Bowden Excited About Tomorrow

With the players reporting to campus today and the first official practice since spring slated for Friday, talk of Clemson football is getting stronger and stronger almost on an hourly basis.

With those additional discussions and hype come higher expectations, no matter how real or unrealistic they may be. But make no mistake about it, Tigers coach Tommy Bowden is fully aware of what the fans want.

And if the players aren't totally conscious of those expectations, Bowden will quickly alert them of what is expected.

"They're cognizant of it and they'll be reminded of it," Bowden said. "But again, they're 19, 20, 21 and their idea on how to respond to it is going to be different then mine because of the age and the experience. I've been coaching 28 years and they've been coaching none. So, you know the pitfalls and you try to remind them of the pitfalls.

"But that's one of the exciting things about college football is you don't know how your team is going to respond; who is going to assume the role of leadership and who's going to talk about it."

However, a part of any successful team is the leadership roles that certain players take. And with the majority of the team leaders from a year ago gone, Bowden is anxious to see who fills those voids.

"I'll talk about it to the team, but it's sitting in the locker room before they get ready to go to practice, who is going to say that the bull's-eye is bigger and let's crank it up today?" he said.

"It's hot, it's humid, we're tired, we're sore while on the way to walking to (practice). Who's going to say at night up in the apartment complex with about four or five of them in a room talking, who is going to talk about those things? That's what I don't know.

"When you've got a good nucleus of guys, they remind the players a lot about those types of things. And I think they will react in a positive way as opposed to the other."

While leadership roles are a must, there are other phases that need to happen in order for Clemson to have the type of year fans, players and coaches each want to have.

If you're a diehard Tigers fan, the last thing in the world you want to happen is for something to happen to star quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Just the thought of the junior going down with an injury is enough to send some fans into convulsions.

"That's an important piece of the puzzle," Bowden said. "He's a good player. You'd be crazy to think that if you had to take away one guy, then that's the one guy I would not want to take away for us to be successful. But it could happen.

"Then if it happens, then we might move Chansi Stuckey back; we might go with a freshman or Will Proctor. I don't know what we would do. We'll see who surfaces. And if an injury like that were to occur early, it would make a difference as opposed whether it occurred after four or five games."

However, Bowden added that he's not going to give the backup quarterback one or two series of playing time a game to help him be better prepared just in case something awful does happen.

"I'm not going to do that," he said. "I did that last year. I'm not going to do that last year. That rational was my thinking last year, and I did it and I didn't like it so I'm not going to do it this year."

All this, of course, is going on the assumption that Whitehurst is going to have at least a good of a year as he had last year, and maybe better.

But there's no guarantees that's going to happen.

Bowden, for one, is unsure what to expect from his star.

"He's only started for a year and four games, so I don't quite know yet," Bowden said. "I think I'll have a better feel after this year. But again, only after a year starting and four games, that's not a whole bunch of at-bats compared to guys that have started three years.

"I'm kind of anxious to see how far he can go, because he's done a pretty good job in his year and four games. If he continues to make progress, like I think he will… I'm excited about seeing his progress."

Then there is one more aspect Bowden is pointing to that must happen in order for the Tigers to possibly make the Bowl Championship Series, or at worst a New Year's Day bowl.

"Leadership is key. Staying healthy and getting a break, (too)" he said. "How many times have you seen a deflection by a linebacker and it goes for a completion or it goes for an interception? You need a break or two like that and stay healthy and then the leadership.

"Those are the three things I pretty much have marked this year to have success." Top Stories