Spring Ball Preview: Quarterback

Undoubtedly, one of the most intriguing battles this spring will be who claims the back up quarterback position behind Charlie Whitehurst. Will it be Will Proctor or C.J. Gaddis? Who do we give the early edge to? The answer might just surprise you.

What else can you say about Charlie Whitehurst?

All he's done in his one and half years as the starting quarterback at Clemson is break a whole host of single season passing records and win over the fans like no other player in recent memory.

Last year, Whitehurst completed 288-of-465 passes for 3,561 yards 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Not only was he instrumental in helping the Tigers develop a more vertical passing attack, but he also helped lead the team to three of the biggest wins in school history. (26-10 over #3 FSU, 63-17 over South Carolina, and 27-14 over #6 Tennessee)

This year, he enters spring practice as the clear-cut starter and one of the top returning quarterbacks in the country.

Sure, he'll need to work on a few things, such as learning to the throw the ball away more when he's under duress as opposed to trying to force the action, but for the most part, the rising redshirt junior appears to be locked and loaded in 2004.

Behind him however, is a completely different story.

Whitehurst's back-up last season, Chansi Stuckey, has been moved to wide receiver on a full time basis. In fact, Stuckey won't be practicing as a quarterback at all this spring. He's already been turned over to wide receivers' coach Dabo Swinney.

"I'm as excited as anybody on the planet to have him with us," said Swinney in an interview with CUTigers.com. "He's a guy that's a playmaker and a guy that can help us out in a number of different ways."

With Stuckey no longer in the equation, that leaves redshirt freshman C.J. Gaddis and redshirt sophomore Will Proctor left to battle it out for second team responsibilities.

And here's what may surprise you. We are giving the early edge to Proctor.

C.J. Gaddis is arguably the top athlete on campus right now, but playing baseball this spring could hinder his development as a quarterback.
Gaddis electrified the first team defense last year while he emulated some of the top quarterbacks the Tigers would face during the course of the regular season, including D.J. Shockley, Reggie Ball, and Darian Durant.

After all, C.J. Gaddis has the ability to beat you with his arm or his legs, and his mobility and athleticism are unmatched by anyone on the team.

So why are we hyping him up only to say that he won't beat out Will Proctor this year?

Simple, because he's also playing for head coach Jack Leggett on the Clemson baseball team this spring.

Not only is he playing, he's playing well.

"We think he'll start somewhere in the outfield for us this year," said Leggett in a recent interview. "He's probably the top athlete on this campus right now from what we've seen of him."

Obviously this begs the question, how can C.J. Gaddis possibly handle both baseball and spring football practice at the same time? Good question, and it's one that truly can't be answered until after spring practice concludes on April 10th with the Orange & White game.

While Gaddis tries his hands in both sports, Will Proctor suddenly finds himself in the spotlight as the potential back up quarterback this spring.

Proctor, originally out of Winter Park, Florida, committed to the Tigers back in the summer of 2001 and came to Clemson with high expectations. After redshirting his freshman year however, he was beaten out for a spot on the second team by Stuckey.

Florida native Will Proctor threw for over 4,000 yards and 44 touchdowns during his high school career, and now he'll get the chance this spring to claim the back up quarterback spot behind Charlie Whitehurst.
"With Stuckey moving over to receiver, that makes Will Proctor our back up right now," said Swinney. "But C.J. Gaddis will be fighting him the whole way for that spot this spring."

Swinney, unlike many fans that have seemingly written him off after he saw time at wide receiver last season, thinks Proctor has every chance to win the back up job this spring.

And regardless of what's been said on Internet message boards or sports talk radio, for the most part, Will Proctor remains an untested commodity.

Keep in mind that he's yet to take a snap in the game as the Tigers' quarterback and the only thing most fans have had to go on in evaluating him is what they've seen during pregame warm-ups.

And I'm here to tell you, that doesn't mean a whole heckuva lot.

This spring is Will Proctor's chance- his chance to establish himself as a quarterback, and as a viable option for the Tigers later this fall should Charlie Whitehurst go down to injury.

"Proctor is more of a pocket guy," said quarterbacks' coach Mike O'Cain. "He's got a tall presence in the pocket but he can also get to the corner. He's really a pretty good athlete."

The bottom line is that Will Proctor has both talent and athleticism- and those are just two of the reasons he was given the opportunity to play as a wide receiver last year.

And as for C.J. Gaddis, his practice schedule is not yet known, but O'Cain has already hinted that any time spent away from the gridiron this spring would likely rule him out of the quarterback equation.

Furthermore, should Gaddis play baseball through most of spring practice, it could force him into a completely different role for the Tigers next season.

A role that could possibly mean a position switch to cornerback.

Finally, should both Gaddis and Proctor not make the grade for one reason or another, the coaching staff has one final option- move Chansi Stuckey back from wide receiver to serve as Whitehurst's back-up.

Regardless, even though Charlie Whitehurst will still be the talk of the town this March, the guys behind him may be the ones making all the noise.

And this is just one of several key position battles worth watching this spring.

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