A Great QB Matchup

  • By John Antonik
  • |
  • December 23, 2011 01:20 PM
  • |
West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd are two of the better quarterbacks you are going to see this bowl season. Both will be matching wits - and passes - in the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl to be played Jan. 4 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Smith is just 22 yards shy of becoming the first 4,000-yard passer in WVU history and has Brian Brohm’s Big East single season passing record within his sights.

Boyd came to life this year when Clemson hired new offensive coordinator Chad Morris, the sophomore throwing for 264 yards and three touchdowns in the opener against Troy and finishing the regular season with 3,578 yards passing and 31 touchdown passes.

Smith was named first team all-Big East; Boyd was first team all-ACC. The two will likely receive plenty of hype before the 2012 season arrives.

And although Smith is a junior, both were in the same recruiting class in the winter of 2008. Actually, Boyd could have very easily wound up at West Virginia. Boyd, from Virginia Beach, Va., committed to the Mountaineers during the spring of his junior year of high school before changing his mind later in the fall and ultimately choosing Clemson.

Once Boyd decided to reopen his recruitment, West Virginia began pursuing Smith, who was rewriting the record books at Miramar High down in Miami. Smith was being recruited by Alabama when former Mountaineer assistant coach Doc Holliday paid him a visit.

“I have no idea about Tajh’s situation,” said Smith. “It was a situation where Doc came down and he really started talking to me right after my Alabama visit and I just felt like West Virginia was the place for me. I had no idea what Tajh did or anything, nor was I trying to shy away from any competition.”

Boyd also had Ohio State and Oregon on his list of schools before being lured to Clemson when Dabo Swinney got the job.

“We got on him late,” recalled Swinney. “I just got the job and literally within a week was trying to find a quarterback. At some point along the way, I know he was going to West Virginia.”

Boyd has thrown for more than 200 yards in 12 of 13 games this year, including a 240-yard, three-TD performance against Virginia Tech in the 2011 ACC championship game to earn game MVP honors. He passed for a season-high 367 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-38 victory over North Carolina.

“He had a ton of success this year, but also had to go through a lot of pain,” said Swinney. “He’s a winner. That’s the best thing I can say about Tajh.”

Smith’s numbers are equally impressive. He began the season by throwing for 249 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a little more than three quarter’s worth of action in West Virginia’s season-opening win over Marshall. Plus, he passed for a school-record 463 yards in a loss to No. 1-ranked LSU and he also topped 400 yards passing in games against Connecticut and Louisville. Seven times this year he has thrown for more than 300 yards in a game.

Smith had a streak of 14 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass snapped against South Florida at the end of the season.

“Geno is one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever been around,” said Holgorsen. “He cares a lot about playing and he shows up every day trying to get better.”

In fact, Smith says he frequently studies other outstanding quarterbacks whenever he gets a chance to watch games on TV. And among the really good ones he has observed is Boyd.

“Tajh is a really good quarterback,” said Smith. “I’ve watched him play a couple of games and he’s done a great job. I want to be better than all of those guys, so I look at their game to try and elevate my game.”

Smith says college football quarterbacks are notorious copycats and he is constantly looking for things in other players’ games that he can take from them.

“I do steal things. I try to gain as many tips as I can,” Smith said. “I try to pick everyone’s brain and try and take in as much advice as I can.”

Boyd is certainly a good quarterback to emulate.

“He’s is a talented kid,” noted Holgorsen. “He makes plays and keeps the play alive. He can throw it, and he can scramble. They run him more than we run Geno.”

Boyd and USF’s B.J. Daniels are very similar in stature and athleticism, says Holgorsen. The Mountaineer defense was able to limit an ailing Daniels to just 21-of-44 passing for 226 yards in the regular season finale, but Daniels was still able to make plays with his arm and his legs that caused problems – much like Boyd will do on Jan. 4.

“B.J. Daniels throws the ball pretty well,” said Holgorsen. “He is a little reckless with the ball where Boyd is not as reckless with the ball.”

The real difference between Daniels and Boyd is the weapons Boyd has around him, including freshman All-American wide receiver Sammy Watkins, sophomore wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and the nation’s top tight end in junior Dwayne Allen.

Those three have combined to make 187 catches for 23 touchdowns.

“I’d say Boyd has some guys around him that are difference makers,” said Holgorsen. “B.J. didn’t have as many guys around him that were difference makers.”

Holgorsen also sees similarities between his quarterback and Clemson’s.

“Two tremendous players that have the ability to keep a play alive,” he says.

Indeed, it should be a great matchup on the fourth.