Starting Jobs Up for Grabs; Grant Practices

CLEMSON – With the season-opening kickoff against Texas A&M just a week away, there remain some unanswered questions facing the football coaching staff at Clemson.

The complete starting lineup is one of them as it is far from being set.

Tigers head coach Tommy Bowden said after Saturday morning's practice that he can't say anything yet about the battle for starting jobs in the secondary, on the offensive and defensive lines, at tight end, wide receiver and even at running back, which seemed like a lock to be Reggie Merriweather's job when practice first started.

Running backs coach Burton Burns said as of right now, he can't name a starter because there is a four-way tie between Duane Coleman, Merriweather, James Davis and Kyle Browning for the first-team job.

"They're doing good, but I'm looking for somebody that's going to be consistent day after day," Burns said. "It's hit-and-miss right now. Thank God we've got one more week of practice to go through.

"All of them are competing and practicing good, but one hasn't been more consistent that the other. And I'm not just talking about how many carries or how many yards they have. I'm talking about total execution of the game plan. They've got equal parts of the game plan. It's not just running the football. Right now, nobody has taken charge."

The good news is that all these battles are in place because there is much more depth this year than there has been in the last few years. However, there is one drawback.

"Unfortunately here, the depth is inexperienced," Bowden said. "Now, if I was looking at two-deep with juniors and seniors or red-shirt juniors and red-shirt seniors and things of that nature, I think it gives you a lot more flexibility. We have some depth, but it is inexperienced and that's going to handcuff you a little bit.

"But it limits what you can throw at them. They're going to play, but I don't think you can be as complex. I'm sure there will be more next year. I think we're going to have 18-of-22 back on both sides of the ball. So I'm sure next year there will be more in (game plan)."

The New Offense
Bowden said he is pleased with how much the offense has progressed since the beginning of camp and that he believes it should be enough to be successful against the Aggies.

"I think we've been able to put enough in to keep A&M off guard," he said. "We'll find out how far we are after Saturday night."

Quarterback Charlie Whiteshurst definitely likes where the offense is heading into the game against Texas A&M as compared to last year when the two teams met.

"We need to refine it a little bit, but I think there's really good things," he said. "I think we could do really good if we just improve just a little bit or we could be just alright. I think if we improve just a little bit, it could be real good. …

"I'm amazed that we're doing so much on offense. I'm amazed that we have picked up on it. I don't want to jinks it and go in (Death Valley) and stink it up, but there are a lot of things we do that require a ton of preparation and a ton of focus and I think we're showing we can do it. …

"I don't think you install the entire offense for just one team. You pick and choose. We've got 75 percent for this team and we'll probably have 75 percent of it for every team, but it might be a different percentage every time."

Quick Hits
Starting tight end Cole Downer spent time in the hospital with what was described as "a stomach problem." Fellow tight end Bobby Williamson said he believed it was similar to the same stomach flu he had a week ago, where dropped 16 pounds in two days. Downer has been released from the hospital and is expected to practice Monday. …

Dorell Scott, who has missed most of the last two weeks, practiced Saturday. "He looks good, but he's missed 10 days," Bowden said. "He's smiling."

Receiver Kelvin Grant, who has been out with a separated shoulder, practiced a little Saturday, but he's still having a hard time catching the ball. Receivers coach Dabo Swinney said Grant couldn't lift his arm above his chest and if the game were Monday, he wouldn't play.

Grant may be rushing his return because of the play of freshmen receivers Tyler Grisham, Rendrick Taylor and Aaron Kelly.

"When you're expendable, there's a sense of urgency to get back," Bowden said. "Those young guys, they're putting the heat on everybody. Maybe the most productive guy the last six days has been Tyler Grisham, and he's a smart guy that can jump around and play a lot positions. He might be taking a lot of them guys' balls, other than Kelvin's. … He really has been impressive. Coach Swinney just lucked into him. He fell into him. I don't think he can take credit for him. What a lucky gift." …

Receiver Curtis Baham, who has sported a Ben Wallace-type afro hairdo the last couple of years, showed up Saturday morning with a trimmed head of hair that stands only a fraction of an inch above from his scalp. He said he was ready for something different considering he hadn't had a haircut since his high school senior prom. Baham is a fifth-year senior.

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