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16 Clemson

Aug. 16, 2004
Aug. 16, 2004

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Aug. 16, 2004

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16 Clemson

The powerful right arm of Charlie Whitehurst elevates the Tigers from also-ran status to ACC contenders

Until he led unranked Clemson to a 26–10 upset of No. 3 Florida State last November, Charlie Whitehurst was a promising young quarterback on an average ACC team. But that big win turned out to be the first in a run of four straight by the Tigers to close the season, including a 27–14 defeat of sixth-ranked Tennessee in the Peach Bowl. Clemson’s average margin of victory in that run: 27 points. Now Whitehurst, a 6'4", 215pound junior who threw for 3,561 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2003, is regarded as the star of a juggernaut. “Charlie gained more confidence in himself,” offensive coordinator Mike O’Cain says of his passer’s breakout season. “Now he’s generating that confidence in others. Guys gravitate to him.”

This is an article from the Aug. 16, 2004 issue Original Layout

Not bad for a player whose biggest claim to fame coming out of high school was being the son of former Green Bay Packers quarterback David Whitehurst. Charlie was No. 2 on the depth chart until the Tigers’ ninth game of 2002, when he threw for 420 yards and four touchdowns in a 34–31 win over Duke. A classic drop-back passer at a school that’s had few of them, he set 22 school records by the end of that season and drew comparisons to his idol, Brett Favre. “Charlie plays within himself and has tremendous poise,” says O’Cain. “He’s never had just a terrible, terrible game.”

Inexperienced at tackle and wide receiver, the Tigers will need some of Whitehurst’s confidence to rub off on the untested players early on. Sophomores Roman Fry and Marion Dukes step into the holes on the offensive line, with left tackle Fry under extra pressure to protect the quarterback’s blind side. Clemson also must replace three wideouts who combined for 155 catches and 2,209 yards last year. Senior Airese Currie and junior Curtis Baham are dependable targets, but sophomore Chansi Stuckey is an intriguing option. The No. 2 quarterback last year, Stuckey has displayed the kind of elusiveness that could make him a game-breaker. “He’s as electric as anybody I’ve seen after making the catch,” says Whitehurst. “The talent level of this team is better than last year’s.”

If that’s the case, and Clemson can win on the road against Florida State or Miami, or both, don’t be surprised if Whitehurst makes a run at the Heisman. After all, he threw for more yards last year than any other sophomore in the country, including USC’s Matt Leinart. “It’s an honor to be mentioned with him,” says Whitehurst, “but I haven’t done what he’s done yet. Let’s win the ACC first. That’s my goal.” --M.B.

FAST FACTS

2003 RECORD 9–4 (5–3, 3rd in ACC)

FINAL AP RANK 22

RETURNING STARTERS 14

KEY RETURNEES (2003 stats)

LB Leroy Hill (Sr.)

Team’s leading tackler (145) was All-ACC

QB Charlie Whitehurst (Jr.)

Second ACC soph to reach 5,000 passing yards

WR Airese Currie (Sr.)

43 catches for all-conference sprinter

CB Justin Miller (Jr.)

Led Tigers with 13 passes broken up

RB Duane Coleman (Jr.)

Clemson’s top rusher with 615 yards

TELLING NUMBER

27

Tackles for loss by linebacker Leroy Hill in 2003, second most in Division IA behind Western Michigan’s Jason Babin (32).

BREAKOUT PLAYER

For all of his success QB Charlie Whitehurst hasn’t had a favorite receiver, but 6'2", 215pound sophomore Kelvin Grant might be the one. He caught 12 passes for 79 yards and a TD as a redshirt freshman in 2003. In off-season scrimmages Whitehurst has been throwing often to Grant, who has a flair for highlight-reel catches.

SCHEDULE

Sept. 4 WAKE FOREST

11 GEORGIA TECH

18 at Texas A&M

25 at Florida State

Oct. 7 at Virginia

16 UTAH STATE

23 MARYLAND

30 N.C. STATE

Nov. 6 at Miami

13 at Duke

20 SOUTH CAROLINA

COLOR PHOTOSEAN MEYERS/ICON SMIMAKING A NAMEAlready drawing comparisons to Favre, Whitehurst is on track to follow his dad into the NFL.