Big Things Expected of Stuckey

ORLANDO – From the time he stepped foot on the Clemson campus, big things were expected of Chansi Stuckey, be it at quarterback or wide receiver. All coaches and fans knew was that he was loaded with ability.

And while it took some two and a half years for that potential to be tapped, Stuckey has exploded onto the scene and made a name for his self. His 62 receptions and 761 yards receiving lead ACC. Also, his catches in a season are fourth-most in Tigers history.

In just his second year at receiver, Stuckey is accomplishing what fans thought he'd do from the beginning, but it hasn't been easy.

"You've got to know how to handle that target being on you," he said. "It's a little different from being that role guy like I was last year when Airese Currie was the guy. Now when people focus in on me and they know I'm going to get the ball, it makes things a lot harder."

Funny thing is, none of this almost happened for the red-shirt junior.

Stuckey played quarterback at Northside High in Warner-Robbins, Ga., where he was played a lot like former Clemson quarterback Woodrow Dantzler. As a senior, he passed for 1,286 yards and 13 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1,008 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He was highly recruited by all the big schools in the South, but he partly chose Clemson because head coach Tommy Bowden said he could play quarterback.

Stuckey red-shirted in 2002 and found himself as a backup quarterback and Jack of all trades the following season. He was 11-of-21 passing for 97 yards and two touchdowns, while also having 17 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

But with starting quarterback Charlie Whitehurst only being a sophomore, there wasn't going to be a lot of opportunity to be the signal caller. But knowing Stuckey needed to be on the field in some capacity Bowden gave him the option of staying put or moving to wide receiver.

"I pretty much left it up to him," Bowden said. "He was recruited as a quarterback and that's why he came here. I was going to let him make the decision. I wish he would have made it earlier, but when you recruit somebody and tell them that's what you're going to do, that's what you do.

"I let him stay there as long as he wanted to and saw where he might be productive somewhere else. He finally came and said he wanted to change. He would still have been at quarterback today had he not wanted to change."

Stuckey, fans and the coaching staff are all glad he made the move. Had he not, then there wouldn't have been the performances he put up against Florida State this season and Wake Forest last season.

Against the No. 16 Seminoles, Stuckey had 11 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tigers to a 35-14 victory. Against the Demon Deacons, which was his first start and first game of 2004, he had eight catches for 125 yards and blocked a punt.

However the difference in what happened after the two games is as vast as night and day.

Following his breakout against Wake Forest, expectations for Stuckey went through the roof. But over the next nine games, he managed just 10 receptions. He was considered to be a major disappointment.

"I think I kind of put a bull's eye on myself coming out in that first game and it raised a lot of expectations really quick," he said. "I think it helped me this year, because after I had a game like that I kind of disappeared after that."

This season, however, Stuckey had big game after big game. There wasn't a whole lot of disappearing going on.

"Just being older knowing how to practice has helped," he said. "I think a lot of it had to do with the new system we have. The coaches are really big on us practicing hard."

Next year, the pressure to be great will be even more intense. And that's just fine with Stuckey, who has already set some very lofty goals for next season.

"I want to repeat as All-Conference," he said. "I want to compete for All-American and be up for the Biletnikoff Award (given to the nation's top receiver) and increase my catches and yardage and touchdowns and just get better in every aspect of the game."

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