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Clemson considers quarterback platoon

Brandon Streeter shattered four Clemson passing records in 1998. He threw for over 300 yards twice, 1,948 in all, and connected on nine touchdown passes over his final four games. And in return, all the first-year starter heard were whispers.

Whispers after every missed opportunity that a hotshot freshman named Woodrow Dantzler, the quarterback of the future, should be the quarterback of the present.

Through all the scrutiny, Streeter somehow managed to mold a motley group of inexperienced backs and receivers into a competitive unit. Losses to Duke, Wake Forest and N.C. State, however, simply are unacceptable in a program accustomed to making doormats of such schools.

The Tigers finished 1998 at 3-8, and while Streeter was deserving of little of the blame, he got most of it. That comes with the territory in Death Valley. Luckily, he can handle the heat.

"I think I learned a lot from last season," Streeter said. "I especially learned how to deal with the pressure of playing quarterback. This year, I don't feel as much pressure with the situation."

But Clemson fans, who saw the team claim a national title in 1982, are not particularly interested in improvement. They want wins. And so the Dantzler whispers became shouts.

Consequently, Clemson hired Tommy Bowden away from 12-0 Tulane to spearhead a return to prominence. And with the Tigers desperate to win and Dantzler in the fold, a move was made. Streeter, the cagey veteran, and Dantzler, the athletic youngster, would split the quarterbacking duties. Somehow, though, Streeter put a positive spin on the situation.

"It wasn't really frustrating for me, because it was out of my hands," Streeter said. "I had to go out there every day and practice real hard and prove myself. That was all I could do about the situation, just go out there and do the best that I can do."

Even after a 13-10 loss to Marshall in his Clemson debut, Bowden still hasn't chosen his man.

"If I'm called upon, I'll be ready to take over," said Dantzler, who completed four of six passes for 57 yards against the Thundering Herd. "There's no controversy - it's whatever coach decides. We're both competitors - you have to be to be a quarterback. But we're also best of buds out there. We keep each other on top of our game."

Bowden has yet to decide and, in fact, may opt to platoon both signal callers all season. Ohio State won the Rose Bowl in 1997 featuring a two-headed quarterbacking monster in Joe Germaine and Stanley Jackson. Last year, Florida coach Steve Spurrier found the two-pronged, Doug Johnson / Jesse Palmer combination potent enough to capture the Orange Bowl.

"If they both stay healthy, then [I'll] play both of them," Bowden said in the Clemson media guide. "I was with a team at Florida State in 1979 when we played two quarterbacks and we were almost undefeated."

But for Streeter and Dantzler, the task is not as simple as it sounds. In town fewer than six months, Bowden already has torched an offensive playbook backed by 102 years of smashmouth success and has implemented a system he describes as "a multiple formation, up tempo offense that uses a lot of no-huddle and shotgun formations."

Welcome inside the mind of Tommy Bowden, son of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, whose offensive playbook rivals "War and Peace" in length and James Joyce in complexity.

"We learned about 90 percent of the new offense in the spring, and the rest in preseason, and it was pretty tough getting used to all the new plays and formations," Streeter said. "I'm more comfortable with it now, though."

The Tigers now offer a variety of looks, including spread-the-field shotgun formations that empty the backfield and flank as many as five wide receivers to the outside.

The two-quarterback, wide-open look produced mixed results in its first test drive. In the Tigers' loss to Marshall, Streeter did complete 23 of 36 passes. Bowden called 42 pass plays in all, a far cry from the days when a Clemson quarterback threw 42 passes in his entire career.

"I think having two quarterbacks gives us an advantage," Streeter said. "They don't know which of us will play, so it's difficult for defenses to adapt to the different styles."

Virginia linebacker Byron Thweatt begs to differ.

"I think it might make it a little easier on us because each quarterback is going to do different things," Thweatt said. "It shuts down their offense. When you put in a new quarterback, he has to get the speed and rhythm of the game."

Whether Clemson uses one quarterback or two, Cav linebacker Yubrenal Isabelle knows the Tigers will be game.

"I know that Clemson is capable of beating you at any time," Isabelle said. "We just have to get ourselves ready."


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