Seattle Seahawks: Examining Charlie Whitehurst’s College Career


In light of a good performance in his Seahawks debut against the Tennessee Titans, I thought it would be intriguing to do a little digging into Charlie Whitehurst’s college career.

I am sure many fans have quickly been hypnotized by this potential mirage, while I was impressed with his performance; I am not so naïve to let one pre season game against a bunch of backups and roster scraps absolve his consistently inconsistent college career and pre season showings with the Chargers.

This article is not meant to completely bash Mr. Whitehurst, there are some, albeit fewer, bright spots in the tangible playing time I am going to examine from his college career at Clemson, as well as his pre season debut, but my goal is to put things in an honest perspective.

Lets begin digging deeper into the college career of the Seahawks future at the quarterback position.

Freshmen year

Whitehurst stepped in as the starting quarterback roughly midway through his first season throwing for an efficient 1,554 yards, 10 TD’s, and 6 INT’s along with a solid 57.5 completion percentage.

He outperformed upperclassman Willie Simmons, who passed for a similar 1,559 yards and a 58.2 completion percentage, but posted a 6/7 TD/INT ratio.

Game Log

In his first significant action, Whitehurst struggled, going 6 of 17 and tossing an interception during a 38-6 trouncing at the hands of North Carolina State.

His next start was much better against North Carolina, tossing three TD’s on a 12-20 274-yard day. Although much of the credit should go to the Clemson rushing attack for this 42-12 win, netting 256 yards and scoring four TD’s.

His next start was even better, and in fact he set the record for most passing yards in a game by a Clemson QB with 420, on a 34-52, four TD performance, resulting in a 34-31 win against Duke.

The next week though, against a more formidable opponent he follows his record setting game up with a poor performance. Going 12-26 with one INT in a 20-12 loss to Maryland.

Against the rival Gamecocks, Whitehurst had another good game, going 27-39 with 287 yards and one rushing TD. His TD was what tied the game 20-20 in a game Clemson ended up winning 27-20.

His literal roller coaster of a season, bad game, good game, good game, bad game, good game, unfortunately for him ends with an absolute annihilation at the hands of Texas Tech in the Tangerine Bowl (not to be mistaken with the Orange Bowl).

Having to air it out most of the game with only 41 rushing yards on 29 attempts to complement the passing attack, Whitehurst struggled horridly. Going 20-48 for 263 yards with one TD and four INT’s. Simmons eventually replaced him in the 55-15 massacre.

Although it is freshmen year, you could best describe Whitehurst so far as inconsistent, or if you want to look at it this way, consistently had a good game and then a poor game.

Recap

In the six games Whitehurst played he had two games where he had a positive TD/INT ratio. Both of those games were against Duke and North Carolina, not the most impressive of opponents. In those games he threw for a combined seven TD’s, which equates to 70 percent of his freshmen totals, both games were wins.

He had one game where he did not throw for a TD, but did rush for a TD, this TD was a key game tying score that eventually put them in position to punch it in and take a 27-20 lead.

In the remaining three games he threw for a paltry 3 TD’s to 6 INT’s and an incredibly low 41 percent completion rate. His team was outscored almost four fold, 123-33 in those games.

With Whitehurst at the helm Clemson lived and died by his performance, winning all games he threw for less TD’s then INT’s, and losing all games with a negative ratio.

Wins against: South Carolina, North Carolina, Duke

Losses against: North Carolina State, Maryland, Texas Tech

Sophomore Year

This was his best year, the bright spot in what I view as an otherwise spotty, below average college career.

Much like his first start his freshman year, Whitehurst stumbled out of the gate, getting trounced 30-0 by Georgia.

In the game he had a stat line of 19-33 151 yards, and one INT.

Continuing what has been a literal roller coaster, he follows up another poor outing with a strong one, beating rival 1-AA Furman (who?), 28-17.

He went 23-31 with 301 yards and a passing TD in the game.

The following week against another 1-AA program Mid-Tennessee, Whitehurst shined once again, tossing for a 23/28 four TD game in tribute to Jim Philips, longtime voice of the Tigers.

