CLEMSON -- The first ax has fallen at Clemson, and it dropped on the starting quarterback.
Redshirt freshman Willy Korn will replace senior Cullen Harper for the Oct. 18 game against Georgia Tech, coach Tommy Bowden said Friday.
Bowden announced the move to open his Friday teleconference, and the school uncharacteristically sent out a release about it later in the afternoon.
The abrupt change came just hours after Thursday night's 12-7 loss at No. 21 Wake Forest, a defeat that quickly heightened conjecture about Bowden's job status.
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Bowden denied being presented with any ultimatum for change, saying he had not spoke to Clemson's administration since the Wake Forest outcome.
"We've got to find a spark offensively, and with injuries we've had, we've re-evaluated our plan, and a more mobile quarterback gives us more, different options," Bowden said.
Of course, the public relations benefits cannot be denied, either.
Korn's popularity exceeds that of the standard backup quarterback, and the raucous ovations he received upon entering several Clemson games in mop-up situations were noteworthy in light of Harper's successes at the time.
Nonetheless, with the Tigers having notched just one touchdown the past six quarters, Bowden pulled the plug on Harper, the ACC's preseason player of the year.
In six games, Harper has tossed six interceptions to four touchdowns and exceeded 200 passing yards just once.
Until Friday, Bowden had echoed offensive coordinator Rob Spence's uncompromising defense of Harper, suggesting he held a distant lead over Korn.
To back it up, Korn had gotten minimal practice snaps with Clemson's first-string offense, a signal the job was not open to competition.
"When you're making a move like this, I want to make sure I make it for the right reasons and it's done appropriately off of evaluation," Bowden said.
"I've waited so long because I didn't think it was the appropriate time."
His mind apparently changed after the Tigers experienced the same offensive doldrums against Wake Forest as they had versus other Football Bowl Subdivision defenses.
They again failed to find ways to compensate for their patchwork offensive line, which finished Thursday's game down its top four guards because of injury.
As a result, Clemson has struggled to take advantage of its running back stable or generate a downfield passing game that might unclog the line of scrimmage.
Whether by cause or effect, Harper has neither been as comfortable nor efficient as last season. Leaky pass protection has forced Harper to bail out on plays sooner than hoped, and scrambling is not his forte.
Bowden said Spence supported the decision.
"I sat down with Rob and voiced my opinions, and I think he's in full agreement," Bowden said.
As of the teleconference, Bowden said he had yet to speak with Harper, whom Spence had left a cell phone message.
Neither player was available for comment. Clemson has scheduled a rare Sunday night practice, after which they are expected to be available.
Bowden also reiterated the play-calling duties will remain in Spence's hands, adding he was not interested in getting more involved "right now" because of Spence's track record of statistical success.
"By saying I've not lost confidence in him, that doesn't mean I'm happy with the productivity of what we've done," Bowden said.