"It's not something you address with the whole team because it's negative," Whitehurst said Sunday during the first day of the annual Atlantic Coast Conference Media Days. "But in small groups, you can't help but talk about it. I don't how much (the players) realized that if the coach gets fired, it's hell for the players with that new coach. You're starting from scratch again. I remember saying a couple of times that we can't let that happen because a bunch of us might not be playing this year."
Of course, everybody knows that the Tigers went on to upset No. 3 Florida State the following week, and then followed that with convincing wins over Duke and South Carolina.
The season ended with a 27-13 victory over Tennessee in the Peach Bowl.
"When we beat Florida State, I remember thinking, man, they can't fire him now," Whitehurst, a junior, said. "There's no way they can. But they probably could.
"I think after the South Carolina game, he was back. But if we would have lost any of those other three, maybe not."
Of course, with those three convincing victories, Bowden's job was saved in spades.
But those last three weeks of the regular season were nonetheless anxious times for Whitehurst and the rest of the Tigers.
"After Wake Forest, we heard rumors that he was going to be gone for sure," Whitehurst said. "But there was a time when I thought, how can the guy take it any more. Even after we beat Florida State and we beat Duke, the South Carolina week was still hectic for him. I said that I won't blame him if he takes off on his own. He dealt with a lot. You've got to hand it to him.
"I think everybody was concerned. It's not something that you want to think about, but it's definitely there. It is in your control, but it's not. You can only do so much. And that was our approach: Let's go out and win every game and if he's here, he's here and if he's not, he's not. You can't control it after that."
|"I wouldn't call myself in the elite class last year and we haven't played a game this year," he said. "But I'd like to be considered in that group this year, but I think I've got a good bit to prove."|
"He didn't put any pressure on us," Whitehurst said. "He was dealing with it all and it made it easier on us. But we all knew what was going on. I don't know if we were playing for him, you just go out there and try to win them all.
"With the coaching situation and thinking that the coaches were going to be gone, it made it easy to fight. You just kind of rally behind your coach and go from there."
And where Whitehurst is now is being thought of as one of the top signal callers in the conference and possibly the nation.
"I wouldn't call myself in the elite class last year and we haven't played a game this year," he said. "But I'd like to be considered in that group this year, but I think I've got a good bit to prove."
In order for Whitehurst to have the type of season many expect of him, the wide receivers have to step up and be as reliable as those last year. Whitehurst thinks they will do just that.
"They're more talented than what we had last year," he said. "We've got more talent now, but they've got no experience. It is a question mark. But I know they can play."
Assuming his receiving corps is just fine, there's still the brutal schedule with games at Miami and Florida State.
"It's one of the super conferences now, I believe," Whitehurst said. "Miami is the team to beat. It's exciting for me and the rest of the team to test yourself against that type of competition. They're where we want to be. We want to be up to their status. It's not something that you want to avoid at all. You want to see if you're able to compete.
"There's pros and cons with them joining the league. The schedule's tougher, but if you beat Florida State and Miami, you can play for the national championship. That's the way I look at it."
Regardless if Clemson goes undefeated, there's going to be speculation as to whether Whitehurst will forgo his senior year and make himself eligible for the NFL Draft.
In fact, the questions have already started.
"I don't know. I hope I have a decision to make. That means I've played like I want to," he said. "But up until just recently, I haven't really thought about it. I expect to be here another two years. I think my body needs another year of growth. There's some big boys up there."