CLEMSON --- When he gets up under center for Clemson’s first snap against Boston College Saturday at Clemson’s Death Valley, quarterback Charlie Whitehurst will set yet another record at Clemson. But considering his size – 6-foot-5, 210 pounds – and the way the Tigers struggled offensively a year ago, this record might be the most impressive one he owns.
Whitehurst will make his 33rd consecutive start Saturday – a first for a Clemson signal caller.
“It’s nice,” said Whitehurst. “I think it is funny I guess to be durable at 210 pounds.”
Durability was something most fans wouldn’t expect from Whitehurst after he was constantly pounded by defenses his freshmen season. In the 2002 Tangerine Bowl, Whitehurst was sacked six times and was hit at least three times that by the Texas Tech defense, ultimately leading to a concussion. Since then, defenses have basically stayed the course, blitzing him at will. But, to this point, despite all that, no one has seemed to take him totally out. The fourth quarter of the Tangerine Bowl and the fourth quarter of the Texas A&M game earlier this year, when he took a blow to the head while sliding, are the only times Whitehurst has been knocked out of a game.
“There isn’t much muscle there, so I have been lucky so far,” he joked.
Whitehurst would like for his luck to continue this week, but he knows Boston College will be coming for him. It also doesn’t help the Tigers reverted back to last year, after a lack of a running game, dropped passes and a lack of pass protection in a 36-30 triple overtime loss to Miami.
But Whitehurst believes those problems have more to do with Miami’s defense than it does with any problems Clemson might have.
“It is hard to analyze when you play a team so talented,” he said. “They bring a lot of people and they are going to pressure you, that’s what they do. They are going to stop the run because they have you out numbered and they’re great tacklers in the secondary.
“We should have done better, but we weren’t completely unsuccessful on offense.”
The Tigers (2-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) did move the ball for 386 yards against the ‘Canes with Whitehurst accounting for 288 of those yards through the air and 57 yards on the ground, including a 65-yard jaunt to key Clemson’s first touchdown.
“I stole a chunk,” Whitehurst said smiling. “It has been a decade since I have been in that situation, getting behind everybody.”
But Whitehurst will be surprised if is able to fool Boston College like that this week. The Eagles’ run defense ranks No. 3 nationally, allowing just 39 yards a game. Preseason Media ACC Player of the Year Mathias Kiwanuka is the main reason why. Against Florida State, he had five tackles, including two for a loss as the Eagles held the ‘Noles to 19 rushing yards.
“I think their defensive line is as good as we’re going to face or at least as good as what we saw this past week,” said Whitehurst. “Our work is cut out for us. If I’m a defensive coordinator I will try to stop the run to, and I expect them to try to do that.”
Miami held the Tigers to 90 yards last Saturday and those are numbers Clemson knows it has to improve on.
“The ability of our offense to rush the ball doesn’t look good statistically going into the game,” said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden.
But that doesn’t mean Clemson will not try to run it.
“I think they are pretty quick too, but we are a team built on speed, but at the same time we aren’t going to let them push us around,” Whitehurst said. “I think we can be physical if we need to and they’re going to be big and strong for sure, but I think we can be strong too.
“There is an advantage there with our skilled guys and I think that’s what we need to exploit.”
If the Tigers can’t do that, then Whitehurst could take a pounding, and that could jeopardize his 34 consecutive start.
Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.