Leading up to the game against Florida State, Kirk Herbstreit emphasized that it would be a “legacy” game for Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. I don’t think that the loss to Florida State damages Boyd’s legacy, but I do think it is fair to see how he matches up with former Clemson quarterbacks. Boyd has had a great career as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, but he still has some work to do if he wants to leave as the greatest quarterback to ever play at Clemson. There are certain Clemson quarterbacks that have left their mark on the program, and each have had moments that will live in the minds of Tigers fans forever.
Steve Fuller was the Clemson starting quarterback for the 1976-78 seasons, and helped establish Clemson as one of the top programs in the country. After some growing pains in 1976, Fuller led the Tigers to a 8-3-1 record in 1977 and an 11-1 mark in 1978. Fuller won ACC Player of the Year in 1977 and 1978, and is still the only Clemson player to win that award twice. He capped off his college career with a victory over Woody Hayes‘ Ohio State team in the 1978 Gator Bowl. Fuller had a brilliant career, but he is known around the state of South Carolina for what he did on Nov. 19, 1977. Clemson was down by three points to rival South Carolina with the clock ticking down before Fuller became part of the most famous play in the rivalry’s history. Fuller found receiver Jerry Butler, who made a diving catch in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown reception with 20 seconds left in the game to give the Tigers a 31-27 lead and the win. The play became known as “The Catch,” and Fuller ended his career 3-0 against the Gamecocks.
Another Clemson great was Homer Jordan, who took the snaps for the 1980-82 seasons. Jordan led the Tigers to a National Championship in 1981, as well as the 1981 and 1982 ACC Championships. He was a pretty good passer, but could also run the ball very effectively. In the Orange Bowl win against Nebraska, Jordan was named offensive MVP, recording 134 passing yards and 46 rushing yards. He is the only Clemson quarterback to win a national championship, and only the second quarterback to lead the Tigers to an undefeated record (Bobby Gage, 1948).
Rodney Williams was the general of the option offense for Clemson from 1985-88. Williams was not a great passer and benefited from one of the best defenses in the country, but he still holds the record for most wins by a Clemson starting quarterback (32). In three full seasons as the starter (1986-88), Williams went 2-0 against Georgia and also led Clemson to three straight ACC Championships. Williams won two Gator Bowls and the Citrus Bowl under coach Danny Ford, and was known for his tough, competitive play. He defeated South Carolina his senior year, sending him out on a high note.
In my opinion, Woody Dantzler is the greatest quarterback to ever play at Clemson. He was the full-time starter from 1999-2001, and became the first college quarterback to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. Dantzler was a warrior who became the hardest quarterback to defend, due to his ability to run and pass. Although he never won the ACC or any awards, he laid the foundation for future dual-threat quarterbacks that make up college football today. He was 2-1 against South Carolina, and was an instrumental part of “The Catch 2” in 2000.
Charlie Whitehurst became the starter mid-way through the 2002 season, and held that spot until he graduated after 2005. Whitehurst beat historic programs like Tennessee, Florida State, Miami and Texas A&M during his time at Clemson, but perhaps the most important number is the 4-0 record he had against South Carolina. He became the first quarterback in the rivalry’s history to accomplish that goal.
Boyd is in his senior year at Clemson, and is only four wins shy of tying Williams for the most career wins by a starting quarterback. Boyd has led the Tigers to the 2011 ACC Championship, won ACC Player of the Year in 2012, and has beaten teams like Georgia, Auburn, Florida State, Virginia Tech and LSU. He has had a marvelous career, but he is still searching for that all-important win against the Gamecocks. Boyd has all the records, trophies and accolades that players dream of, but needs to make his mark in the Palmetto State Rivalry to bring it all together. Boyd can leave a lasting image for Clemson fans if he can escape Columbia, SC with a win at the end of November.
Travis Patterson is an ACC Writer For Rantsports.com. Follow on Twitter @tpat20.