pounds (from 240 to 220), he was a mobile force in the Tigers’ offense, rushing for over 450 yards and nine touchdowns. No longer, offensive coordinator Chad Morris famously said, was he a “concrete deer.”
Boyd’s footwork was improved. His deep throwing was improved. His completion percentage is up (66.6 percent vs. 59.7 percent in 2011), as is his quarterback rating (168.2 vs. 141.5).
But he still has more to work on.
Against South Carolina’s vicious pass rush, keyed by All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, he completed 11 of 24 passes for 183 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions – both caused by intense pressure.
Two of his three worst games of the season came against SEC foes; he threw for 208 yards, a touchdown and an interception against Auburn. And against Virginia Tech’s traditionally-stout defense, he completed 12 of 21 passes for 160 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Another year in college would help Boyd immensely. He’ll still have plenty of weapons surrounding him; receiver Sammy Watkins will be a junior, as will Martavis Bryant, Charone Peake and Adam Humphries.
Star wideout DeAndre Hopkins faces his own decision on his future, but if he and offensive coordinator Chad Morris return, the Tigers’ offense will again be one of the nation’s most dangerous.
Wednesday, he spoke of a Heisman Trophy campaign, saying coach Dabo Swinney already had a nickname - "The Tajh Mahal of College Football - the 10th Wonder of the World."
Boyd is projected as a second-to-third round selection in the NFL draft. If he’s a first round pick, the smart move would be to leave. Anywhere else, and it’d be best for he – and Clemson – to spend another year together.