published Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Murray, Boyd take stellar careers into showdown

Aaron Murray’s leads his teammates in this file photo.
Aaron Murray’s leads his teammates in this file photo.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd receives instructions from offensive coordinator Chad Morris during the Tigers' spring game on April 13.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. -- There are busts in the world of college football recruiting, and then there are Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd.

Rated by Rivals.com as the No. 3 and No. 4 quarterbacks nationally in the 2009 signing class, the two have combined for 18,144 career passing yards entering Saturday night's showdown between Murray's Georgia Bulldogs and Boyd's Clemson Tigers. Murray was picked last week as the preseason All-SEC first-team quarterback by league coaches, topping Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Alabama's AJ McCarron, while Boyd has been pegged to be the All-ACC first-team quarterback for a third consecutive season.

"It's funny to think that five years ago we were at the Elite 11 camp competing," Murray said Tuesday. "He and I were on the All-American team together, so it's great to see how far we've come since then and how exciting our careers have been."

The top two quarterbacks in the '09 class were Matt Barkley, who signed with Southern Cal, and Garrett Gilbert, who signed with Texas.

Boyd's 3,896 passing yards last season in 13 games eclipsed the 3,893 yards Murray produced in 14 games, and each of them had 36 touchdowns. Yet more impressive than any statistic was the impact each had on his respective program.

Clemson won 11 games for the first time since its 1981 national championship team went 12-0, while Georgia collected 12 victories, the most since the 2002 Bulldogs went 13-1 and ended a 20-year SEC title drought.

"If you like quarterback play, I imagine a lot of people will really enjoy this game," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "You've got two guys who are very accomplished and have played a bunch of games. They've won big games, and they've lost some big games, too. They have complete control of their offensive systems and have complete respect for their coaching staffs, their teams and their fan bases.

"It should be interesting, and if you're looking for a subplot, that's a pretty good one."

Boyd, the first two-time ACC player of the year since Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward in 1992 and '93, also rushed for 514 yards last season to account for 4,410 total yards. He had 10 rushing touchdowns and set an ACC record by being responsible for 46 touchdowns.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder from Hampton, Va., has proven plenty dangerous in the pocket, but Bulldogs defenders want to make sure he doesn't get loose.

"You can't rush too far up the field, because when he takes off, he's a lot harder to tackle than he is in the pocket," outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "He's already a hard guy to tackle. We always have to be thinking when we're rushing that we can contain him, so we can't get too aggressive on rushes at times."

Murray's rushing totals went from 167 yards in 2010 to 111 two years ago to minus-68 last season. The 6-1, 208-pounder from Tampa, Fla., has spent the offseason trying to become more elusive, not as much as a runner down the field but in order to extend plays.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney echoed Richt's sentiments about this week being a special showcase for two veterans directing their explosive offenses.

"Both are great competitors and great young men," Swinney said. "Skill-wise, they are similar. Both make big-time throws. Aaron made some throws in that Alabama game that were incredible. He just made some big-time plays. They make everyone around them better. They both have that quality."

Murray said he and Boyd are good friends and have stayed in touch throughout their time in college. They have not talked this week, but Murray expected that to change by Thursday or Friday night.

A lot of friendships have their limits, however, and Saturday night will be no exception.

"It's going to be exciting, but I hope our defense stones him," Murray said.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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