One of the most fan friendly jobs in football is the backup quarterback. When you are the backup quarterback, you sit behind the guy, who will get the credit for a win and shoulder the blame for a loss. When the issues with the starting quarterback begin to mount, the popularity of the #2 guy always increases.
Last season, Charlie Whitehurst threw 17 interceptions, yet fans never screamed for Will Proctor. Most fans felt Proctor was not ready to play, as did the coaches. What a difference a year makes. If it were the year 2004, it would be all gloom and doom, as Clemson prepared to play without Whitehurst. Now, there are calls for Proctor regardless of the health of Whitehurst.
The fans trusted the coaches last season that Proctor was not ready to play, and the fans now trust the coaches’ opinion that he is ready to play. Proctor has played well in his two appearances this season, but he has never been tested as the starter.
Ironically, Proctor could make his first start against the same team Whitehurst made his first start against four years ago, Duke. Whitehurst threw for a school record 423 yards in the game, but he has never seen the 400-yard mark since that day. The one difference would be that Whitehurst started at Duke, and Proctor could potentially start at home against the Blue Devils.
Proctor has looked sharp since the spring under offensive coordinator Rob Spence. Spence has pushed for Proctor on more than occasion this season, as Whitehurst has battled injury. The 6-2 Florida native is more similar to Bruce Gradkowski, who Spence coached at Toledo. Proctor is more mobile than Gradkowski, but he has not shown the game management and decision making skills of Gradkowski.
A big reason why many are now looking to Proctor is the Tigers are 4-4 on the year. Outside of finishing the year with a winning record and going to a bowl game, there is not much the Tigers can accomplish this year in terms of progress. In fact, one could make the argument the Tigers could only digress at this point in the year.
Next season, the Tigers travel to Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Florida State. All signs point to Proctor being the guy to lead the Tigers into battle next season. Clemson cannot afford for Proctor to be shell-shocked at any point or they will be blown out of the water.
A program should never disrespect the work seniors have put in, but a program should not handcuff itself by loyalty to seniors. The defense has played nine freshmen this season, which has cut the playing time of some seniors, but the defense will be better next season because of it. Whitehurst should not be sidelined the rest of the year, but for Clemson to move forward next season, Proctor needs to see action in the three remaining games.
Whitehurst has won a lot of big games for Clemson, and he has set a lot of records, but he was one of the most outspoken players over the summer saying this was a business after the dismissal of Mike O’Cain. Whitehurst is exactly right this is a business. Unfortunately, his time is almost up and the near future lies with Proctor at the helm.
As a longtime defendant of Whitehurst, at this juncture, the best interest of Clemson’s future may be to prepare Proctor now, instead of later.