|Boyd vs Murray: Best QB battle in Death Valley history?|
|by David Hood - Senior Writer - Monday, May 6, 2013 12:13 AM||
Expectations for the season opener against Georgia are already high, but what looms as a battle between possible Top 10 or Top 15 teams with national implications also has an interesting sidenote to it: The game just might feature the best matchup of quarterbacks in Death Valley since Joe Montana and Notre Dame faced off against Steve Fuller and Clemson in 1977.
The game itself is still 116 days away, but the possibility of it being the site for ESPN’s GameDay, the closeness of the two schools, the rejoining of what was once a proud rivalry and the ACC-SEC implications, the game has already taken on the sheen of “must see.”
On November 12, 1977, a pair of top 15 teams met in Clemson’s Death Valley. A fifth-ranked Notre Dame team led by Montana defeated a 15th-ranked Clemson team led by Steve Fuller, 21-17. Both quarterbacks went on to become Super Bowl champions.
Notre Dame went on to win the national championship that season, and 36 players in that game went on to play in the NFL, including future Notre Dame Hall of Famers Ken MacAfee and Ross Browner. The Clemson roster that day included future NFL Pro Bowl players Dwight Clark and Jerry Butler.
However, the hype over those two quarterbacks wasn’t as great prior to that 1977 game because both Fuller and Montana were still juniors, and had another season to go.
However, the matchup between Boyd and Murray is one worth talking about, even though they won’t be on the field against each other and their battle isn’t truly head-to-head. Why? Because early mock drafts have both quarterbacks as possible first-rounders, something that has never been seen in Death Valley.
ESPN college football analyst Brock Huard says that Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is the top 2014 NFL draft prospect at the position, but has Boyd in the number two slot, with Murray coming in at third. On ESPN’s website, Huard writes of Boyd:
“Clemson's Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over LSU was the capper to a monster junior campaign that saw Boyd manage expectation, hype, his weight and the mechanics of a game in ways that NFL quarterbacks must do on a weekly basis. The fourth-most efficient passer in college football will be without some of the explosive firepower he had around him in 2012, including standout wide receiver DeAndre HopkinsDeAndre Hopkins
#6 6-2, 205
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The number of sacks (31) and interceptions (13) conceded will be a focal point for the Tigers this fall, as will overall second-half production. Boyd's splits last season reveal a startling discrepancy between his first-half stats (26 TDs, 6 INTs) and second-half stats (10 TDs, 7 INTs).
Boyd became the face of Clemson's program in 2012 and has first-round upside heading into 2013. The LSU finale and the punishment Boyd endured while delivering in the clutch time and again turned heads. Plus, his third-down tape is better than any prospect in the 2013 class.
Clemson's opening game against Georgia will pit Boyd against the next top prospect on our list, Aaron Murray, and could serve as a platform to greatly boost one or both of their draft stocks.”
About Murray, Huard writes:
“The other senior-to-be in this top five made the wise decision to return to school and build upon a stellar 2012. Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo made clear to Murray after the 2011 season that there were fundamental changes that needed to be made from the ground up, and Murray listened. He improved his footwork, developed better body control (both inside and outside the pocket), added strength and enhanced his accuracy in the intermediate-to-long passing game, netting Murray and the Bulldogs record-breaking numbers in 2012. Georgia set a school scoring record, while Murray passed for 3,893 yards and posted a 36-10 TD-to-INT ratio.
What brought Murray back to Athens for a fifth and final season? A combined 2-5 TD-to-INT ratio in games versus Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. The remaining question surrounding Murray isn't his productivity (he has amassed a total of more than 10,000 yards and 95 TDs) or his height. And it's not his gamesmanship, line-of-scrimmage mechanics or how he manipulates defenses -- all of which are NFL-caliber. Rather, Murray struggled to play his best in the biggest moments last season. In 2013, Murray will be immediately judged with battles against Clemson, South Carolina and LSU in three of the first four weeks.
Watch those games closely to see how he performs on third down, in the red zone and in the fourth quarter. NFL scouts and decision-makers certainly will be watching.”
With that in mind, I started thinking back to the best quarterback matchups that have been witnessed in Death Valley, and the Montana-Fuller was the one that jumped out to me first.
I contacted Clemson Sports Information Director Tim Bourret, and he said that the last matchup of future NFL quarterbacks in Death Valley was when Matt Ryan faced off against Charlie WhitehurstCharlie Whitehurst
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Another good matchup was when Matt Schaub of Virginia faced off against Whitehurst, but there has never been a matchup of potential or future first round quarterbacks in Death Valley. Fuller was Clemson’s only first round quarterback selected by the NFL – he went to the Chiefs with the 23rd pick in 1979. Montana was actually a third round selection – 82nd pick – by the San Francisco 49ers that year.
The tickets for the Clemson and Georgia game will be a hot commodity, but Bourret might also have a tough time fielding all of the credential requests from NFL scouts and front office personnel.
The quarterback talent in the 2013 draft class was marginal, but 2014 figures to be a better year for signal callers across the board because of players such as Bridgewater, Boyd and Murray. In 10 of the past 13 years, the first pick in the draft has been a quarterback (the lone exceptions being Jake Long in 2008, Mario Williams in 2006 and Eric Fisher in 2013).
Boyd and Murray will certainly be playing for their teams and for bragging rights on August 31st, but both quarterbacks will also be under scrutiny from the folks at the NFL, and their performances on the big stage could have far-reaching implications.
As fans, however, we can just sit back and watch what might be the best quarterback battle ever seen in Death Valley. Will it be as good as the one between Fuller and Montana? Only time will tell.
In the meantime…..
Spot the ball.
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