CLEMSON -- The week of the USC game, Clemson quarterback Willy Korn was talking with Freddie Brown, the father of Korn's former high school teammate and Gamecocks receiver of the same name.
Korn had not played in eight games because of an unspecified shoulder injury, which occurred a game before the deadline for Korn to have his year of eligibility restored.
Skeptical, Brown asked if the injury was serious.
Korn responded strongly to the contrary. He had suffered a fractured collarbone Sept. 15 against Furman, and there was an X-ray to prove it.
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden never publicly detailed the injury, so Korn figured it best to follow suit.
"They never put that out there," Korn said. "I don't know why they didn't. Some people think I just had a scratch and wanted to just sit out. It was a legitimate thing."
Bowden's explanation was simple Wednesday. The opposition would have known the Tigers were an injury away from their third-string quarterback, creating a bigger bull's-eye on starter Cullen Harper.
The drama surrounding Korn's injury has created more controversy than his competition with Harper as the redshirt freshman begins his second swing through spring practice.
Korn also believes the rust that set in as he watched Clemson's practices last fall has contributed to his unheralded performance through six practices.
With Bowden declaring last month that Harper's job is secure, Korn has found himself in the unfamiliar yet welcome position as the second-string afterthought.
There has been no media circus this time, and Korn said he feels relieved of the burden accompanying such hype.
"Coming into it, I knew (hype) would be a part of it, just like Da'Quan (Bowers) is the high-profile recruit and will create a lot of buzz because so many people follow recruiting.
"But this does make it a little bit easier to fit in. You get ragged on when you're the guy getting interviewed. So it's kind of nice to be one of the people ragging on the other guys."
Korn said he is enjoying life in the shadows.
Last season took a toll because of the uncertainty regarding his playing status, much of which played out behind closed doors.
Korn declined to reveal specifics, but he met with Clemson's coaching staff on several occasions early last season to discuss redshirting because of Harper's development.
"I knew that's what I wanted to do, it just took so long to get out of the way," Korn said.
At the time, offensive coordinator Rob Spence publicly stated the Tigers needed to have a viable backup option prepared if Harper became injured.
After Korn suffered what was vaguely termed a "sore shoulder" in the Furman game -- his second mop-up appearance in as many weeks -- Bowden answered questions about Korn's status by saying both parties had decided to do what was best for Clemson.
Korn wound up sitting the rest of the year. Clemson filed a medical hardship waiver on his behalf and recently was informed Korn's season of eligibility had been restored.
Although Korn participated in pregame warmups, he had little zip on his deep throws and could not throw pain-free until bowl preparations began.
"I was in the training room every morning, getting (electric stimulation) and ice treatments, doing light dumbbell exercises," Korn said. "It needed rest and rehab."
Korn said once the decision was made to sit him, he rarely threw beyond individual drills as then-junior Tribble Reese was worked into the second-string role.
As a result, Korn said the prolonged layoff eroded his fundamentals.
He has reverted to the tendency to lower the ball to his waist before drawing it back for delivery, a hitch that has hurt his accuracy this spring.
"You get sloppy when you're not coached all the time," Korn said. "But I'm so far ahead of where I was last year. This spring has been good. Nothing's new, everything's a review. That's kind of cool. I wouldn't consider myself a veteran, but I'm not a rookie who doesn't know what's going on anymore.
"It's nice just to be able to focus on football."
n EXTRA POINTS: Senior tailback James Davis will have arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder April 14 to determine whether a more severe injury exists. Davis suffered a separated shoulder during the March 13 scrimmage, the same shoulder he has dinged up the last two seasons. ... Freshman linebacker Stanley Hunter participated in contact drills for the first time. He had been sidelined while adjusting to his epilepsy medication. ... Clemson will practice again Friday and scrimmage Saturday.