Clemson University

Clemson's Harper still on hot seat

CLEMSON -- A year ago, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden defended his starting quarterback through thin and thinner, dismissing pressures to make a change.

Bowden seems content to take the opposite approach this season, allowing competition to keep redshirt junior Cullen Harper from getting too comfortable.

The latest can of worms opened Wednesday when Bowden declared that touted freshman Willy Korn, Harper's backup, may be another strong showing away from gaining relevant playing time.

There would seem no more likely an opportunity to make that impression than Saturday's 1 p.m. game against Furman, Clemson's last non-conference contest for more than a month.

So mere days after throwing a school-record five touchdowns against Louisiana-Monroe, Harper was again forced to deal the logical inference his playing time could soon be reduced, if not eventually in jeopardy.

"It's getting old, honestly," Harper said. "It is time to be put to rest.

"That would surprise me, that if I went out and continued to play well, there would be any kind of dual quarterback scenarios. It would definitely change some things, the way I look at some things. But honestly, I don't ever see it coming to that."

Offensive coordinator Rob Spence has repeatedly maintained he does not insert the second-string quarterback just for the sake of doing so, yet Spence and Bowden have justified bypassing Korn redshirting this season because of the need to have a viable option in case Harper was injured or performed unexpectedly poorly.

Seven of the 12 primary quarterbacks in the ACC last season missed playing time because of injury or suspension.

Korn made his debut in a mop-up role against ULM and connected on 6-of-8 passes for 49 yards while also scrambling for four runs of 5-plus yards and a 1-yard touchdown.

"If he continues to do what he's doing, there's an opportunity that I would play him in a more critical situation other than the end of the game," Bowden said.

Bowden continues to compare the outing to Charlie Whitehurst's second appearance in 2002, when Whitehurst turned heads by going 7-of-7 in relief -- and, coincidentally, replaced Willie Simmons as the starter three games later against Duke.

The difference, Bowden said, is the competition ahead of Korn is better.

Bowden said he would not set up a situation where the two quarterbacks split playing time, but he envisions a routine similar to the manner Georgia used to give backup D.J. Shockley a series as a change of pace from starter David Greene.

" If all of a sudden (Harper) goes down, (Korn) hasn't had any critical snaps," Bowden said. "That's why I would do it, to get him some in the first quarter. (But) I haven't thought that far ahead yet.

"I've never had this situation before, so we're kind of in unchartered waters."

Bowden said continuing media conjecture about Korn's role was reasonable because of Korn's apparent potential and because under his watch, Clemson had not dealt with juggling two quarterbacks as talented in the past.

Harper has continued receiving praise for doing everything coaches have asked. Through two games, he has completed 68 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and no interceptions while becoming Clemson's first quarterback to beat a ranked opponent in his initial start in more than 30 years.

As well as he has done, it has not been enough to escape Korn's shadow.

Asked how many touchdowns he would have to throw to squelch speculation about his job security, Harper replied by asking how many Hawaii's Colt Brennan, a Heisman Trophy candidate, tossed.

Brennan had six in the team's opener.

Judging by the season's first two weeks, the bar may always be positioned just beyond Harper's reach.

"He's performing pretty good," Bowden said. "He's started two games and set two records. So hopefully he keeps doing that."

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