The same folks that constantly asked Whitehurst exactly a year ago about being a Heisman Trophy candidate now wanted to know why he threw 17 interceptions compared to only seven touchdowns.
"What happened last year?" Whitehurst said in response at the 2005 ACC Football Kickoff. "If we could have figured it out, we would have turned it around. I don't think we ever did offensively. I don't think anybody was very good. Nobody really had a big year for us last year. …
"Individually, I didn't play very well. But I don't think we were very good as an offensive team. … But I take full responsibility for that because I was just as bad as anybody else. I think everybody had to look in the mirror and I think everybody is and saying I can do better."
The offense the last few seasons had become stagnant and very predictable. There was very little chance of catching an opposing team off guard. And as a result, the offense suffered tremendously.
"I think people figured us out," Whitehurst said. "Last year there was a formula to beat us – play cover two and get some big boys up front to stop the run. They knew every third play. …
"In the old system, you're kind of like a robot. You don't mature mentally throughout the season."
The fallout from a poor showing offensively and everything else involved in 2004 was offensive coordinator Mike O'Cain losing his job. It wasn't what Whitehurst wanted, but he understands why it happened.
"I was close to him," Whitehurst said. "I think a lot of us weren't very good last year and you can't fire the players, thank God. It's a tough situation and I wished it wouldn't have happened, but something had to happen and it was him."
Also, there are now some folks that doubt Whitehurst has what it takes to bounce back and be the type of quarterback that can get back on the Heisman Trophy candidate list.
"I don't care what anybody else thinks except for our football team and our coaches," he said. "Good or bad, I don't think those people know all the facts all the time. When it's negative, I can kind of block it out. But on the other hand, when it's positive, I have to block it out too."
However, there are reasons to believe things will be different for Whitehurst this season. Rob Spence comes in as someone who is considered a mastermind offensively and there's a real sense of certainty by Whitehurst that it will be better.
"The confidence last year wasn't made up, but we weren't very good," he said. "It was kind of like what happened in the spring happened during the season. You're always optimistic going into the fall that things are going to jell and you're going to be good, but it really didn't happen last year.
"This year, there was some improvement during the spring. We took to this new system very quickly. We were better offensively this spring with a brand new offense than last year."
And because of that, there's every reason for Clemson fans to have faith that the Whitehurst of 2003 will step forward in 2005.
Whitehurst Optimistic Entering 2005 Season
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