Clemson Opens Fall Practice

Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden welcomed 105 players to the opening of practice for the 2005 season on Friday. The Tigers were scheduled to begin practice at 5:45 PM, but the workout was delayed almost a half hour due to lightning and rain in the area.

The Tigers still worked for three hours overall, as the practice in shorts and jerseys went to about 9:15 PM. It was the first of 29 practices for the Tigers leading up to the September 3 opener with Texas A&M at Clemson Memorial Stadium. The Tigers will work in shorts and jerseys on Saturday, then practice in Shells (shoulder pads and shorts and helmets) on Sunday and Monday before finally donning the full uniform on Tuesday.

Tommy Bowden was pleased with the first day of practice and took note of the performance of many of his freshmen, regarded as a top 20 recruiting class by many analysts. "The NCAA rule that allows freshmen to come to school in July is a good one because it accelerates the learning process," said Bowden. Clemson has 23 scholarship first-year freshmen on its roster and only two (Kavell Conner and Durrell Barry) did not report to Clemson in early July. "Because they have been on campus and have been working out on their own with the veteran players they are more at ease. They were able to let their athleticism come through on the first day instead of being tentative.

"This will be the most competitive preseason camp we have had since I have been here because the younger guys will be further along and will push the veterans."

Bowden pointed out four first-year freshman who stood out on the first day. "Rendrick Taylor (Clio, SC), Tyler Grisham (Birmingham, AL), Antonio Clay (Jeffersonville, GA) and Sadat Chambers(Pageland, SC) were four (first-year) freshmen who stood out to me today. Aaron Kelly is a red-shirt freshman who made some plays at wide receiver. Of course he had a very good spring also."

Bowden has said throughout the preseason that forcing turnovers on defense and not committing them on offense would be a key to this year. He saw the defense step up in that area on Friday at the first practice. "Tye Hill had an interception and C.J. Gaddis had two strips in the secondary. That was good to see. The secondary looked like it had a good first day of practice."

Bowden also singled out sophomore offensive tackle Barry Richardson, a first-team freshman All-American in 2004 who has lost 30 pounds (330) since the end of last season. "Barry has done a good job in the off season and reported in excellent shape. That was very good to see."

All 23 scholarship freshmen have cleared the NCAA Clearinghouse and all 105 players went through the first practice without injury. Ten more walk-ons will join the squad August 24th when school begins, giving Clemson a 115-player roster for the regular season.

Only one player was missing from the summer roster on the first day of practice. Gene Pate, a letterman as the holder on field goals and extra points on Clemson's 2003 team that finished the year 9-4, has decided to retire from football. Pate suffered a broken leg prior to the Virginia game in 2003 when he fell running down the hill during Clemson's celebrated stadium entrance. He stat out the 2004 season, then attempted a comeback this past spring, but he has decided to give up the game.

Clemson enters preseason practice with 45 returning lettermen. Only Miami (FL) with 53 and North Carolina with 46, have more returning lettermen than the Tigers. Twenty-four of Clemson's returning lettermen on are on offense, one short of the league high of 25 by Miami (FL) and Duke.

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