Whitehurst hopes change of pace allows for fast success this season

New no-huddle offense may spark Clemson QB

College Football

September 08, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Living up to outsized expectations has never been difficult for Clemson senior quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.

The son of former NFL quarterback David Whitehurst, Charlie has done it nearly from the day he arrived on campus. He wound up starting five games as a freshman and began to make a name for himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the Atlantic Coast Conference as a sophomore.

Last season, though, was different.

After beating Wake Forest in the season opener, the Tigers lost four straight games before a late turnaround helped Clemson finish 6-5. After throwing for 288 yards and two touchdowns in a double overtime win over the Demon Deacons, Whitehurst struggled for much of the season, too.

Any mention of Whitehurst as a Heisman candidate faded, as did any notion that he was going to turn pro after his junior year. With a no-huddle offense brought in by new coordinator Rob Spence, Whitehurst is hoping to not only reach the level of play he showed his first two years at Clemson, but exceed it.

"I think the older you get, the more you realize that it's a team sport," said Whitehurst, who will lead No. 25 Clemson (1-0) into Byrd Stadium to play Maryland (1-0) Saturday. "You can't win games by yourself, you can't lose them by yourself. The supporting cast is more important than the quarterback."

That certainly was true in a season-opening 25-24 win at home Saturday over then-17th-ranked Texas A&M. Whitehurst got knocked out of the game after being hit in the helmet late in the third quarter, but the Tigers came back behind tailback James Davis and kicker Jad Dean.

Davis, one of eight true freshmen Clemson coach Tommy Bowden used against the Aggies, rushed for 101 yards on 19 carries, including eight straight during the final drive that led to a game-winning field goal by Dean, who set a school record with six.

Whitehurst, who returned to practice Monday, believes that the cast that surrounds him this season is better than it was last year, more experienced in many positions and more talented, though not as experienced at the position that is vital to any quarterback -- wide receiver.

"We're deeper in receiver this year than we were last year," Whitehurst said. "We are young, we are inexperienced, but there are eight or nine guys that can probably play. You only need four, sometimes two to step up. I think probability tells us that we're going to be OK."

Before leaving the field in Death Valley on Saturday, Whitehurst demonstrated that he is going to be a different quarterback this year. Whitehurst completed an efficient 14 of 19 passes for 185 yards. He didn't throw for any touchdowns, but he didn't throw any interceptions, either.

Bowden said earlier this week that playing in a new offense was going to be an adjustment for a quarterback who threw for 3,315 yards and 21 touchdowns as a sophomore, but had 17 interceptions and only seven touchdowns last year. Given what Whitehurst did against Texas A&M, there is reason to be hopeful.

"That was obviously a concern as a head coach, all of a sudden you bring in a new system," said Bowden, who credits Spence for simplifying the game plan against the Aggies. "If you have a lesser opponent, you can afford a few mistakes and the margin of error is greater."

Some make the case that what happened to Whitehurst last season wasn't all his fault.

Whitehurst was hurt by a young offensive line that contributed to the Tigers being a dismal 100th in the nation in rushing as well as to many of the 25 sacks incurred by their 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback. Bowden shuffled his staff, but Whitehurst also refocused his role as a leader.

This summer, Whitehurst was among the Clemson players who organized more structured summer workouts. Considering how young most of his receivers are, Whitehurst had a captivated audience.

`There's going to be a handful of guys who are going to believe in you no matter what you say," joked Whitehurst, whose credentials include being the NCAA's active leader in passing yardage (7,367).

David Whitehurst, who played seven seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, was impressed with the way his son handled his situation last season.

"Over the years he's always amazed me with some of his wisdom, some of the decisions he's made," David Whitehurst said earlier this week. "I think that last year was a tough year, but he stood up like a man and took the criticism that was due him and also the criticism that wasn't due him. As a leader, that's something he had to do."

Next for Terps

Matchup: Clemson (1-0) at Maryland (1-0)

When: Saturday, noon

TV/Radio: ESPN/1300 AM

Line: Maryland by 1

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