Charlie Whitehurst: Is He For Real?
Whitehurst already owns Clemson single game records for TD passes, completions, and passing yards.
Editor's Note: TigerNet would like to welcome a new contributor, Roy Martin, to the site. Roy has playing experience on the collegiate level, and we welcome his insight on the game and on this upcoming season. Please drop Roy a line and let him know what you think about his first article.
With the opening of two-a-days only a few weeks away, most Clemson fans are as excited as an eight-year-old on Christmas Eve. It's not so much the predicted outcomes or the dreams of a bowl game that excite the fans. It's more of a desire to return to Clemson in order to join friends at tailgates and take part in what they feel is the greatest game day experience in America. They long for the sounds of Tiger Rag and the sight of Young buses pulling up to the top of The Hill. Like the kid at Christmas, they have a wish list for the upcoming season and the element of surprise is what makes everything so exciting.
The uncertainty heading into the season covers everything from the existence of purple jerseys to the predicted finish. Somewhere in between lies the question that many have asked but few have answered: Is Charlie Whitehurst for real?
The young man from Georgia came on strong last year when he was called upon. Whether it was his record setting performance vs. Duke, his touchdown scamper vs. South Carolina, or the brutal beating he took against Texas Tech, Whitehurst may be the most talked about sophomore quarterback in Clemson history. On the surface, it would seem Clemson fans have a lot about which to be excited. His detractors say the hype isn't warranted because his big games were against inferior competition. I say Charlie deserves some of the hype.
He also deserves some time.
Time is the biggest factor in the evolution of Whitehurst. Oddly enough, time is the one thing most fans aren't willing to give the players or coaches. The good news is that Charlie appears to have enough talent and smarts to escape the wrath of the fans......for now. In the meantime, let's break down Whitehurst by looking at three very different aspects of his game.
This was quite possibly the most noticeable aspect of his performances last year. Whether forced to step up in the pocket or rolling out to avoid would-be tacklers, he did it with the calmness of a tried and true veteran. He handled the final drives against Virginia and Duke as if he was involved in a leisurely backyard game with a few buddies. One might say that the calmness seen was merely his youth blinding him from the pressure and importance of those situations. Most might have gone along with that point of view until the Texas Tech game.
The beating he took in that game brought back memories of Major Harris' mother screaming "My baby! They killin' my baby!" in the 1989 Gator Bowl. Mrs. Harris, everyone now knows how you felt that night. The great thing is he took the abuse and kept popping back up. He fought and fought and fought. He didn't quit. He didn't become gun shy. Instead, he continually sat in the pocket and looked for his guys. Had he had anything other than poise, he would have lost it during that beating. He didn't and for that many should be thankful. As ironic as it may be, the Texas Tech game could have been the best thing to ever happen to Charlie Whitehurst. It taught him and those around him that he could deal with pressure.
Is it fair to judge him by his numbers? Probably not. Is that what most folks do? Yes.
Like most things, numbers are almost always indicative of the outcome of a football game. And like most things, there are almost always exceptions. In breaking down his passing numbers for the 5 games he started, the first thing that is noticeable is a high of 420 yards with a low of 130 yards. That's not the kind of range you'd like to see from your quarterback. That being said, it's been years since my last statistics class and I don't care to pull out old textbooks in an effort to properly run the numbers. So, for arguments sake, let's project the averages for those five games over a 13 game season.
He averaged 274.8 YPG for a projected total of 3572.4 yards. That number would beat the current Clemson season record by nearly 1000 yards and would have qualified for 8th best in last year's NCAA rankings. That's the good.
The bad is that his projected completion percentage for the year would have been 50.5%. He would have averaged 1.8 touchdowns per game for a final of 23 for the season. In comparing those numbers with the top 50 passing leaders listed on www.cnnsi.com, his completion percentage was 49th best and there were 22 others that had 23 or more touchdowns for the season.
Remember, these numbers are merely projections. The number of games played by the various quarterbacks on the site ranged from 10 to 14. A 13 game season was used because that's how many were played. It's hard to truly judge how accurate those projections are. His 420-yard game came against Duke. Duke is not known to be a defensive stalwart even though they were much improved last year. His low game came against Maryland, one in which the entire team played poorly and just couldn't seem to get things going.
He doesn't possess amazing arm strength, but it is good enough to make the throws that are necessary to run the offense. It appears that he knows when to put touch on a ball and when to put a little something extra on it. That is something that causes struggles for many college quarterbacks. At times he was plagued by a lack of protection and/or dropped balls. An improved offensive line and wide receiver corps will help improve those problems.
In essence, he had some very good and very bad numbers last year. The technique and ability are there. He has the size. He has a good enough arm. Now he has to do what all good quarterbacks do - work on maintaining his strengths and work even harder on improving his weaknesses.
This may sound ridiculous until you really sit down and think about it. Charlie has been around the game since he could walk. So have a lot of other kids. The biggest advantage that he's had is his father. Because quarterback is arguably the most demanding position in terms of technique and smarts, he has a leg up on most of his peers in that his father was a professional QB. Charlie has been taught the right way to do things. As we all know, it's much easier to learn it the right way from the very beginning.
Charlie has grown up as football player. That is a big difference from being someone that grew up playing football. He knows the game. He lives the game. Many kids play only to jump to the next sport once the season is over. Others just play because that's what their friends do. The years pass and they move along without actually learning the game. Sure, coaches teach them how to tackle or block or even teach them various schemes, but the reality is that a lot of high school players never have the opportunity to truly learn the game. Very few are complete football players. In terms of knowing the game, Charlie is one of the few.
There are a number of other aspects that are looked at when it comes to this quarterback. Leadership, athletic ability, desire, and coachability are just a few that immediately come to mind. They are all very important. The one thing they all have in common is that they feed off of the three aspects discussed. Think about it. It's easier for him to be a leader because teammates see his poise and understanding of the game while they watch him perform. His athletic ability may not be as much of a factor because of his calmness and knowledge.
No one can predict what Charlie Whitehurst's legacy will be when he leaves Clemson. One can only make a guess based upon past experiences. Those who have experience the game of football as players might believe that #6 will create some very special moments for Clemson during his time here. For now, you have to sit back and be patient. Charlie is very young and there are a lot of mistakes still in his system. He has a chance to be a Rodney Williams or Steve Fuller type player in that he will always be remembered as a winner and a fighter. He may not be able to win all of the games, but he has a shot at winning all the hearts of the Clemson faithful.
Is he for real? It will be three years before that question can be truly answered, but conventional wisdom says yes.