A Great Time of Year

For the first time this year, the Tigers will hit the practice fields to prepare for the start of the 2005 regular season. For Clemson fans, it's a new beginning for what hopes to be a special year in the new-look ACC.

Call it what you want.

"A new beginning," or, "a fresh start," or maybe even phrase it, "starting over."

No matter how you slice it, there's always a new sense of optimism this time of year for Clemson fans. Simply put, it's a great time of year.

There's a sense that anything is possible. A sense that if a few bounces go the Tigers' way, this team will have the opportunity to do something special.

It's like this every year for the so-called, "football schools."

From Baton Rouge, La. to Blacksburg, Va., college football fans from near and far go out on the proverbial limb with their bold predictions on sports talk shows and internet message boards.

But this year in Clemson, that refreshing sense of optimism may be greater than any other time of the Tommy Bowden era.

In particular, it may be a result of the hiring of offensive coordinator Rob Spence.

Spence was brought on board to eliminate some of the problems that have seemed to persist to with this team since the departure of Woody Dantzler three years ago. For instance: the lack of production in the running game or the play calling becoming too predictable.

Or it may have to do with the hiring of defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. The former defensive coordinator at Troy has arrived at Clemson with hopes of creating more turnovers and more big plays.

Or perhaps, this year's optimism has to do with senior quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Surely, entering his final year at Clemson he'll rebound to prove last year's disappointing year was nothing more than a fluke.

Regardless of reasoning, it's always an exciting time of year in early August. There are no losses. There are no problems. There are no hot seats. Just optimism and hope.

And even with a treacherous schedule ahead that features home tilts against Texas A&M, Miami, Boston College, and Florida State, the average Clemson fan is hoping for, and maybe even expecting, big things.

Big things may not mean 10 wins, but it could mean a few major upsets along the way.

Considering the Tigers have beaten the likes of Miami, Florida State, and Tennessee over the course of the last two seasons, that seems reasonable enough.

In the grand scheme of things, those upsets probably won't be the determining factor in this year's record. Looking again at the schedule, this time on the road, contests at Maryland, at Wake Forest, at N.C. State, and at Georgia Tech will likely dictate whether this team wins six games or truly takes it to the next level.

Then again, that's the best part of August. It's easy to make bold proclamations on the fate of the upcoming season.

Still, it's a great time of year nonetheless. Practice finally gets underway later this evening, and the first game is less than 28 days away.

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