This was the first time, albeit against back-to-back 1-AA programs, Whitehurst had managed to toss consecutive positive TD/INT ratios in his college career.

In their next game against Georgia Tech Whitehurst finally annihilated a D-1 program that actually has some football pedigree. Clipboard Jesus led the Tigers to a 39-3 trouncing in which he completed 23 passed for 298 yards, three TD’s one INT, and a 60 percent completion rate.

His nice three game hot streak, (two games against 1-AA), would however come to a screeching halt at the hands of No. 24 Maryland; going 22/45 on the day with one TD and a pair of INT’s. He did pass for 320 yards, which could be viewed as a redeeming quality of his performance.

Whitehurst bounced back from a disappointing game to squeeze out a nail biter against Virginia; going 27/44 for 265 yards, two TD’s and one INT, in a 30-27 overtime thriller.

The following week was another one of Whitehurst’s disappearing acts, failing to top 200 yards passing despite attempting 37 passes and throwing an INT to no TD’s.

Phillip Rivers, the man he would later be the backup-backup for, in contrast, tossed two TD’s, including the go ahead TD in a 17-15 loss for Clipboard Jesus.

Whitehurst got a chance for redemption against the “lesser” of the Carolina schools as far as football pedigree is concerned. Passing for 304 yards and a TD in a 38-26 win over North Carolina.

He followed this up with a mediocre performance in a 45-17 trouncing at the hands of Wake Forest. The rushing attack failed to produce much, but Clipboard Jesus failed to score a TD and threw an INT, eventually getting benched in favor of Chansi Stuckey, (who is now a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns), who ended up tossing two fourth quarter TD’s in relief of Whitehurst.

Sitting at 5-4, Whitehurst, and the Tigers were largely mediocre, however, things get better.

Much better.

They were underdogs against No. 8 Florida State, but aided by a pair of INT’s from the Clemson defense, Whitehurst and co. upended the heavily favored Seminoles.

Although not his best game stat wise, it was probably the best win of his college career, passing for 272 yards one TD, one INT, and also scoring a rushing touchdown.

Whitehurst finally proved he could win a big game, something your going to see he didn’t manage to do a ton of in his college career.

This momentum carried into their next three games, where Clipboard Jesus and co. absolutely steamrolled Duke, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Outscoring the three by a combined 130-38.

His combined stat line in these three games, including a Peach Bowl victory, was 67/106, 1,079 yards, seven TD’s and four INT’s.

However, it should be also noted he was a liability in the big Peach Bowl victory against Tennessee. Once again disappearing (or disapeaching?), with a mediocre performance where he failed to throw a TD and tossed an INT. This game was won by the running backs, who scored all three of Clemson’s TD’s.

Recap

Despite passing for eight more TD’s then INT’s on the year, six came against a pair of division 1-AA schools.

He had six games with more TD’s then INT’s, a vast improvement from his freshman campaign.

He did however have four games with more INT’s then TD’s.

Two games with no TD’s

One game with equal TD’s and INT’s.

Wins against: Furman, Middle Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Virginia, North Carolina, No. 8 Florida State, Duke, South Carolina, No. 6 Tennessee

Losses against: No. 11 Georgia, No. 24 Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest

Finished second to ACC player of the year Phillip Rivers in passing yards (274).

Set single school record with five 300+ yard passing games.

2-2 against ranked opponents.

13 games, 288/465, 3,561 yards, 21 TD’s 13 INT’s, 7.7 AVG, 61.9 CMP %, four rushing TD’s

Junior Year

After a good sophomore campaign the wheels begin to come off for Mr. Whitehurst, he had a really bad 2004 season.

Game Log

Unlike his previous campaigns he started off the season with a victory, going 20/41 for 288 yards, 2 TD’s, and 2 INT’s, passing the game winning TD in a 37-30 victory against the Wake Forest.

The next game doesn’t turn out so well for the Tigers. Whitehurst passes for what is the first of many negative TD/INT ratios, going 20/42 for 275 yards, one TD, and two INT’s. Those INT’s proved to be crucial in Georgia Techs 14 point rally in the fourth quarter that stuns Clemson with a go ahead TD with 11 seconds left.

