You could feel it at halftime during Clemson's game against Troy this past Saturday. Down 16-13 to a team many expected the Tigers to pounce on early and not look back, fans in the stands jeered boos onto the players and coaches as they left for the locker room.
Two things came to mind: either the coaches stink, or the quarterback does.
And as has been the case with many other signal-callers, Tajh Boyd became initiated abruptly into expectations perhaps he didn't even fathom.
The highly touted sophomore ended up flourishing despite beginning the game going just 3-for-9 for 37 yards. Boyd ended the game 20-for-30, throwing for 264 yards and three touchdowns, and only one pick.
That could be a symptom of first-game jitters that took a halftime pep talk to calm down. Clemson fans and coaches hope it's just the start of what could be a magical career for a player that turned down the likes of Oregon, West Virginia and Tennessee to come to Clemson.
Boyd certainly has the potential to be a star. He has a strong arm with decent accuracy and feet that aren't as quick as they are capable of escaping when needing to. But even bigger than that, Boyd holds the key to Clemson's future. The question is how he handles it.
Clemson football is in a tenuous position right now. Coming off it's first losing season since 1998, many Tiger faithful are calling for changes despite just getting rid of Tommy Bowden three years ago.
In order for Dabo Swinney to not only keep his job, but to have a successful team (the two go hand-in-hand), Tajh Boyd will have to become they key cog in a talented but young offense.
The young playmakers around him make for a situation rare in recent memory. For the most part, nearly every player in a skill position on offense are underclassmen, and only a few of those are juniors. The rest are freshmen and sophomores who are already making a big impact. Twelve total freshmen played Saturday, and three scored touchdowns.
Running a new high-powered offense, Clemson will rely on Boyd to get reads down and be able to trust his decision-making in critical possessions. Recent Clemson QBs have had lackluster decision-making skills, leaving a sense of unease during every big play.
Beyond the urgency of now for the Tigers, and the need of a big season for Coach Swinney, there's long-term goals for the program, despite what the university may be saying publicly.
With the day-to-day rumors of conference expansions and realignments, Clemson may find themselves in a precarious position as a charter member of the ACC. If the constantly changing rumors are true, then Clemson could be in play for a bid to join the SEC. And if the school's administration is honest with themselves, they won't turn it down,
It may still be a long shot, but Clemson will need to prove not only that they have the fan base and facilities to rival any SEC school, but that the product on the field is worthy of that. The playmakers are there, and it looks like the offensive scheme is too. Now is the time for Tajh Boyd to show his worth.
He's not going to be asked to be Charlie Whitehurst and become the leading passer in school history. He's not going to be asked to be Homer Jordan and lead the team to the National Title (at least not right now).
But whether or not he realizes it, Tajh Boyd is quickly on his way to becoming one of the more important quarterbacks in Clemson's storied history. Just how good of a QB will he become exactly? Only time will tell.
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