As schools’ academic years are wrapping up, last season’s juniors are about to become this season’s seniors, and with that comes extra responsibility and expectations. In the ACC, while there were plenty of players selected in the NFL Draft, the conference still returns a strong group of seniors — many of whom are set to make a strong impact in their final seasons of eligibility.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his respective squad, and why he’s so important. Think we should’ve featured another player, though? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
As if there was any other logical choice for the Tigers? When he announced he’d be returning for his senior season, Boyd, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, not only altered the conference landscape but the national championship race as well. As a junior in 2012, Boyd came into his own (with some help from departed receiver DeAndre Hopkins too, of course), improving upon his accuracy, athleticism and overall decision-making skills to the point that he was one of the nation’s best at his position. Just take a look at his passing numbers and how much they improved from 2011 to 2012:
Saying he was just “more efficient” as a junior would be putting mildly. And as a runner, the trimmed-down Boyd also made great strides; his 500 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on the ground proving him to be a legitimate dual-threat. Unlike his inconsistent sophomore campaign, he actually took over games last year, most notably his eight-touchdown game against NC State, the final crowning achievement on a four-week stretch that saw him account for 22 scores in all.
As a senior, though, the bar will be raised once again, this time to heights Boyd will be supremely challenged to meet. We noted up top that his return has altered the national championship race, and that’s not joke. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has altered the standard at the school to strive for more than just conference titles. With a senior quarterback at the helm, this team is now fully expected to contend for a national championship, and that quarterback is on a short list of Heisman favorites, too. And how could either be all that far-fetched? Over the past two seasons, this team’s won 21 games, while Boyd’s put up one of the country’s most impressive resumes (over 7,700 passing yards and 69 passing touchdowns) for one of the country’s most electrifying offensive attacks.
While Boyd certainly has help on the offensive end, the Clemson defense has been a sore subject of late, which is why his success is so vital to the Tigers. As the other side of the ball improves, Boyd will be called upon to pick up the slack on offense — a job that gets more difficult when you consider he’s also without last year’s leading receiver (Hopkins) and leading rusher (Andre Ellington). Clemson is in great shape to reach new heights this season, and it’s all on the shoulders of their senior passer, who certainly appears up for the challenge.
Previously: Boston College