What We are Hearing...

Some insider tidbits on the mood of the team, the early season leaders, and what to expect Saturday afternoon. From strategy to personnel to the 2004 schedule, we've got you covered in this extensive report.

The Mood of the Team
I've gotten more e-mails and questions about the mood of this team in the last week than I care to mention. I will say this, the offensive line remains confident and determined to get this thing turned around, and turned around quickly. I've been told this past week by two players that a block or two here and there could have added another 60 to 70 rushing yards to that total last week against Furman.

I wonder how many people would be complaining about the running game if that were to happen?

I know, I know, it reminds me of the old saying, "if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, everyday would be Christmas."

The bottomline here is that these guys are ready to go out and prove to the rest of the world that they can get the job done. I think we'll see more improvement this weekend. And hopefully, that translates into more points, more yardage, and more confidence.

Senior right tackle Greg Walker has been one lineman in particular that has really taken it upon himself to establish himself as a leader.

Outside of the offensive line, there isn't a player on the team that feels like they've come close to hitting on all cylinders. They all understand the importance of winning, and winning big. From Charlie Whitehurst to LeRoy Hill, these guys are poised to have a breakout game Saturday afternoon. Of the 6 players I personally interviewed this week, all 6 mentioned how important this game will be in setting the momentum for the rest of the season.

In a few words, I would describe the mood of this team to be that of a quiet storm. We'll find out Saturday whether or not that translates into a big win.

The Gameplan Saturday
If you were paying attention to one of my earlier articles this week, then you already know the answer. I suspect that we'll see the passing game used to set up the running game, provided Middle Tennessee cooperates. The coaching staff wants to use every possible way to help this offensive line game some confidence before this team heads into conference play. The deep ball to Airese Currie opened up so much for Charlie Whitehurst and the rest of this offense last week, it would be foolish to expect that to change.

From what I'm hearing, I wouldn't be surprised to see us, "open it up" this week.

In looking for the "perfect game" Saturday, wouldn't it be nice to see the intermediate passing game work early, followed by a healthy dose of Coleman, Merriweather, and Browning later on.

Anything over 150 yards on the ground would be a success in my eyes. Honestly, we all need to realize that it's baby steps with the running game, and 150 seems like a step in the right direction.

At Placekicker
Tommy Bowden isn't ready to yank senior kick Aaron Hunt just yet. Despite what some fans may think, Hunt will remain the starting kicker at least through Saturday's game against Middle Tennessee State.

Hunt's job will only be in jeopardy should he go out and miss another field goal inside of 45 yards this weekend. However, don't be surprised to see Jad Dean handle longer field goals from here on out.

Hunt has traditionally struggled outside of 45 yards, especially this spring and fall. For whatever reason, he remains firmly entrenched in a mini-slump. For now, it just makes sense to give Dean the opportunity considering he averages about 10-15 yards longer with his field goals and kickoffs.

The Leaders
I want everybody to watch one player on defense this Saturday, and that's senior linebacker John Leake. I've heard some criticism thrown his way this season, but I know for a fact that he's stepping up his game across multiple areas, even though it might not be something you see on the stat sheet. John Leake said before the start of the season that he felt like it was his responsibility to step into more of a leadership role this year. Nowhere was that evident more than this week when he began to do just that.

On offense, Charlie Whitehurst is still finding his way as one of the leaders of the team. The soft-spoken Georgia native has become more vocal in the huddle, and as each game passes, he become more a leader by example. You see, that's how the game of football works. The more 300 yard games he has, the more touchdowns he throws, and most importantly, the more victories he helps lead this team to in 2003, the more this team will rally around him.

Just watch.

Will we see Dustin Fry?
The short answer is yes- we will. Dustin is working as hard as any offensive lineman on the team, and we fully expect him to see the field Saturday.

Who will start at running back?
We've heard things all across the board this week, but in the end, assuming Yusef Kelly is still banged up, the smart money is still on Duane Coleman. Coleman took a few steps back in the eyes of the staff last week when he started dancing in the backfield too much, but he still has the best breakaway speed of any of the Tigers' running backs, and he'll still likely get a bulk of the carries Saturday.

Tommy Bowden pulled him aside during the Furman game and encouraged him to hit the hole a little faster, and I know for a fact that he took it to heart. Personally, I'd still like to see Reggie Merriweather get the ball a few more times. Bowden elected not to use him as much during the first two games because he didn't feel comfortable in the way Merriweather picked up the blitz, but after two games, you have to figure that he would improve in that department.

A Nasty Thought For 2004
While we should know shortly how the ACC will handle scheduling in 2004, there's an outside chance that the Tigers could face Florida State, Texas A&M, Miami, and Virginia Tech all on the road in the 2004. Clemson is already slated to face the Aggies in College Station on September 16th, and Florida State in Tallahassee. With Miami and Virginia Tech entering conference play, there stands a good chance that Clemson would have to face one of these teams on the road, or possibly both in a worse case scenario.

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