Clemson football is in the midst of a quarterback run that not many schools have ever experienced.
Tahj Boyd, Deshaun Watson, Trevor Lawrence, and D.J. Uiagalelei have been or will be among the best quarterbacks to play in both ACC and Clemson football history. Most programs will give anything to have a quarterback as Clemson has had.
However, Clemson’s quarterback run didn’t start with Tajh Boyd, there were many great quarterbacks before him. The biggest issue that these quarterbacks had was the talent around them. The talent at Clemson over the last decade has become so elite that even an average quarterback like Kelly Bryant was able to go 12-2 as a starter.
Before you get in your feelings about that last statement, that is not a shot at Bryant, he was a great ambassador for Clemson football, but he also would not get a Clemson offer if he was coming out of high school these days. As a quarterback, he was average which we saw in 2019 at Missouri.
That said, back to the premise of this article. Clemson football has had a run of great quarterbacks for almost the last two decades.
Woody Dantzler 1998-2001
Woody Dantzler was thrust into action as a freshman in 1998 because of injuries that current Clemson quarterback coach Brandon Streeter suffered during Tommy West’s last season.
Other than the previously mentioned Kelly Bryant, Woody is the only other quarterback from the state of South Carolina since Y2K to start a game for Clemson; Florida and Georgia have a pipeline for the Tigers as far as quarterbacks go.
Woody was special. He was the beta, Michael Vick. Woody was the first player in college football history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for at least 1,000. While that has been done many times since he was the first, and Tiger fans had a front-row seat for all of it.
During his Clemson football career, he threw for more than 5,500 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Willie Simmons 2000-2002
Willie Simmons was the first big-time recruit for head coach Tommy Bowden. Bowden was able to steal him right out of Tallahassee and from FSU, who he grew up wanting to play for.
While Willie’s career never came to fruition, that was all on Bowden, who took several elite quarterbacks and instead of developing them tried to completely rebuild them into what they were not and in turn went from studs to duds. He also did it to former 5-star quarterback Willie Korn.
Charlie Whitehurst 2002-2005
Being in my early 20’s and watching Charlie Whitehurst, I never thought it could get better for Clemson football at the quarterback position.
Whitehurst is still the only quarterback in the history of the Palmetto Bowl to go 4-0 against the other team. He led the Tigers to a 6-5 record over teams ranked in the AP Top 25, beat Miami once, and FSU twice (2003 & 2005).
Kyle Parker 2009-2010
The 4-star quarterback out of Jacksonville appeared in 27 games for the Tigers in 2009 and 2010 before leaving his football career behind for Major League Baseball. He was Coach Dabo Swinney’s first official quarterback and the one that was tasked with trying to lead the Tigers through the early years of his head coaching career.
In his 27 games as the Clemson football quarterback, he threw for almost 5,000 yards and 32 touchdowns. The Tigers oddly did not face an AP Top 25 team during those two years either. Parker was 1-1 versus FSU and 0-2 against South Carolina.
Yes throughout 1999-2010, there were also guys like Cullen Harper and Will Proctor. The craziest aspect of the last 10 years for the Clemson football program is that Harper was the lowest-ranked quarterback to start a game for the Tigers and even he was the 21st rated passer in the country coming out of high school.
Yes, Clemson football has been absolutely spoiled over the last decade with Tahj Boyd, Deshaun Watson, and Trevor Lawrence but the Tigers’ great run of quarterbacks started 20 years ago, it’s the rest of the roster that has finally caught up.