The Season Officially Arrives

The first bead of sweat on the brow and the sound of cleats clicking on the pavement are all signs that Clemson football for 2004 has finally arrived.

The Tigers practiced for three hours Friday in the midst of the heat and blaring sun in just helmets, practice jerseys and shorts. They will stay that way for a few more days, before donning full pads.

But make no mistake, these early practices are just as important, if not more so, than those with pads. This is when all the new players learn the plays and all the veterans refresh their memories.

"Usually the first day, there's excitement," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "They're usually pretty attentive and pay attention and (give) effort and they bounce around pretty good and that's because it's the first day. It would be kind of hard to make an evaluation on how much momentum will carry over from the end of (last) season."

Nonetheless, junior quarterback and unequivocally the team leader, Charlie Whitehurst, wasn't that pleased with how things went on that first day.

"I think it could have been a little more intense. I hope we're not satisfied with what happened last year, but I think that it's just the first day," he said. "There was a lot of enthusiasm, but it wasn't perfect. It was close, but it wasn't perfect. But it will be different (Saturday)."

That's exactly the type of talk Bowden wants to hear out of his quarterback.

"From that regard, that's a good comment," he said. "I hope that he's never satisfied."

There was one aspect in which Bowden agreed with Whitehurst. The coach wasn't exactly thrilled with the way the running backs performed.

"The disappointing this is our skill guys really didn't get after it," he said. "If you're going to break long runs you need to practice long runs and we really didn't. We'll try to address that."

Even with what they consider to be a slight drop off in preparation, offensive and defensive players were happy to get on the practice field knowing there's a game less than a month away, as opposed to spring practice when they're just going through the motions.

"There's a lot more confidence," Whitehurst said. "You feel a lot better about yourself and you have a better time.

"You're practicing for somebody else, now. In the spring, you know you're not going to play a game at the end. A month away, we're going to be playing somebody else and that's encouraging."

For a defensive guy like junior cornerback Justin Miller, he knows every practice is crucial in getting ready for the season opener against Wake Forest.

"It is different," he said. "Now, you're always preparing for another game and you reach down and dig a little harder to get everything ready to go into that first game.

"This is what it's all about."

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