Eleven Clemson players have a total of 18 TD catches from Tajh Boyd.
Tom Brady should be envious of Tajh Boyd. For that matter, so should Matt Ryan.
Imagine losing a couple of your best receivers — the Patriots and Falcons have — and never missing a beat. Clemson’s wealth of talented pass catchers runs wide and deep with 19 receivers credited with receptions this season and a school-record 11 with touchdown catches.
It must make a former receiver coach’s heart swell. The parts are relatively interchangeable.
“To be honest with you,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “I don’t pay attention much anymore.”
Take for example the guy his teammates nicknamed “White Lightning” and “White Chocolate.” When high school teammate Charone Peake went down for the year with a torn knee ligament it was Adam Humphries who replaced him. Humphries said he fashions himself after Wes Welker, the Denver Broncos receiver who took the money when the New England Patriots wouldn’t show him love.
Humphries had three catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns at Syracuse.
“I missed him a couple of times this season, and I said, ‘Look, Adam, don’t hate me, I still love you,’ “” Boyd said.
And Humphries for Peake is not the most obvious example.
When DeAndre Hopkins left a year early for the NFL, Sammy Watkins became Boyd’s first option, his security blanket. It was Watkins who drove the stake into Syracuse by running under a rainbow from Boyd for a 91-yard touchdown in the third quarter at Syracuse.
Boyd can dial up receivers Martavis Bryant, Germone Hopper, T.J. Green and Mike Williams and tight ends Stanton Seckinger, Jordan Leggett and Sam Cooper.
“That’s what makes it difficult to handle, because guys are unselfish, guys can all make plays,” Swinney said. “We’re confident in all those guys. Tajh is confident in them. They know what they’re doing.”
Watkins has 29 receptions for 481 yards and three touchdowns, but commands a respect accorded to only a few this season.
“Obviously, he’s the most explosive guy we have,” Swinney said.
“He’s going to get his touches, and rightfully so, he makes plays. He’s as good a decoy as there is in the game. We used him in a couple of situations as the bait, if you will, and he’s pretty good bait. They bite on that one, and it creates opportunities for other people.”
“I think that allows us to be explosive and keeps them guessing because Sammy doesn’t have to touch it to allow us to make plays in the passing game.”
Case in point was Humphries’ first touchdown on the third play of the game. Preoccupied by Watkins, the Syracuse defense let Humphries run free. “I think that’s the most wide-open I’ve ever been.”
It happened again on the second of Boyd’s five touchdowns passes.
“Those are probably the hardest catches to make in football, when you’re that wide open,” Humphries said. “You just have to put all your focus on the ball and not think about, ‘Wow, there’s nobody around me.’ ”
A basketball player almost exclusively until his sophomore year at Dorman High, he was inspired by players such as Welker, not too small and just fast enough. The experience as a point guard is credited for his surehandedness.
“Just because we have similar attributes, the way we run our routes, our ball skills,” he said, “that’s kind of how some other white receivers are, as well. They see themselves kind of being like Welker.”
Humphries is valued for his versatility and selflessness. Humphries also had 40 yards in punt returns at Syracuse and last year practiced at cornerback when Clemson was thin in the secondary.
And one day soon, Swinney believes, Humphries will be in the NFL with Welker.
Right now, Tom Brady or Matt Ryan might feel lucky to have him.