Projected Starter: Charlie Whitehurst
What else can you say about the Tigers' starting quarterback headed into March? Charlie Whitehurst did the unthinkable last year by beating out fan favorite Willie Simmons before the Duke game in early November.
His ability to maintain his poise in the pocket ultimately lifted the Tigers to a come-from-behind road win over Duke, just when it appeared as though the season was going to come to a crashing halt.
Overall, he finished the year by completing 103-of-166 passes for 1291 yards with 9 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. His ability to go through his progressions and his touch on the long ball were critical in a late season stretch that included wins over both North and South Carolina.
This spring, Whitehurst will work behind a revamped offensive line, with the introduction of three key freshmen into the two-deep.
Without a doubt, improved play on the offensive line will likely go a long way in increasing the overall production of the Tigers' offense in 2003. It goes without saying that in blowout losses to N.C. State, Maryland, and Texas Tech last season, it was obvious that Clemson was losing the battle at the line of scrimmage.
|Whitehurst completed 103-of-166 passes for 1291 yards with 9 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions during the 2002 regular season.|
But first things first- Whitehurst must take care of business this spring by holding off senior quarterback Willie Simmons.
If that's going to happen, the rising redshirt sophomore will have to continue to make plays downfield and protect the football at all costs.
That means hit the open receivers in stride and don't make stupid mistakes by either throwing into double coverage, or by allowing the defense to strip the football once he scrambles into the open field.
The fact is that the Clemson coaching staff simply won't allow a barrage of turnovers from the quarterback position this year.
Looking back to last season, crucial turnovers against Georgia, Florida State, and Virginia perhaps kept the Tigers from really achieving something special.
Add in a bitter defeat to Texas Tech to close out the season, and you can bet that Charlie Whitehurst will be protecting the football this spring if he's going to hold onto his starting spot.
Whitehurst was phenomenal during his first year, but he did suffer through a dismal Tangerine Bowl when he completed just 20-of-48 passes for 263 yards and a mind boggling 4 interceptions.
"There's a lot of things we still need to work on," Whitehurst said after the loss. "And I include myself when I say that."
Being the son of an NFL quarterback will help pave the way for the mental toughness Whitehurst will need to take his game to the next level.
That includes a better understanding of the offense, the ability to recognize the appropriate times to simply throw the ball away, and becoming a better pure passer.
And don't forget about his physical advantages as well.
"I think my height gives me an advantage. As long as I feel comfortable in the pocket and the line is protecting me well and receivers are getting open, this offense is going to move the ball," said Whitehurst.
After basically spending a year discovering what being a Division I-A quarterback is all about, Whitehurst will have the opportunity to do some special things before he leaves Clemson University.
And it all starts this spring.