Cause for Concern

With the start of fall practice now directly in our sight, it's time to start hashing out some of the potential issues that could arise during the 2003 season. First up, the Tigers' situation at quarterback. Could Chansi Stuckey effectively run this offense should the unthinkable occur?

Ah yes- football season is once again upon us.

It's now less than a month until the Tigers come running down the hill in the 2003 season opener against the nationally ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

This is the time of year when everybody talks the good game. Coaches, players, and fans alike think that this could be their year to break out and accomplish something special.

At Clemson, things are no different.

After an offseason spent trying to make this team "tougher" on the both sides of the ball, optimism reigns supreme in Tiger Town in early August.

This is also the time of year when the local beat writers release their "Umpteen Questions that Need Answering for Clemson Football" columns.

For the most part, anybody could come up with such lists. Just turn on the sports report on your local news at any point during the summer and you'll here someone questioning the toughness of this team, or the fundamentals of the fast paced offense ran by head coach Tommy Bowden and his staff.

Nonetheless, some of these questions that you'll see in these columns are certainly justified. Of course, there is one question in particular that I'd like to examine, and it has to do with the role of the back up quarterback this year.

You see, Tiger fans have had a luxury in each of the past 3 seasons. If one quarterback was ineffective or went out with an injury, there was usually another guy ready to step in and get the job done.

First it was the Woody Dantzler/Willie Simmons combination. Simmons relieved Dantzler during two critical games in the 2000 season, one of which as a sensational come-from-behind win over North Carolina, and the other was a narrow home loss to Georgia Tech.

Then it was the Willie Simmons/Charlie Whitehurst combination. Whitehurst helped salvage the season a year ago after Simmons was only sporadically effective through the first 5 or 6 games of the year.

This season, it's the Charlie Whitehurst/Chansi Stuckey combination.

Who was that you said? Who is the backup quarterback in 2003 for Clemson University?

Yeah, that's right. It's Chansi Stuckey, a redshirt freshman from Northside High School in Warner Robins, Georgia.

Stuckey was a highly recruited football player just a year ago, and the Tigers were fortunate enough to gain his services over schools like Auburn, Florida State, LSU, and Tennessee.

He's a playmaker- there's no doubt about that. He can put moves on a linebacker that will leave you gasping for air and wanting more.

However, even with an incredible offer list coming out of high school, plenty of people questioned his arm strength and his durability at the collegiate level. After all, he is only about 6-feet tall and a shade over 180 pounds entering the 2003 season.

From what I've seen, the Georgia native can throw effectively on the run and in the pocket, and he can improvise once a play breaks down better than any quarterback I've seen at Clemson in the last 10 years (no offense to Woodrow Dantzler mind you).

Still, I'll be the first to admit that he doesn't have the arm that Whitehurst does, and that he'll probably have trouble seeing over the line of scrimmage if he's forced into action.

But what exactly does that mean?

It means that if Charlie Whitehurst were to go down with an injury in 2003, there definitely would be cause for concern.

I think the bottom line here is that the entire offense would somehow have to change should Charlie Whitehurst be forced out of action this season with an injury.

The downfield passing game would most likely disappear, and we would see more quarterback sweeps like what we saw with Woody Dantzler back in 2001.

I spoke with head Tommy Bowden about this very issue just one week ago.

"Sure, I would have felt more comfortable with Willie as a backup this year, but I feel good about Chansi Stuckey and Will Proctor," Bowden said at the time.

"They've been able to do some productive things for us this spring. Right now, Chansi has a little bit of an edge as the backup."

He's right, Chansi did look better what Proctor during spring ball, and he deserves to be listed on the second team at the start of fall practice.

But with Whitehurst running the show in 2003, this offense is poised to soar. I'm telling you right now that this young gunslinger will set some monster records at Clemson this season if all goes according to plan. I firmly believe that.

"His demeanor on the team, his work ethic, his pocket presence, his ability to take a shot in the mouth and get up, those are things you notice as a coach," Bowden said about Whitehurst.

Unfortunately, you won't hear the same things about Stuckey, simply because he's only a redshirt freshman, and because he's more of a playmaker with someone throwing him the ball, instead of vice versa.

That's no knock on Chansi mind you, that's just showing you what Charlie Whitehurst means to this team this year. In one word- he means everything.

In my mind, Stuckey is still the short term solution at quarterback until somebody else can step in and claim the job. For starters, he's too good of an athlete to sit behind Charlie Whitehurst for three years. He's also a bit undersized for the position, which was the main reason a number of schools were looking at him more as a receiver as opposed to a quarterback during the recruiting process.

Nevertheless, he remains on the Tigers' second team this year, waiting to be called upon to give the opposing defense a different look, or waiting to be called upon should Charlie Whitehurst go down with an injury.

Let's just hope its the first option and not the second. The future of a football program, and a coach, could be riding on it. Top Stories