Spotlight Remains on Proctor

CLEMSON – Obviously, if Clemson wants to keep its fading hopes of reaching the ACC Championship game alive, it has to be beat Maryland Saturday. However, from a personal standpoint, it's an equally important game for Tigers quarterback Will Proctor.

Proctor needs to show himself and the rest of Tiger Nation that he can still make simple throws and that he can get the job done with the game resting on his shoulders.

Though he's only had one really good game where his accuracy and zip on his deep passes looked good (Florida State), Proctor had been serviceable, much in the same fashion Trent Dilfer was for the Baltimore Ravens, who won the Super Bowl in 2001.

His passes were a lot of the times off the mark, causing his receivers to either have to leap for the ball, turnaround or stop because it was either behind them or underthrown.

But in his last three conference games, he's completed just 52 percent of his passes, thrown five interceptions, lost two fumbles and thrown only two touchdowns.

It all came to a head last Thursday in Blacksburg, Va., where he was 11-of-28 for 86 yards. He also threw an interception, lost a fumble and completed just one pass in the second half.

Even worse, the offense had 10 possessions where it ran three offensive plays.

Following the game, Proctor said the poor showing had to do with "miscommunication" between him and the receivers and that the ball felt good coming out of his hands.

However, such futility even caused some of Proctor's own teammates to raise some eyebrows.

A senior on the offense said that when he spoke to Proctor during the game that the quarterback was "jumpy."

"It was getting annoying and everybody was getting frustrated knowing that we're playing our hearts out and we're going right back on the field after three plays," said safety Michael Hamlin. "It gets kind of tiring a little bit. But I guess it's something the defense has to adapt to."

Proctor's play and the rest of the offense caused members of the defense during the game to vent their frustration.

"It wasn't nothing series," Hamlin said. "I guess it just came out of frustration little bit. We just realized as a defense that we need to learn how to take control of the game. …

"I know a lot of people are putting a lot of it on Proctor, but it was the offense in general that couldn't click."

What's so surprising about the sub-par passing game is that system used by offensive coordinator Rob Spence is a quarterback-friendly system. It's hard not to thrive as a quarterback in his offense.

In his second season, Spence has had a habit of producing efficient quarterbacks.

In his four years at Toledo, his quarterbacks ranked in the top 16 nationally in passing efficiency and each starting quarterback had a completion percentage of at least 68.7 percent. In each of his last three years there, his starting signal caller had a completion percentage over 70 percent.

Last season, Charlie Whitehurst was in the nation in completion percentage with a school record 67.4 mark, which was seventh-best in ACC history and broke Brandon Streeter's school record of 63.1 percent set in 1999.

By comparison, Prcotor's completion percentage is 58.5, which ranks sixth in the ACC. He also has seven interceptions, which is third-most in the conference, while his 134.21 passing efficiency rating ranks 39th nationally.

One of Proctor's biggest problems other than accuracy has been his deep passes, which seem to float and allow the defender to make up ground on the receiver, who usually has gotten behind the defender but has to slow down and wait for the pass.

Hamlin said that players on offense and defense have spoken to Proctor about the floaters.

"It was shocking because you never get a quarterback to float a ball," Hamlin said. "He started doing it on a regular basis, so it was surprising. He doesn't throw bullet passes like Charlie does. He's a little lighter with it."

Maybe Proctor's struggles shouldn't be all that surprising.

In the August, the defensive backs were told to not hit the receivers as hard, because they were being exposed due to Proctor's problems with accuracy. The coaching staff wanted to make sure the receivers went into the season healthy.

Even then, several players privately said they had concerns about Proctor's accuracy and ability to throw it deep.

"It started off where he was leaving his receivers out to dry," Hamlin said. "But as the season went on, I guess we started laying off of them a little bit. He got a little smarter and a little better with his passes. But I think the last couple of games he probably just made some bad decisions."

Maybe there were signs of potential problems prior to August.

Back in the Orange and White Game, Proctor threw an interception on three consecutive passes in the first half and finished the day 4-of-9 for 73 yards with those picks.

Following that game, Proctor again said the problems were "some miscommunications," and that it "was making the defense look good. … It's a good thing the White Team isn't on our schedule next year."

Through it all, Proctor still has a chance to do something that hasn't been done in a long time and that's be the quarterback of a 10-win team in the regular season.

But he can't afford any more showings like he's had over his last three ACC games.

Proctor's teammates are rooting for him and are firmly behind him. They also believe he can bounce back.

"I hope it picks it up this week and doesn't dwell on the Virginia Tech game," Hamlin said. "He did not have a good week against Wake Forest in the beginning, but he picked it up at the end." Top Stories