Bowden Assesses His Team

CLEMSON – With the season-opening kickoff against Texas A&M just 20 days away and Sunday being Fan Appreciation Day, it was a perfect time for Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden to assess exactly where he team stands at this point.

Tigers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst said Sunday he is confident the offense, as it stands now, is better than it was at any point during last season.

And Bowden agrees with him, to a point.

"We'll, that's not real confidence because we were terrible," Bowden said. "That doesn't take a whole lot to step out and say that. … Yeah, we're better, but it wouldn't take much to be better than we were last year. It's all relative. But I think his comments are accurate. We are better."

One aspect of the offense that seems to be better is the running game. But the success didn't come about as first planned by Bowden.

"The running game became successful (in Saturday's scrimmage) because of our ability to throw the football," he said. "And I wasn't expecting that. I thought we'd run, run, run and they'd pack everybody in and then we'd throw it. It actually happened in reverse yesterday. That's why you have to have the ability to do both."

Defensively, however, there remain worries, especially with the depth in the secondary and up front on the line.

"I know (defensive coordinator) Vic (Koenning) has got some concerns with the secondary and the defensive line," Bowden said.

"Some guys need to surface and separate. We've got some bodies we can throw in there, but nobody has really separated as far as being a difference maker. We're also still looking for some offensive line tackles that we can depend on."

But overall, Bowden said he's been pleased with the progression of the players' capabilities to pick up the new schemes on both sides of the ball.

But with only 25 percent of the offense in place, there's a lot of learning left to do.

"We've been pretty fortunate with injuries, I think that's the key, even more so this year because we're doing some new things on both sides of the ball," Bowden said.

News and notes
The shoulder injury sustained by receiver Kelvin Grant during the scrimmage is worse that first thought. It was believed by the coaching staff that he'd be fine when practice rolled around on Monday, but appears now as though he may have to miss a few days. Grant injured on his touchdown catch when he landed on his shoulder. …

Because Roman Fry has had to spend so much time at center due to the nagging injuries to Dustin Fry and Bobby Hutchinson, his chances of becoming a starting guard may have actually increased.

"The center and guard positions are so similar and they share so many responsibilities in blocking, if anything, it's going to help him," Bowden said. "The center has to identify the front and make the calls to where we insert blockers. So, if anything, it's going to help him." …

Bowden said that starting battle at cornerback between Sergio Gilliam and Chris Clemons is "too close to call." … Monday is another two-a-day practice for the Tigers.

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