Bowden: No Fumbles and Simmons Stays


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - One day after saying he wasn't sure whether Clemson has a
quarterback controversy, head coach Tommy Bowden now says it doesn't.


At least not yet.


Junior Willie Simmons remains Bowden's man to direct the Tigers' offense
despite committing two crucial turnovers on back-to-back possessions in the
fourth quarter of Saturday's 22-17 loss at Virginia. One of the turnovers was
Simmons' third lost fumble in the last two games.


He gave up the ball twice Oct. 3 in the 48-31 loss at Florida State.


It was for that reason - and that reason only - that Bowden was less than
decisive about his quarterback position in Saturday's postgame press
conference. But Sunday he reiterated that Simmons is the starter, as long as
he holds on to the ball.


"That was the reason for the hesitation (in the press conference)," Bowden
said during his Sunday teleconference. "(Simmons) still made 58 percent of
his passes, he's at the top of the conference in passing percentage...but he
can't do that. One more time carrying it loose like that and there will be a
price to pay."


Bowden went through a similar problem a year ago with former Clemson
quarterback Woodrow Dantzler.


Dantler had problems protecting the ball early in the 2001 season, and after
a fumble in the first half at Georgia Tech he was given an ultimatum:


Protect the ball, "or the other guy plays."


"The other guy" in that instance was Willie Simmons. Now, it's redshirt
freshman Charlie Whitehurst, who has excited the Clemson fans with an
11-for-11 start to his career, including completing all seven of his passes
for 92 yards and a touchdown Saturday against Virginia's prevent defense late
in the game.


"Carrying the ball loose repeatedly is what I have a short fuse for," Bowden
said. "You get on the backs about fumbling and wideouts about fumbling. If it
were just this one time it would be one thing. But he did it twice against
Florida State."


Asked when he would deliver his "other guy" speech to Simmons, Bowden said:


"I already did."


Meanwhile, Bowden may have finally lost patience with senior punter Wynn
Kopp.


Kopp averaged a miserable 31.1 yards per kick on six punts Saturday,
including kicks of 25, 27 and 28 yards. Pressed on the issue Sunday, Bowden
seemed to indicate a change was coming.


"I'll do something this week. I've got to do something, I just don't know
what yet," he said. "Well, I know, but I'm not going to say."


Asked if any possible moves might involve freshman Cole Chason, a
punter/kicker Bowden is hoping to redshirt, he was noncommittal.


"I don't know yet," he said. "We'll have to make the decision this week."

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