ELLIOTT: Orange Bowl Adds Intrigue With Boyd, WVU Matchup

You remember Taj Boyd, don’t you?

Boyd, of course, was a highly rated quarterback out of Hampton, Va., who verbally committed to West Virginia during his junior year at a time when brand new WVU running backs coach Chris Beatty was seemingly plucking all of the top-rated prospects from the state.

Beatty, who had been a high school coach in the area a few years earlier, had convinced Boyd, a four-star recruit, Logan Heastie, a five-star who was thought of as one of the top prep receivers in the country, and defensive tackle Dominik Davenport, a four-star also out of Hampton, to play for the Mountaineers.

Then-WVU coach Bill Stewart kissed Boyd on the forehead when he said wanted to play in Morgantown.

These guys were going to do some big things.

Then they went on visits to West Virginia and saw a couple of offensive clunkers. Boyd began to waver. He also reportedly had a meddling father who wasn’t ready to close the book on his recruitment just yet, as his entire senior season lay ahead of him and others were thought to be plenty interested (Oregon, Boston College, Ohio State, Michigan, Kansas State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Wake Forest, Kentucky, Maryland, East Carolina and Minnesota).

Both Davenport and Heastie stayed true to West Virginia – for a cup of coffee. Davenport wound up at Old Dominion and Heastie went to New Mexico. Neither, as far as a Google search turns up, has recorded a statistic for either school.

Back to Boyd, seven months later, the future MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, committed to Tennessee after he was given a guarantee then-coach Phillip Fulmer would be kept on. Fulmer was fired two weeks later.

New Vols coach Lane Kiffin didn’t think Boyd would fit his system – anybody see what that was by the way? He was gone in a blink of an eye – so Boyd’s recruitment was re-opened.


He wound up choosing Clemson.

In the meantime, in that same WVU class as Davenport and Heastie were quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Stedman Bailey, both out of Florida.

Some said Bailey, who just set the single-season school record for receiving yards at WVU, was a throw-in to secure Smith, as they were high school teammates. Either way, with Tavon Austin in the same class, West Virginia got a pass-and-catch combo worth forgetting about all those big names from Virginia.

Until now.

When the Mountaineers take on the Tigers in the Orange Bowl next month, it’ll be a matchup of Boyd vs. Smith.

For the season, Boyd finished with 31 touchdown passes and five rushing scores, a school record for touchdowns responsible. Like Smith, he set his school’s record for passing yards (3,578). He has 3,764 total yards.

Smith led the Big East in passing yards (3,978), passing efficiency (148.4), touchdown passes (25) and total offense (3,919).

Boyd was the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. Smith did not win that award in the Big East; it went to Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead.

As if West Virginia’s calendar year of football needed more intrigue. The Orange Bowl has brought us some.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net