Midterm Report: Offense

by - Correspondent -


Charlie Whitehurst faced as high of expectations coming into this season that any Clemson quarterback ever faced. In 2003, he set the Clemson single season passing record. Thus far to this season, Whitehurst has been disappointing. He is on pace to throw almost 1000 yards less than ‘03. Turnovers have been the biggest problem for Whitehurst. His 13 interceptions already match his total in 13 games last season. He has been placed in some difficult situations against very good defenses, but his decision making has just not been what it was last season. Several of his problems can be attributed to a lack of running game, dropped balls, and poor pass protection. Overlooking those, he still is not the quarterback he was last year. Ask any NFL scout, and they will quickly tell you that the tools and mechanics are still there. Whitehurst has not allowed himself to settle in the pocket. For the first time in his career, he has looked rattled this season. As the offensive line improves along with having a 100% Duane Coleman the second half of the season, I think Whitehurst’s play can dramatically improve.

Grade: C

Running Backs:

It is hard to give a fair grade to this group at this point in the year. Duane Coleman is just now starting to get back into a full role. Coleman and Reggie Merriweather have separated themselves from Kyle Browning and Yusef Kelly. Individually, I can tell you no player on this team has been as disappointing as Yusef Kelly. This was the year he was supposed to come back more dedicated and focused for his teammates. That has not been the case. Kelly’s immaturity has hurt this group early in the year. From his comments regarding his suspension to laughing while 20 points down against Virginia, he has simply not been what a senior should be.

Merriweather has jumped at the opportunity to play this season. He has removed the label as “Mr. Spring Ball”. He is the biggest home run threat coming out of the backfield. Blocking was the key area where Merriweather had to improve, and he has done that.

Kyle Browning has played very solid once again in a limited role. Browning is a talented back, who you know you can count on, but Coach Burns has simply had a hard time finding a spot on the field for him. It is very reassuring to know if an injury occurs, you have dependable Browning who knows his assignment and will always compete.

Coleman is now back from the broken foot that kept him out of the first two games of the year. He has continued to improve each week. The short passing game will become more available because of Coleman each week. The Utah St. game was the first game where the coaching staff made a concerted effort to go back to the short passing game.

Grade: C+

Offensive Line:

This was the biggest question mark coming into the year. The questions have proven to be valid. This group will continue to get better, but have simply been outmatched by opposing defenses thus far in the season. The coaching staff knew this unit would struggle at times, but the first half has not been without its bright spots. The Tigers have rushed for 200 yards twice this season. They have two runs of over 50 yards. In the last two games, Whitehurst has only been sacked once.

Jesse Pickens started the year at left tackle, but as expected has been replaced by mammoth true freshman Barry Richardson. Richardson will continue to improve as the year goes on. One coach told us that Richardson may be the best offensive lineman to ever play at Clemson when it is all said and done. Richardson’s run-blocking was solid from the start. His pass blocking improves each week. Marion Dukes has been solid at right tackle. Dukes has been counted to play virtually every offensive snap thus far.

Cedric Johnson has had a disappointing start to his senior season. It did not help his case when he reported to camp out of shape. Johnson is starting to play better, but he cannot afford to have careless penalties in the second half of the season. The guard play overall has been average. Roman Fry, Nathan Bennett, Chip Myrick have all played well. Fry will continue to push Johnson in the second half. Bennett and Myrick once again are interchangeable with little dropoff in production.

At center, there has been too many QB-Center exchange problems. Tommy Sharpe has played well outside of the exchange problems, but Dustin Fry will continue to see more playing time. Fry is one of the strongest players Clemson has ever had. Sharpe’s competitive nature has allowed him to stay in the mix. One has to wonder though, when Fry will take over.

Grade: C-

Wide Receivers

Coming into the season the Tigers had to replace two of the most productive receivers in school history. There was no question Chansi Stuckey and Kelvin Grant had the potential to be as good if not better. Stuckey exploded on the scene with 8 catches for 112 yards against Wake Forest, but has been fairly quiet since then. Kelvin Grant had played pretty well coming into the game against Utah State and then old demons arose again. Grant was suspended for missing classes, and now the questions are there again, on whether or not he will ever live up to his potential. Airese Currie has been productive but inconsistent.

Currie has yet again had problems with drop balls in key situations, however Currie leads the ACC with 35 receptions. The second half of the season will basically be an audition for a pro contract by Currie. His speed will never be questioned, but he needs to regain the confidence he had in 2003.

Curtis Baham and Michael Collins have seen limited roles in the first half, but could be a key to a successful second half. Collins and Baham have the best hands on the team. Even though they are not the playmakers Stuckey and Grant are, Coach Bowden could opt for the consistency to keep things moving down the field, and keep the defense on the sidelines more.

Ben Hall appears to be ready for a larger role. He has been a consistent performer all season, and he is willing to accept whatever role the coaches ask him to play.

Grade: B-

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