There hasn’t been a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in the mix, but there have been some productive players for sure.
Beginning with Steve Fuller in 1976 (my first Clemson game was in 1975, but it’s hard for me to remember being 4 years old, so we’ll start with Fuller), there was a good run of signal-callers. Fuller really was the first quarterback to lead Clemson into the national spotlight, and Homer Jordan took that to the next level, of course, by leading the program to its only national title during the 1981 season.
The 1980s also included a lot of wins led by Mike Eppley and Rodney Williams, while the underrated Nealon Greene and the dynamic talents of Woody Dantzler were the focal points of the position in the 1990s. Charlie Whitehurst had the longest and most successful run in the 2000s, beating South Carolina four times to solidify his legacy.
Other names to remember were Billy Lott, Randy Anderson, Chris Morocco, DeChane Cameron, Patrick Sapp, Brandon Streeter, Will Proctor, Cullen Harper and Kyle Parker.
All in all, it’s a solid group. All of those quarterbacks had their moments – some had more than others – and it’s a list Clemson fans should remember fondly.
Tajh Boyd is quickly climbing that list.
Granted, Boyd only has one season as a starter under his belt, but it was a terrific season to say the least. Boyd led the program to its first ACC title since 1991 (Cameron was the starting quarterback on that team) and was a terrific leader for the 2011 team, especially in its 8-0 start.
Boyd set single-season program records for yards (3,828), touchdowns (33), completions (298) and attempts (499). It was a dynamic season all the way around, while there are still things that Boyd can improve upon – namely, protecting the ball and decision-making. But those kinds of things can be expected with first-year starters, and it sounds like he’s focused and ready to improve on them this year.
Boyd does play a different game than what Fuller, Jordan and Williams played, so it’s almost impossible to compare them. Jordan and Williams were run-first players working in an option offense, and even Fuller was in more of a run-based offense. Fuller threw for only 4,359 yards in his entire career at Clemson, even though he went on to have the most accomplished NFL career of any former Tigers quarterback.
Boyd already has surpassed 4,000 yards for his career in one season as a starter plus some mop-up duty as a redshirt freshman. If he stays on that pace and remains at Clemson for two more years, he would challenge Whitehurst’s career yardage record of 9,665.
So where does Boyd rank among the all-time Clemson quarterbacks? Eventually, he will be right up there with the best, if not No. 1, especially if he sticks around for the rest of his eligibility and keeps winning games and checking off accomplishments at the rate he did last year.
Woody Dantzler is one of the most explosive quarterbacks Clemson has ever seen.
But right now, here’s my top 10 (since Fuller’s days):
1. Steve Fuller: He helped put the Clemson program on the map with a special group he played with and set the stage for success in the years that followed.
2. Homer Jordan: The national title trumps all … almost.
3. Rodney Williams: He was just a winner. It wasn’t always pretty, but Williams usually got the job done.
4. Charlie Whitehurst: Beating South Carolina four times says enough, although Whitehurst could have been better with more stable coaching.
5. Tajh Boyd: It’s hard to ignore what he did last year. Yes, there were some bumps in the road, but overall, the first season with him under center was a raging success.
6. Woody Dantzler: Before C.J. Spiller arrived, Dantzler was Clemson’s most dynamic talent, and he didn’t have much help for most of his tenure.
7. Mike Eppley: He was the point guard on the basketball team, while playing that same role on the football team.
8. Nealon Greene: Even on my own list, he’s underrated.
9. DeChane Cameron: He gets overlooked, but he did everything that was asked of him and helped keep the team winning through a nasty coaching change.
10. Chris Morocco/Billy Lott: I put them together because their careers are eerily similar. Both replaced wildly successful players (for Lott it was Fuller; for Morocco it was Williams), both did terrific jobs managing the offense in their one season as a starter, and both led the team to signature road wins (Lott at Notre Dame and Morocco at Florida State). AND they both wore No. 8.
Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter @DM_Shirley