CLEMSON -- When the man who’s privately tutored Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray expects nothing less than “spectacular performances” from the duo, that’s a true sign it’s about to be a special night.
George Whitfield Jr., a quarterback tutor to the stars, has instructed Boyd each of the past two springs in California and worked with Murray in Oklahoma in the offseason.
When Murray and Boyd take center stage tonight in Death Valley, leading No. 5 Georgia and No. 8 Clemson respectively, Whitfield makes an NFL correlation to each player, and it’s a lofty one.
“This is college football’s version,” Whitfield said, “of Aaron Rodgers vs. Drew Brees.”
Whitfield, 35, counts among his pupils Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Donovan McNabb and Johnny Manziel. He’s the founder of Whitfield Athletix, and his academy is based in San Diego.
Following his Saturday morning segment on ESPN’s College GameDay, Whitfield told the Post and Courier that Boyd “is basically like watching Aaron Rodgers wear the No. 10 in orange.”
Boyd first worked with Whitfield during spring break 2012 in blustery northern California, joining Oklahoma passer Landry Jones as they trained alongside Luck, who one month later became the No. 1 NFL Draft selection.
“He spent a week with me last year, in cold, windy Palo Alto,” Whitfield said, “and we did two-a-days. In his spring break.”
Last spring break, Boyd went for an encore session, taking Clemson backup quarterback Chad Kelly with him to San Diego, training on the beach with USC passer Max Wittek and Cincinnati’s Munchie Legaux.
“I think Tajh is the most complete quarterback in the game,” Whitfield said. “Now, there’s guys that have bigger home-run ability, and maybe guys with slightly better numbers. But just like Aaron Rodgers, (Tajh) forces you to defend the width and depth of the field. You have to pick your own poison playing against him.”
As for Boyd’s on-field adversary Saturday night, Whitfield enjoyed telling a story from Norman, Okla., when Murray tagged along while Whitfield helped Jones prepare for his NFL Pro Day.
“For Murray, I equate him to college football’s Drew Brees,” Whitfield said. “He’s battle-tested, he’s always been consistent, his teams have been better every year. Six wins, ten wins, 12 wins and five yards away.”
While many of Murray’s Georgia teammates were vacationing in Cancun and Puerto Rico, Murray opted to get back to work. The pain was still searing from Georgia’s oh-so-close loss in the SEC Championship Game, falling five yards short of toppling national champion Alabama.
“It’s the low-40s, we’re starting at 7 a.m. every day, the sun’s barely up,” Whitfield recalled. “There’s a pasture on one side of this high school field, there’s a factory on the other. He was all in.”
One particularly cold morning, Whitfield even said to Murray, “Man, I feel for you. I know your buddies are down there.”
Murray’s response: “You kidding?” He held up all his fingers on one hand, and said, “Five yards. Let’s do this.”
Said Whitfield, “I had all the admiration in the world for him.”
Boyd and Murray have each had their detractors, but Whitfield doesn’t put much stock in anyone who doubts the veteran starters. The duo has combined for 49 victories, 168 touchdown passes, nearly 20,000 yards through the air and 65 respective school records.
“It’s like two grad students going against each other in chess,” Whitfield said. “I don’t think this environment’s going to bother Aaron. I don’t think Georgia’s front seven’s going to affect Tajh. It’s really on to their defense and special teams to follow their lead and hold serve with what these two do.
“I mean, this might be the biggest single quarterback matchup of the year, and we happen to get it game one.”