Things don’t improve for Clipboard Jesus, who was anything but a holy mess in a 27-6 shunning against Texas A&M. Failing to eclipse 200 yards on 36 attempts and tossing three INT’s to one TD.

If it can get worse then that, it surely does, there is no upset to be had this time around against a ranked Florida State squad, falling 44-21 in arguably the worst game of Whitehurst’s career.

He was responsible for five turnovers, 3 INT’s and 2 lost fumbles, and went 10/24 for just 88 yards.

Up to this point, Whitehurst has turned the ball over 13 times, including 10 INT’s.

Whitehurst bounces back the following week with a mediocre 16/28, 166 yard, one TD, one INT stat line the following week, the 1-3 Tigers even jumped out to an early 10-0 lead.

4-0 Virginia proved to be too much though, eventually going on a 30-0 run and trouncing the Tigers 30-10 to go 5-0.

The bleeding finally stopped for Clemson, reeling from four straight losses they dished out a much-needed 35-6 beat down against Utah State.

Despite a decent 65 percent completion rate, Whitehurst continued to struggle with his efficiency; scoring one rushing TD and tossing two INT’s.

He now has 16 turnovers in the first seven games.

Whitehurst finally got the Maryland monkey off his back, beating them for the first time with a 10-7 victory decided by a rushing TD with 23 seconds left.

Overall, the Clemson offense was dreadful, the rushing attack averaged 0.9 yards, and although Whitehurst didn’t struggle mightily, he had a 45 percent completion rate, and failed to get over 200 yards on 30 attempts.

Eight games in, Whitehurst finally manages a positive TD/INT ratio in a 26-20 win over North Carolina State, another first time victory for Clipboard Jesus.

His completion percentage was a low 42 percent, but he did manage to put the only offensive TD by Clemson on the board.

Despite failing to pass for a TD, Whitehurst has a decent game against Miami as the Tigers rallied from a 17-3 deficit for their fourth straight win. Whitehurst tossed 21/36 with 259 yards and an INT in the 24-17 win as Clemson climbs from 1-4 to 5-4 overall.

This four game winning streak comes to an embarrassing halt against last place Duke, falling 16-13 in yet another horrible game for Whitehurst. Going 12-26 with no TD’s and two INT’s, one of which was directly responsible for Dukes game winning drive.

This dreadful season at least has a happy ending with a sound victory against the rival Gamecocks 29-7.

Whitehurst still tossed one INT and failed to score a TD, keeping up a nasty season long trend.

Recap

His inconsistency not just this season, but over his first three, even his good sophomore campaign, is what scares me about Whitehurst.

This season is what really stands out for me, instead of taking a step forward after a good sophomore season; he took a gigantic step backwards.

One game with more TD’s then INT’s

Seven games with more INT’s then TD’s, (including game six win with a rushing TD).

Two games with equal TD/INT ratio.

Five games with no TD’s.

177/349, 2,067 yards, 7 TD’s, 17 INT’s 50.7 CMP, one rushing TD.

Wins against: Wake Forest, Utah State, Maryland, North Carolina State, Miami, South Carolina

Losses against: Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Florida State, Virginia, Duke

Senior Year

A much improved senior campaign for Clipboard Jesus and the Tigers. Although with the gaudy numbers typically piled up by elite college quarterbacks, I guess it’s safe to say Whitehurst was a game manager in 2005; a very wise strategic shift by Tommy Bowden after his 2004 catastrophe.

Game Log

Ball control is the name of the game in a nail biting 25-24 win against Texas A&M. Whitehurst has a great 73 percent completion rate and an overall efficient game despite failing to net a TD.

The shift in strategy is apparent for the Tigers, who controlled the ball for almost 2/3 of the game, and win it on a field goal with two seconds left.

Whitehurst follows an efficient game up with his best game in over a full season; completing 81 percent of his passes and tossing two TD’s in a 28-24 fourth quarter rally to beat Maryland.

Despite losing 36-30 the following week, Whitehurst manages a positive TD/INT ratio for a third straight game. Tossing for a stat line of 31/55 for 288 yards, two TD’s one INT, and a rushing TD.

