Practice Report - 10/30
Tigers head to Virginia
Tajh Boyd will make the second and final home-state homecoming of his Clemson career on Saturday when the eighth-ranked Tigers take on Virginia at Charlottesville.
The game - the first between the Tigers and Cavaliers since Dabo Swinney's fourth game as Clemson's interim head coach in 2008 - will have a bit of a familiar feel for Boyd when he goes up against Virginia quarterback David Watford, a fellow Hampton, Va. native.
As a senior at Phoebus High in 2008, Boyd led his team to victory over Hampton High, which was quarterbacked by Watford, a sophomore.
The two players have followed each other's careers ever since.
"We talk pretty frequently," Boyd said on Tuesday. "He's a couple of years younger than me, but we're from the same area at rival high schools, a few miles down the street. Being the older guy, you kind of want to make sure you're there in any way possible. It just comes with being from the area and being a mentor.”
"He was one of the guys I watched during high school - Tyrod Taylor and Tajh Boyd," said Watford at Virginia's press conference this week. "He was one of the older guys that I wanted to learn from. He kind of took me under his wing when I was in high school, so we're pretty close from that."
Dabo Swinney said he likes what he's seen of Watford, now a redshirt sophomore for the Cavaliers.
"I've really been impressed - he's very athletic and throws a very accurate ball," Swinney said. "He's an athletic runner who they move around the pocket with a lot of boots and sprint-outs and things like that."
Watford is coming off a school-record 43-completion performance against Georgia Tech, in which he passed for 372 yards. Eight receivers caught passes against the Yellow Jackets.
"Offensively, they play fast, throw it around, and use a lot of formations and shifts," Swinney said. "They've been pretty balanced throughout the year. They have a huge offensive line and huge tight ends. They play a lot of wideouts, and their running back (Kevin Parks) is fourth in the league in rushing - he's a guy we recruited a little bit. And not only is he their leading rusher, he's their second leading receiver."
Defensively, Swinney said he's impressed with Virginia's speed, athleticism and maturation under first-year, veteran coordinator Jon Tenuta.
"They're very young on defense - there are like 13 or 14 freshmen and sophomores in their two-deep," Swinney said. "We'll have to play well and handle what they do. I'm familiar with a bunch of their coaches, just as they're familiar with us."
Swinney said Tenuta "is probably not bringing quite as much pressure" as he did as defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech.
"I think part of that is just being so young and the fact that this is his first year there," he said.
Swinney noted that Virginia, though 2-6 and on a five-game losing streak, has played what is considered to be the nation's toughest schedule, including non-conference games against BYU, Oregon and Ball State.
"I know their record is not what they want it to be, but the thing that's impressive in how hard they're playing and competing," Swinney said. "They're not far...They had a great win on over BYU, and they're very capable."
Swinney said he has no doubt that head coach Mike London will turn Virginia's football fortunes around, if he's given time and opportunity.
"I know they've had a tough year, but let me tell you, Mike London is a great football coach and he's got a great staff," Swinney said. "I know everybody's got to win right now, and you only get two or three years in this business before the next guy is in there. But Mike London will get it done at Virginia.
"They've got the people there, and they're still going through the maturation process. This is a team that's just going to continue to get better."