CLEMSON – Shortly after his record breaking performance in his first ever start, quarterback Charlie Whitehurst said he wasn’t going to concentrate on the good plays. He wants to concentrate on the bad ones.
That’s pretty heady stuff for a redshirt freshman – a redshirt freshman who just had the best passing day in Clemson football history.
Maybe it’s not a surprise that the coaching staff has enough confidence in Whitehurst to start him against Duke. But it also appears Whitehurst is winning over his teammates with his play and composure as well.
“Charlie is not your average redshirt freshman,” said Clemson running back Bernard Rambert. “I think he pretty much showed that on Saturday. He’s our leader out there. He has a lot more poise than you would expect a freshman to have. As far as knowledge for the game, it’s great. He’s not your average freshman at all.”
By all accounts Whitehurst, the son of a former NFL quarterback, is quiet and reserved off the field. But on the field he showed the leadership of a seasoned veteran in leading his team to the first fourth quarter 14 point come back in 20 years.
“Charlie was much more vocal than I have ever seen Willie (Simmons) get,” said Clemson offensive lineman Greg Walker. “When guys drop passes, he (Whitehurst) gets on them. When we miss a block, he gets on us. It’s a big challenge when your quarterback is yelling at you.”
Offensive lineman Gary Byrd also noticed that Whitehurst was not afraid to take control of the team.
“I know he challenged one of the receivers, I think it was Airese one time. He just felt like he wasn't running full speed for a ball, and Charlie just kind of got on him.”
It seems now like a brilliant move on the part of Clemson coach Tommy Bowden – starting Whitehurst against a 2-7 Duke team with a struggling North Carolina team on the horizon. However it was not an easy one to make for the head coach. After all, Simmons was one of Bowden’s first high profile recruits in his first Clemson recruiting class. He had patiently waited for his turn.
“It was a very difficult decision,” said Bowden. “He (Simmons) has been an outstanding backup guy for three years and has done an excellent job. I think if a guy waits this long and you make a knee jerk reaction after the second or third game, it is not the right way to handle it.”
For now Simmons waits for his next chance to lead the Tigers as he did two years ago against this week's opponent in the same stadium.