CLEMSON — The Willy Korn of Thursday afternoon felt like the Willy Korn of Byrnes High, the Willy Korn prior to shoulder trouble.
At the Clemson practice field, Korn finished an afternoon summer workout with a deep corner pass for a completion. The ball sailed in tight spiral along a low arc to its intended target, allowing the receiver to remain in stride.
Korn playfully strutted off the field, high-stepping and slapping hands with Kyle Parker, his main competition for the starting quarterback job, a much-anticipated competition renewing in August.
The scene was in contrast to the Korn of the spring, when the redshirt sophomore had developed a mechanical flaw, and his passes often fluttered.
"I'm feeling like it's the best I've ever thrown," Korn said. "I think I am back to normal. It (shoulder) was 100 percent healthy during spring, I just had to fix my mechanics.
"I'm 10 times better than I was in the spring."
While Parker likely left the spring practice with an advantage, Korn has worked to close the gulf during the late spring and summer, beginning with an overhaul of his mechanics.
Following offseason shoulder surgery last year, Korn picked up a performance-draining habit of dropping his elbow, allowing the ball to drift away from his body, producing a wind-up of a delivery.
To correct the flaw that sapped him of velocity, accuracy and precious fractions of seconds, Korn immediately began working with his father following the spring, quickening and shortening his release, which had been an asset at Byrnes.
Bring the ball to the ear hole. Release.
"I always had a quick release in high school," said Korn, who entered Clemson as one of the most celebrated quarterbacks in the country. "One of the advantages I had was a quick release, getting the ball out of my hand as quickly as I can.
"(Quickening the release) was the biggest goal for summer. Just doing it right 100 million times."
For further stress-testing, Korn hooked up with Jerry Rhome, a former NFL player and coach who now runs a football camp and is something of a quarterback doctor. He has coached 14 NFL Pro Bowl quarterbacks and worked with numerous high-profile college quarterbacks.
Korn chose to work with Rhome because NCAA rules prohibit the college staff from working with players during the summer.
"I sent him a video of the spring game and a couple from spring practice," Korn said. "He helped clean it up: Keep the ball close to my ear, short and compact.''
Korn's teammates have also noticed an improvement. The receivers have told Korn his velocity has increased. From his view in the backfield, running back Jamie Harper says Korn looks improved.
"He's definitely come along," Harper said. "After the injury, his arm wasn't weak but it wasn't up to par — you could tell it frustrated him. The ball is coming out his hand with better velocity. He looks like a totally different player."
In April, Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier and the staff cautioned that the QB race was far from over.
Albeit limited, Korn possesses the most experience among quarterbacks in camp. Parker and longshot Tajh Boyd have never played in a college game, while Korn has played in eight and is more mobile than Parker. Korn was also the most comfortable barking out orders Thursday, and even Boyd said earlier this summer Korn had stood out as a leader in the summer workout sessions.
Said Korn: "I'm coming in with a lot of confidence."
Reach Travis Sawchik at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his Clemson blog at www.postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks.
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