Next In Line: QB Michael Wade

With Byrnes High School standout Willy Korn now enrolled at Clemson and working out with the rest of the football team, many Clemson fans have seemingly already anointed him the starter for 2007.

But in the famous words of ESPN's Lee Corso – "Not so fast my friends."

Clemson offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Rob Spence says he is only sure of one thing as of right now – rising redshirt junior Cullen Harper will be his top quarterback when the Tigers begin spring practice on March 10.

"There isn't a set depth (chart) behind Cullen right now," Spence said. "Cullen comes out of this because he was the set backup to Will Proctor. As of the first day (of spring) that is the way things will be set."

That means Korn, along with Tribble Reese and redshirt freshman Michael Wade, will have to first battle to be the Tigers' second quarterback before they can challenge Harper for the number one job. "I see a very competitive environment for the rest of the quarterbacks so I haven't really set a depth chart yet," Spence said. "I would like to see early spring practices develop in such a way that we could change that depth daily.

"I hate to establish any depth behind Cullen right now. I'm going to wait until practice starts and let it sort itself out a little bit."

Based on experience and experience only, Reese will start the first day of spring as Clemson's second string quarterback, while Wade will be the third and Korn the fourth. Spence hopes, being that all four quarterbacks are similar in skill and athletic ability, that by the second day of spring drills the depth chart will be shaken up a little bit.

"A lot of things can change between now and then and we aren't practicing so it is hard to establish any kind of depth right now," Spence said. "I know how things ended up, but it is going to be a battle between what I think are all very good quarterbacks."

During the 2006 season, the coaching staff realized they had what can be characterized as a good problem on their hands when Wade started turning heads on the Tigers' scout team. The former Riverside High School product, who was rated as the No.38 quarterback nationally by in 2005, developed faster than most believed he would and is considered, like the other three in camp, to be a be a serious contender for the starting job.

Many thought Wade, who won Clemson's annual Iron-Man Award, had the tools to play at the Division 1-A level out of high school, but many also believed he was still raw and it might be his redshirt sophomore season before he became a serious challenger.

"Anytime you have a player on your team win the Iron-Man award and get a 4.0 in the classroom then all of sudden he raises the respect of every single person he is around – coaches and players alike," Spence said. "You are looking at someone who has exceptional work ethic, is highly motivated and has high character strengths.

"You are looking at somebody who is going to play as hard as he possibly can in everything that he does."

A dual-threat quarterback, Wade has all the intangibles it takes to run Spence's system. "He runs very well. He thinks very fast and he learns fast," Spence said. "He is very, very athletic and his arm continues to get better and better."

During his senior year at Riverside, Wade completed 113 of 222 passes for 1,376 yards and 13 scores on his way to All-State honors. He also rushed for 354 yards and five more scores. As a junior, he threw for 1,338 yards and nine touchdowns, while rushing for 623 more.

"He is typical of what we have had in this system the last five or six years," Spence said of Wade. "He reminds me a lot of Bruce Gradkowski, who plays for Tampa Bay right now… There is a real excitement, real energy and real innocence about what is going on around him. I think he is not intimidated by his environment or the pressure of the position.

"He is not overwhelmed by the outside influences of this university that can impact a quarterback. He can focus and do what he has to do to be very, very good."

CUTigers Outlook: Wade has a chance to be a very quarterback at Clemson, but he does have to improve on his arm strength and the timing of his release. The coaches would like to see his arm strength get a little stronger where he can throw the ball the entire width of the field – sideline to sideline – without any troubles. It is not likely Wade will be moved to another position, he was recruited to Clemson as a quarterback and that's where the coaches plan to keep him. At this stage, Spence is anxious to see Wade in the spring because he hasn't really seen him run his offense completely because he spent all of last year on the scout team. Top Stories