The Clemson Tigers began the 2003 season officially Tuesday afternoon.
Well, sort of.
An approaching thunderstorm sent the team back into the Jervey Athletic Complex about 15 minutes into practice, prompting players and coaches alike to voice their displeasure with mother nature.
"The weather played a role today you know," Coach Bowden said. "We got just about everything accomplished that we needed to though, so all in all it was a good day."
About an hour later, the storm dissipated and practice resumed under conditions that resembled a tropical rainforest.
This season, unlike years past, both freshman and upperclassmen report at the same time. The NCAA has also mandated that each school go through a "5-day acclamation period" at the start of fall practice. During this period, no team can practice in pads.
The idea is mainly being thought of as a preventive measure so that it will lesson the chance of a student athlete suffering from exhaustion or heat related illnesses.
Once the Tigers returned to the field, you could sense a little bit of family pride in the air, as freshman linebacker Maurice Nelson walked onto the field with his brother Roosevelt.
While the season is now officially here, there's not much you can take away from an opening practice in shorts. The old coaches' saying, "everybody looks good in shorts," couldn't be more true.
Aside from the kickers and punters, it's difficult to tell who can do what at this stage in the game. Nevertheless, we were able to put together the following observations:
PK Jad Dean- Dean's leg strength was as every bit as good as advertised. In one of the more impressive displays of the day, Dean stood directly over the ball and without taking a single step, promptly drilled a 37-yard field goal. He moved back to over 50-yards away and calmly connected on multiple kicks in a row with a good 10-15 yards to spare. Some of his kicks could have gone through from 65+ yards. Can you say, special teams weapon?
"I made one from 64-yards today," Dean said after practice. "I had a little bit of wind behind me, but overall it was a good day."
QB C.J. Gaddis- When you first look at C.J. Gaddis, you'll realize that he is built like former Tiger quarterback Nealon Greene. You can tell just by looking at him that he would be difficult to bring down, especially when you factor both his size and his elusiveness. We watched him take snaps along side Charlie Whitehurst, Will Proctor, and Chansi Stuckey.
LB Kwam Williams- Linebackers' coach David Blackwell had nothing but praise for Williams after a drill in which he seemed to stay in front of a potential running better without getting faked out better than anyone else.
LB Nick Watkins- Watkins walked onto the field and didn't say a word to anybody. He didn't have to, his size spoke for itself. He looked physically ready to contribute- very impressive.
ROV Maurice Nelson- The former Crestwood linebacker appears to be on the same physical level as Wakins. Nelson didn't practice with the linebackers Tuesday as he moved right into drills with whip/rovers coach Jack Hines. He also appeared to be one of the more relaxed freshmen on the field, and understandably so with his big brother right beside him throughout the early stages of practice..
OL Chris Capote- One word describes this kid- big. We didn't get a chance to watch him in any drills, but he looked about as big as anyone on the team. He walked into practice with fellow freshman Brandon Pilgrim.
CB Sergio Gilliam- He appeared to be one of the tallest defensive backs on the team, but he still looks like he needs to get into the weight room. Not surprising at all for a future cover corner.
CB Toure Francis- Francis wore a small knee brace, but appeared to cut without hesitation in his first practice. We'll certainly know more about this former walk-on after the first full practice in pads this weekend.
"I'm back to 100%," Francis said after practice. "I'm just ready to get back my spot on the first team this year. I'm getting there...I've been back to 100% most of the summer, so we'll see how it goes."
CUTigers.com will have more from Toure in an exclusive interview tomorrow morning.
WR Tony Eliot- It was easy to tell that senior wide receiver Tony Eliot was excited to get back to the practice fields. He posed in a picture flexing his bicep and promptly made sure that we got a picture. Eliot looked to be in good shape after missing spring practice and drew one the loudest praises from wide receivers' coach Dabo Swinney when he made a diving one-handed reception about an inch off of the ground.
WR Kelvin Grant- Despite all of the rumors about Kelvin Grant not being eligible to play football in 2003, the redshirt freshman made his way onto the practice fields, as said by Clemson assistant coach Mike O'Cain in an interview with CUTigers.com earlier this summer.
LB John Leake- As we stated two weeks ago after the ACC Kickoff Meetings, John Leake is a load.
He's added a good 15-20 pounds and appears to be ready to assume one of the all-important leadership roles on the defense.
CB Justin Miller- The preseason All-American wasn't out there running his mouth or strutting around. No, Miller was calm, cool, and collected for the first practice of 2003. He looks every bit as impressive physically, as he was last year.
QB Charlie Whitehurst- Charlie looks a year older, and a year wiser with his newly grown goatee. He showed a little bit of rust early, and then promptly started delivering strikes to every receiver in site.
QB Chansi Stuckey- You'd expect a little bit of rush during the first day of practice, and that's what we saw out of the quarterbacks. Stuckey was a tad short on a number of throws, namely the 10-15 yard out pattern.
Everybody Looks Good in Shorts
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