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Clemson quarterback transfers to play at Marshall

CLEMSON, S.C. — Willy Korn came to Clemson in 2007 as a can’t-miss prospect. He’ll leave this spring simply wanting to prove he can still play football.

The Tigers backup quarterback said Thursday he’ll transfer to Marshall after graduating in May and hopes to compete for a starting job at the Conference USA school.

The Thundering Herd went 7-6 last season, beating Ohio 21-17 in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. Korn said that Marshall’s new coach, John “Doc” Holliday, didn’t guarantee a starting spot, just an opportunity.

“I feel good about the situation up there and as long as I continue to work hard the rest of the semester and go up there, be myself and play to the best of my ability, I feel good about winning the job,” Korn said.

NCAA rules permit Korn to go from one FBS school to another as long as he’s gotten his degree, and the graduate major he’ll take at his new school is not offered at his old one. Korn will major in journalism, a graduate-level program Clemson does not offer.

He’ll finish 20 hours of course work in communications, work out in Clemson’s weight room and keep sharp with receivers this spring. Korn will also work at least once a week with Bobby Bentley, his former Byrnes High School coach.

Korn was one of South Carolina’s biggest recruiting prizes in 2007 after leading the Rebels to two state championships. Korn had his heart set on the Tigers early on — he committed at the start of his junior season.

With a friendly demeanor and a winning smile, Korn quickly became a fan favorite even before he officially enrolled in January 2007.

When he made his on-field debut at Clemson that fall, Korn got a standing ovation from the Death Valley crowd, upstaging a record-setting, five-touchdown effort from starter Cullen Harper.

Injuries kept Korn on the sidelines most of that season, and he expected to play sparingly again in 2008 behind Harper. He emerged when Tommy Bowden called on him to start against Georgia Tech with the Tigers struggling at 3-3. Bowden walked away from the job a few days later and interim coach Dabo Swinney stuck with Korn as the starter.

Korn was hit on the arm, an injury that required offseason surgery that sapped his strength and disrupted his mechanics.

He struggled to keep up with rising freshman Kyle Parker, who eventually won the job and had a record-setting season in leading Clemson to its first ACC Atlantic Division title in 2009.

Korn says there are plenty of times he wonders what might’ve been had he not gotten injured against the Yellow Jackets. “I don’t think about it so much any more because I’m focused on what’s ahead,” he said. “But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about that, especially then.”

Korn says Marshall was the only Bowl Subdivision school he looked at. The Thundering Herd opens at Ohio State on Sept. 2

Korn says he’s got no regrets about choosing Clemson or bitterness about how things played out.

“I did absolutely everything I could. I worked as hard as I could’ve done and things just didn’t work out,” he said. “It’s not like I’m the only guy it happened to. I’m just fortunate and lucky I get a second chance to go and win a job somewhere.”