Bowden Press Conference: News & Notes

<img src=> Head coach Tommy Bowden addressed the media for the first time Tuesday in regards to the Tigers' season opening opponent- the 9th ranked Georgia Bulldogs. has you covered with all of the highlights of what went down Tuesday morning.

* Bowden said that the offensive line play has been improved, and he once again noted the play of two true freshmen- Marion Dukes and Brandon Pilgrim. "Those guys have really worked hard this summer- all of them," Bowden said. "We've got some young guys backing our starters up. I feel real good about those guys, they've worked hard and they've got a good attitude."

* All of the significant position battles are still up for grabs headed into the final practices this week, including right guard, left cornerback, and the starting running back position.

* The Tigers' head coach also suggested that he doesn't believe that Georgia's star defensive lineman David Pollack can be easily rattled Saturday. "You have to be real careful with him. There's no doubt that we are going to be aware of where he is at all times. You know when we recruited him, he was always a real outgoing guy, just like a politician. He was the SEC Freshman of the Year, and then the SEC Player of the Year, I don't think that we would be able to do too much that can rattle him. He brings a lot to the table."

* Don't necessarily expect that all four running backs to play Saturday. "It's not safe to assume anything," Bowden said when asked if Coleman, Merriweather, Browning, and Kelly would all play against Georgia. Coleman is currently listed on the first team, followed by Merriweather and Browning, and then Yusef Kelly. "We expect Kelly to come around this season," Bowden added.

* Charlie Whitehurst is taking more of an active leadership role with this year's team. "Last year I was just trying to come in and get the job done," said Whitehurst. "This year, I'm the one telling people to hustle up and get back to the huddle. Now that I'm the starter, I've been asserting myself much more in a leadership role this season."

* Reggie Merriweather is fine with his back up role at running back, but he full expects that both him and Duane Coleman will be given the opportunity to see significant action on Saturday. "I'm not worried about anything like that right now," said Merriweather. "He might get a couple of more plays than me."

* Justin Miller says that even though the Tigers could have won last year's game in Athens, little can be taken away from that in regards to this year's match up. "Last year, we had different players and they had different players. We really can't look back on that and take much away from it," said Miller.

* Wide receiver Michael Collins, who easily stands in taller than what's listed in the press guide, is looking forward to taking the field Saturday for the first time since 2001. "I can't wait to run down the hill," said Collins. The former Tennessee star went on to say that he has a lot of respect for the Georgia secondary. "Those guys are hard nosed and physical, you can't take anything away from them."

* Tommy Bowden downplayed the notion that the Bulldogs are coming in lacking firepower due to injuries and suspensions. "They've had a top 10 recruiting class for the last 5 or 6 years, they are just like Florida State. One guy falls out and they plug in another All-American," Bowden said.

* Linebacker John Leake said that he has no preference for either David Greene or D.J. Shockley. "I don't care which one we face," the Texas native said. "We know we are going to see both of them and that they both are going to bring it."

Leake, who has become a favorite of the media with his quick wit, opened the first press conference of the season by posing a question back to reporters, "So are there going to be more of you guys here next time if we win this week?" the senior said jokingly.

* In terms of running backs, Tommy Bowden reiterated that Duane Coleman has done the best job overall with Merriweather, Browning, and Kelly coming after him. "Duane has picked up his assignments the best so far. I think Reggie will get there, but he's young- he's only a redshirt freshman. Yusef will be back shortly as far as fighting for the job. I would think his workload would dramatically increase the next few weeks."

* Bowden compared the Tigers' opening game this season against Georgia to the 2003 British Open, when a relatively unknown golfer, Ben Curtis won for the first time on tour. "I'd say the odds are about the same, and that nobody is picking us to win. There's probably 500 reporters in the state, and nobody is going to pick us to win," Bowden said.

* Finally Tommy Bowden, who will be calling a majority of the plays this season, said that he'll likely script his first 9 plays for Saturday's game against Georgia.

Official Bowden Quotes
Overall thoughts on the opener versus Georgia:
"I think the players' mentality will be the same as last year (when Clemson played well in a three-point loss) Add to that the tradition and rivalry between the schools, and that a lot of our players are from the state of Georgia, you don't have a problem getting their attention. You don't have to worry about motivation."

On how much weight is placed on the season opener:
"We play 12 games this season, and this is number one. It's a long season, hopefully 13 games. A lot of things said last year were that the two teams took opposite directions after that game. It was a hard-fought game that came down to a field goal. They went on to have more success than we did, obviously. Whether or not it was because of the outcome of that game, I don't know. I don't put a whole lot of stock in the first game being a huge factor in the remaining 11 games. There's too much more football to be played."

On the Georgia-Clemson rivalry:
"The rivalry with Georgia would be our #2 rival, with South Carolina probably never being surpassed at this school. But you don't want to minimize the significance of Georgia, because it is a state in which we actively recruit and because of what has taken place between the two teams in the past."

On Clemson's preparation heading into Saturday's game:
"I think by Saturday at noon, we'll have prepared as well as we could have prepared. We've been relatively healthy. Rain caught us early and we lost a little bit of preparation time early. But since then, it hasn't rained. But I don't know if a coach ever really knows his team is ready. From a preparation standpoint, we couldn't have done any more."

On preparing for All-SEC defensive end David Pollack:
"You have to be careful in accounting for him. If you do too much, like giving your lineman help with a running back, you create some weaknesses in other areas. There's no doubt we're going to be aware of where he is. He's probably the best defensive lineman in the country. He's up for most postseason honors, which is well deserved. We'd be crazy not to be aware of him, so we'll have some plan for him."

On the competition for starting jobs:
"Right now Duane Coleman has been a little more consistent than everyone else. Reggie Merriweather's assignments aren't as sharp. Right now, it is assignments more so than anything that separates our tailbacks. We're going to need Yusef Kelly throughout the year, so I imagine his workload will increase tremendously over the next few weeks.

"At cornerback, Tye Hill and Toure Francis are about 50-50 (as far as who will start) going into the game. Maybe someone will come out of that game with some separation. Tye has better speed, but Toure has a little more experience."

On the possibility of Roscoe Crosby playing Saturday:
"He hasn't been out here very long and he hasn't been hit in two years, those are my main concerns. If he were a linemen it might be easier. But with throwing and catching being so highly skilled, it takes a little longer to come back. But he's not a normal guy. The fact that he's a professional athlete in one sport means he has some pretty refined skills. You never like to say never, but we would not anticipate him doing much on Saturday." Top Stories