Harper has Been Here Before

CLEMSON - Call it déjà vu all over again. After breaking 20+ school records a year ago in his first year as Clemson's starting quarterback, senior Cullen Harper finds himself answering the same questions he was at this time a year ago.

True, he hasn't played up to his ACC Preseason Player of the Year billing, but he hasn't exactly been bad either. Last week after throwing an interception on the first play from scrimmage, he settled in to complete 20 of his next 27 passes for over 250 yards and a couple of touchdowns to lift Clemson to a 27-9 win.

Having been banged up through the early part of the year, Harper and the Tigers are on the edge of beginning the heart of their 2008 season. If the Tigers can beat S.C. State this weekend as they are expected to, the Maryland Terrapins come calling a week later in what will be a game that helps define Clemson's 2008 season and 10th-year head coach Tommy Bowden.

Simply put, it's put up or shut up time.

CUTigers.com checked in with Harper for another 1-on-1 interview this week, and here's what he had to say:

Cullen you've answered a lot of questions this week regarding your performance Saturday against N.C. State and obviously you are aware of what some people are saying in regards to the quarterback situation here at Clemson. Don't you feel like you should be at the point where you aren't having to answer the same questions you were answering a year ago at this time?
Harper: Well, I've gone out and had a good year so far. As far as passing efficiency goes. I'm better than I was this time last year. But at the same time last year these same questions started coming up. I'm used to it by now. Ever since I got here I've had to deal with stuff like this. You have to have thick skin. You can't pay attention to it. You can't let what other people say affect how you play. You just have to block it out and go out there and play for an audience of one.

Obviously you've got a lot of fans in your corner and obviously there is also a number of people that will always want to see the backup quarterback in there. What do you think you have to do to prove to that group (the people that want Willy Korn in at all times) that you are the best option for this team right now?
Harper: I think you just to go out there and continue to win and be successful. I remember when Charlie [Whitehurst] was here, people were saying, 'bring in Will Proctor.' Then when he was the quarterback, people were saying bring in me. Really, it's just something that goes along with the position I'm in. You have to realize that and you the quicker you realize that the better off you'll be and just don't let it affect you.

In three games Cullen Harper has completed 54-of-80 passes (67.5 percent) for 642 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Your offensive line played its best game last week, I thought. What did you see out of that group and are you starting to develop more confidence after they didn't allow a sack against a pretty good defense in N.C. State?
Harper: Yes. Those guys came out and did a great job. For three redshirt freshmen to come out there and not give up a sack, that's impressive. From what I've seen ... I remember Landon Walker, a guy getting his first start was coming over here, early watching film last week. They all do that. They know they are being depended on and they are playing at a higher level.

Outside of the line, do you feel like this offense with all of its skill is operating anywhere close to maximum efficiency?
Harper: I think we still need to improve and we've done that from week to week starting after Alabama. If we can keep improving just a little bit, by the time we this long stretch of ACC games and the big games we have down the road, we should be good.

From a health standpoint, how are you feeling right now? Will you be 100 percent this weekend?
Harper: Yes I feel good. My right shoulder feels really good. My left shoulder got banged up a little bit, bruised a little bit. But by Saturday that will be fine. That's just part of it. I was a little sore on Monday but by Saturday I'll be feeling good.

S.C. State on defense ... what do they do and how do you attack?
Harper: They will play a defense similar to the Virginia Tech defense. The robber coverage. If they don't do that, it will be a lot of cover three, with a one safety defense. We'll have a plan for both defenses. From what I've seen on tape, they are very athletic. A lot of those guys had committed to us and have gone on to play somewhere else. They are athletic and fast. We just have to make sure we approach the game in the same way against N.C. State.

You never want to call a game a 'tune-up game' but given their style of defense and their athletes, I get the sense this should be a nice preview of what you'll see more of in the ACC-especially with their schemes. Is that accurate?
Harper: It will be. Their defense is fast. They may not as be as fast but as far as athletic ability goes they'll be just as good. They've got some good players over there.

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