CLEMSON — A reporter asked Kyle Parker on Tuesday night if he had grown tired of talking about Clemson’s ongoing quarterback competition.
“It just comes second nature right now,” Parker replied, tongue only half-in-cheek. “I just throw the same answer out there every time. If something changes, tell me.”
And the rest of Clemson’s fanbase, too. The most fascinating position battle of the Tigers’ preseason practices doesn’t show signs of ending anytime soon.
Parker and Korn are locked in an apparent dead heat for the job, and the fight appears poised to stretch throughout August and possibly into September, beyond the Tigers’ Sept. 5 opener against Middle Tennessee.
Several weeks ago, new head coach Dabo Swinney called both quarterbacks into a meeting. His message?
“Basically, the consensus was, if no one separates, we’re going to go in and play two (quarterbacks),” Parker said. “Me and Willy are really confident in each other. The No.1 thing is that we need to win games. That’s the biggest thing.”
Korn agreed with Parker.
“He said, ‘We’ll see how it plays out,’ ” Korn said. “(He said) ‘both of you are probably going to be playing,’ and that’s all I know, really.”
Swinney probably hoped one quarterback would have set himself apart by now, but that simply hasn’t been the case. They were virtually equal throughout spring practice, although Parker gained a slight edge, at least in fans’ eyes, with his standout effort in the spring game, which featured vanilla schemes due to its regionally-televised status.
It can be hard to distinguish between the two at times. Both are elusive and can run well, and both have strong arms. Parker has a slightly stronger arm — he was firing too hard for receivers at times during the portion of practice reporters were allowed to watch Monday.
Korn is more accurate, and worked hard during the spring and summer to revamp a throwing motion distorted by a pair of arm injuries (broken collarbone and labrum injury) since arriving at Clemson.
In spring, he had an exaggerated windup that involved him bringing the ball down to his stomach before going back up for release, but the motion looked much tighter and natural Monday.
“I feel a lot better,” Korn said. “I continue to work on it, day in, day out, and try not to think about it, just go out and compete. I think about it a little in warm-ups, and thought about it a little today. I felt confident.
“This is really the time of year where everybody gets as good as they’re going to get. You’re playing every day, practicing every day, getting reps every day. We’re going to improve the most right now.”
Reporters noticed the difference in Korn’s release, and he clearly feels more comfortable with it as well.
“It feels like I’m getting the ball out a lot quicker,” he said. “I hit everything I probably would have hit in spring, but it looks normal compared to spring.”
Parker says he’s working on his release as well; he moonlights as a right fielder for the Clemson baseball team, and admits when he throws hard, he can throw the ball “like a baseball, not a spiral,” which he is trying to correct.
“I’m working on being consistent, going in there, knowing plays, where I need to go with the ball,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing about being quarterback — being comfortable back there and knowing how to make good decisions.”
If both remain consistent, it’ll make Swinney’s decision — whenever it happens — even tougher.
And he claims that’s just what he wants.
“As much competition and intensity we can create in practice, hopefully we’ll be better off on game day,” he said. “Those guys are thick-skinned guys. They’ve been there, they understand competition and that everything is evaluated. How you stretch is evaluated. It’ll make both guys better, with every throw, living and dying with one play.”
Or two quarterbacks.
“With the talented players we have, you can’t pick one guy and leave other players out,” Parker said. “I fully understand from (Swinney’s) situation, we’re going to go in there, go compete and try and make plays, make each other better.
“In the end, we’ll see what happens.”