What a Difference a Year Makes (Part II)

Tiger fans have proven that they have short memories as the harsh words that were spoken this time last year have been all but forgotten. Well you might want to cover your ears as we go back in time to compare where the team was coming out of the spring last year to this year's team that is now staring directly into the long summer months.

Coming out of spring practice this year, coaches and fans alike have shared concerns about positions such as offensive and defensive tackle, not to mention special teams.

Today, we take a look back at we were saying a year ago coming out of spring practice, and compare it to what we've seen just recently from the practice fields.

Spring 2003: Technically speaking, Charlie Whitehurst and Willie Simmons came into the spring as co-starters battling it out for the #1 job. Coming out of Spring practices, experts felt that the quarterback situation was one of the best in the country until the news broke:

"Willie Simmons, Clemson's starting quarterback the first eight games of 2002, has announced that he will transfer to a Division I-AA institution for his final year of eligibility."

Now Clemson had on its hands a sophomore quarterback with only four starts under his belt.

Even worse was the fact that Simmons and Whitehurst shared the majority of the snaps during the spring, giving backup redshirt freshmen Chansi Stuckey very little time to learn the offense. Although few would admit it now, you would be hard pressed to find a Clemson fan that at some point did not pray for the health of Charlie Whitehurst.

Spring 2004: In his post spring analysis, Roy Philpott said, "After obliterating numerous school records through his first 18 games as a starter, Whitehurst is already being mentioned as one of the top returning signal callers in the country this year."

Roy might have sold Charlie short though as many publications have come forward with Charlie as one of their front runners for the Heisman trophy.

Even more impressive is the fact that the durable Whitehurst will be backed up by a quarterback that got plenty of experience this spring. Will Proctor might not be a Heisman caliber performer, but this spring he showed a grasp of the playbook and the ability to consistently move the offense.

Tight End
Spring 2003: A position that also should have been a strength coming out of the spring practice was tight end. Tiger fans have almost forgotten though that the tight end position only had one scholarship player throughout the spring. Bobby Williamson stepped into the starting role after High School All-American and two year starter Ben Hall decided he would transfer to another school.

Tiger fans didn't feel much better about Hall even after he asked to come back to the team immediately following the spring.

Tommy Bowden announced at the time: "Ben will be allowed to return to the Clemson program, but he will have to satisfy some disciplinary measures in the off-season. He missed all of spring practice and will have to work his way back up the depth chart."

Many doubted Hall's desire and work ethic, and the summer was spent fielding questions about whether Hall would really come back at all.

Spring 2004: Bobby Williamson held off Hall for the starting job in 2003. Simply put, Hall did not work hard in the weight room and could not close the gap between he and the hardworking Williamson.

Williamson and Hall entered the spring as co-starters, but this time Hall came prepared.

For the first time since he's been on campus, we've seen Hall put in the time in the weight room as he looks to have put on ten pounds of muscle. Hall's athleticism and speed were just too much for Williamson to compete with. He took over the starting spot this spring and should have a season that sets himself up well for next year's NFL draft.

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