QB battle will be one to watch

CLEMSON - When Clemson's football team trots onto the practice fields beside the Jervey Athletic Center Monday afternoon for its first of 15 spring practices, only one thing is certain in the battle of who will be the starting quarterback this fall.

They all have a shot.

"We will try to create a competitive situation," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "Nobody has done anything. Nobody has won a game. I mean, nobody has really earned anything other than a right to compete."

Those who will compete for the starting quarterback position are names that are well known by the Clemson family.

Willy Korn, the highest rated Clemson quarterback to come out of high school since Steve Fuller over 30 years ago before Tajh Boyd signed with the Tigers last month, has been anointed the savior of the Clemson program since the day he announced his intentions to play for the Tigers.

But injuries have slowed Korn down in each of his first two seasons, causing some to wonder about his durability. He has twice had surgery on his shoulder, most recently at the end of last season.

"Now I have asked Willy and of course he is telling me is throwing the ball better than he ever has in his life, so that is the right answer," Swinney said. "I love Willy. He is competitive so I hope he is. I hope he is fully recovered."

If he isn't, and that's a big if from what everyone is saying, then redshirt freshman Kyle Parker could end up as the starting quarterback before it is all said and done.

Parker has already proven as an All-ACC First Team selection in baseball that he has the intangibles to be the type of player capable of leading a team.

"He is a special kid and a special talent," Swinney said.

But like Korn, Parker has some questions surrounding him as well, and those questions have to do with how much information and reps he will actually be able to take from the 15 practices when he will be juggling baseball as well.

"There will be some days where he will be Deion (Sanders)," Swinney said.

But hopefully he isn't too much like Sanders was at the end of his baseball career. When football started becoming too much, Sanders struggled behind the plate and ultimately had to make a choice on which sport he wanted to play.

"There are no real excuses, but these guys have been probably playing all fall long and I'm just really coming out here," Parker said. "I'm not really too worried about it as long as I get my at-bats and reps and start putting up better numbers to improve."
Parker does not see that kind of decision in his future just yet even though he is struggling somewhat to start the baseball season at the plate and in the field. His struggles might be due to the fact he missed some valuable batting practice time in the fall and early winter because he was with the football team.

He has also been in and out of football meetings the last two weeks.

"There are no real excuses, but these guys have been probably playing all fall long and I'm just really coming out here," Parker said in a recent interview with CUTigers. "I'm not really too worried about it as long as I get my at-bats and reps and start putting up better numbers to improve."

Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett isn't worried about Parker's production either, even though he knows his right fielder's plate is full with football and baseball, and let's not forget school work.

"I'm sure his mind is where it needs to be," Leggett said. "He concentrates when he has to and wherever he has to be. He just has to get his rhythm going."

If he doesn't get it going on the football, he could miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime.

"That is something that will come about in the next couple of weeks, but until then we are going to let what happens on the practice fields the next 34 days and in those days we will try to make an objective evaluation on what those guys do really good," Clemson offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Billy Napier said.

Napier plans to start out the spring rotating reps with the first, second, third and fourth teams between Korn, Parker, Michael Wade and Jon Richt.

"We will let those guys compete," he said. "They all deserve the opportunity to improve and put them in position to be successful. We will see who rises to the top and we will go from there."

Napier also says his approach will be to evaluate the whole group and every player on offense from the very beginning.

"We have to teach these guys. A lot of these guys have not played," he said. "Some of these guys, who have played, played limited roles. There will be some carry over from a procedure standpoint and the verbiage will makes sense to a lot of them. But as far as the approach of what we take and what we try to teach these guys, we will try to be as detailed and specific as we can as we go through each concept."

And that should make the upcoming 15 practices over the next month or even that much more fun.

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