Clemson suffers a heartbreaking OT loss against Boston College; Whitehurst is mediocre, with a good 67 percent completion rate, but failing to score a TD.

This would mark the fourth consecutive game he has a positive TD/INT ratio, a far cry from is 2004 campaign.

Wake Forest would send them to their third straight loss, and despite completing 66 percent of his passes for 304 yards; Clipboard Jesus tosses two INT’s that proved to be critical in a 10-0 run that sinks Clemson 31-27.

He bounces back nicely in his next two games with the Tigers reeling off consecutive wins against North Carolina State and Temple. Whitehurst combines to throw 553 yards with a 70 percent completion rate, along with four TD’s to two INT’s.

The following week at Georgia Tech, they lose a heartbreaker 10-9. I can’t really attribute his negative TD/INT ratio to anything but the situation, as he was picked off tossing up a hail mary with nine seconds left.

He did not play in a 49-20 win against Duke.

Clipboard Jesus had his last good college game of his career in a convincing 35-14 victory against the Seminoles. Going 21/32 for 268 yards, three TD’s, and one INT.

Although the Tigers win the next two games, including a win in the Champ Sports Bowl Whitehurst struggles going 38/55 for 377 yards, and three INT’s. While his completion percentage was decent, those INT’s were drive killers.

He should however be given credit for scoring the only Clemson TD in the bowl win, rushing for a TD in the third quarter.

Recap

An improved senior season compels the San Diego Chargers to pick him in the third round of the upcoming draft. Despite a narrow TD/INT ratio (1.1), his completion percentage skyrockets to 67.4 on the year, very impressive.

Five games with more TD’s then INT’s

Four games with more INT’s then TD’s

Five games with no TD’s

Two games with equal ratio

Wins against: Maryland, Texas A&M, North Carolina State, Temple, Duke, Florida State, South Carolina, Colorado

Losses against: Miami, Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech

Clemson Career Recap

44 games, 817/1368, 9,655 yards, 49 TD’s, 46 INT’s 7.1 AVG, 219.7 AVG/G, 59.7 CMP %, 10 rushing TD’s

14 games with more TD’s then INT’s

18 games with more INT’s then TD’s

13 games with no TD’s thrown

5 games with equal ratio

4-0 against rival South Carolina

Second team all ACC in 2005

Clemson record 37 consecutive starts

Holds/Held 41 school records at Clemson

If you have gotten this far you can draw your own conclusion whether it may be in favor or against Whitehurst depends on your rationale. From what I see he was a very inconsistent quarterback who pressed in crucial situations and cost his team in the biggest moments. He played a somewhat powder puff schedule and his 1.06 TD/INT ratio is aided by this. He overall struggled against mediocre and top 25 programs, albeit a few impressive wins such as upsetting No. 8 Florida State his sophomore year. After an impressive campaign his second season as a starter he took a monstrous leap backwards his junior year when he should have progressed. This regression made his coaching staff reduce his role in the offense to more of a game manager his senior year, which is why his completion rate skyrocketed while we saw a mediocre TD/INT ratio of 1.1 still remain.

If you want to point to his 2-1 bowl record, let me remind you in those games he threw one TD to six INT’s and scored one rushing touchdown. Hs 17 TD’s to 29 INT’s during his upperclassman seasons is another red flag of inconsistency to me.

As far as his first pre season game…

Don’t think for one second that a good pre season showing against backups and roster scraps is going to absolve him from his prior showings of inconsistency.

I do have to admit though I was pleasantly surprised by Clipboard Jesus’ performance, not just because of his good stat line, rather his poised presence in the pocket. He wasn’t running for his life or forcing the ball as was typical in college when pass rushers were boaring down on him. He had a confident aura percolating around him I was not expecting.

It’s going to be very intriguing to see if the gamble Uncle Pete rolled the dice on can pay off similar to the way Mike Holmgren hand picked Matt Hasselbeck and molded him into an elite quarterback.

I expect Whitehurst to see some regular season action with some sort of Hasselbeck injury pending, and unless he reverts back to his Clemson inconsistency next week, I am going to reserve judgment until then.

Still, the past speaks for itself; I’ll start issuing apology letters once I see him lead us to a couple victories.


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