Whitehurst Needs the Opportunity

Is it possible? Are the Tigers actually sitting at 3-3 through the first 6 games of the 2002 season? In a year that started off with so much promise, some questions will have to be answered on the practice fields this week, and in the eyes of most people, it starts with the quarterback situation.

We've heard it all before. During some of the most frustrating games of the Woodrow Dantzler era, all you could hear echoing throughout the tiny town of Clemson was "Willie! Willie! Willie!"

Whether those chants were warranted or not, they were both said and heard by the Clemson faithful.

And based on Charlie Whitehurst's peformance Saturday afternoon, we might very well be going down that same road again; except this time the demands hail the name of another back up quarterback.

Let me now officially join one of the 15,000 people that have already claimed the following the statement: beyond a shadow of a doubt, Charlie Whitehurst has created a quarterback controversy at Clemson University.

The numbers on the season are awfully hard to ignore: 11-of-11 passing for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Now I'm no mathematician, but that's about as close to perfection as you can come. And unfortunately for Willie Simmons, Whitehurst's short lived fame goes beyond mere numbers.

The experts that follow the Tigers throughout spring practice and on into the fall will tell you that Whitehurst has always looked more comfortable calling the shots in this offense.

Maybe it's something about his delivery or his poise that gives him the edge. Maybe it's because he's 4-inches taller. Or maybe it's just because he's the back up quarterback.

Whatever the reason, Tommy Bowden can't afford not to give Charlie Whitehurst more playing time this season. That my friends, is a fact.

Simmons has had his moments this year, and the games he has lost, have largely been out of his control, but at the same time, Charlie Whitehurst makes it look too easy.

The naysayers will quickly point out that he did it against a prevent defense at Virginia, and a bunch of scrubs in mop-up time against Ball State.

My response to that is simply, let's find out. Especially when the entire success of the season hangs in the balance.

Simmons has completed as many touchdown passes as he has interceptions this year, and he ranks near the bottom of the ACC in passing efficiency. Why not give Charlie Whitehurst more playing time next week? What do you have to lose?

Yesterday's loss to Virginia was nothing less than gut wrenching. People can talk about the great recruiting class Al Groh brought in last year, or his wonderful ability to make adjustments at halftime, but the fact of the matter is the Tigers lost to an inferior team, and an inferior football program.

It just shouldn't happen, and it really shouldn't happen two years in a row. There's simply no excuse for it.

Whatever must be done to improve the team's chances at winning over the course of the coming weeks must be done. If that means putting a redshirt freshman on the field as your signal caller so be it.

Of course, we are just the fans, the ultimate decision comes down to the coaching staff. Tommy Bowden addressed the looming quarterback controversy in his postgame press conference yesterday.

"A lot of people have two quarterbacks," Bowden said. "We have two good guys, and to me, that's good. That shouldn't be a problem."

Wrong. It becomes a problem when the better quarterback is left sitting on the bench collecting dust.

I'm not giving up on Willie Simmons just yet, but at the same time, we need to find out more about Charlie Whitehurst. And the last time I checked, the only way to do that is to put him in the game when it matters.

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