The Cold Seat

SUNSET - Entering his seventh season as the head football coach at Clemson, Tommy Bowden has been around the block or two when it comes to talk of the proverbial "hot seat."

But this year, Bowden finds himself in a different place.

Some might even choose to call it the "cold seat."

After Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips issued a statement indicating his clear-cut support for Bowden and the progress of the football program, the seventh year head coach seemingly has no worries when it comes to his future.

But don't tell that to him.

"Am I satisfied? No, because we want to win 10 games. We want to win the conference championship," Bowden said Tuesday before his annual golf tournament with the media. "I'm not satisfied with myself. I would hope that the majority of our fans wouldn't be either, simply because they want the same things I want."

Bowden's goal of winning the ACC Championship is be reachable, but the journey to get there will be difficult, especially considering the strength of the Tigers' 2005 schedule.

In all, Clemson will host four teams that will likely be ranked this year, including Texas A&M, Miami, Boston College, and Florida State. And the road schedule is equally imposing, including trips to N.C. State, Maryland and Georgia Tech.

"When you look at our schedule, there are a lot of teams that can beat us, and based on what happened last year, there is nobody on there that we can't beat," Bowden said. "How that relates to wins and losses, I don't know. That's why you play. That's what we'll find out Sept. 3 and on down the line."

At the same time the Tigers try to become bowl-eligible for the seventh-consecutive season, Bowden also has the task of incorporating a new system on both sides of the ball.

After a 6-5 finish a year ago, a season that saw Clemson finish 110th nationally in total offense and 100th in turnover margin, Bowden replaced both his offensive and defensive coordinators, and also his defensive line coach.

"You make those changes because you see the opportunity for improvement," he said of the hiring of Rob Spence (offense), Vic Koenning (defense) and Marion Hobby (defensive line).

"That's hopefully going to be an advantage. The only disadvantage that I can see is temporary, in that there is a learning curve involved with changing coordinators. But we don't anticipate that being an excuse no more than Auburn having four coordinators in five years and going 13-0."

Aside from the temporary adjustment to three new coaches, Bowden said his primary concerns entering the season are addressing the glaring weaknesses of last year's team: production on the ground, protecting the football and forcing more turnovers.

Clemson finished the 2004 season ranked 100th in rushing offense, 70th in turnovers lost and 97th in turnovers gained.

"If you look at our season last year ... we lost four of our first five and led the nation in turnovers ... We stopped that and then won five of our last six," Bowden said. "There's a red flag that goes up with that statistic. If you are 50th in the nation (instead of 100th) do you win eight or nine games? I don't know, but we need to find out."

After Tuesday's golf outing with the media, an event that annually signals the unofficial start to the football season, Clemson fans won't have to wait too much longer to "find out" whether or not their team will improve on last year's 6-5 season.

At the same time, a head coach who finds himself on the "cold seat," remains optimistic about his chances.

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