Clemson Football Notebook

CLEMSON – Some two years later, the Clemson football team finds itself in nearly the exact same position entering the 2004 season. The Tigers will be nationally ranked and a favorite to challenge for an ACC title.

However, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, players and fans are expecting much better results than the disappointing 6-5 record of 2004.

"Our seniors this year were sophomores then," Bowden said. "We've got to do our job as coaches, but they also have to do their job to make sure the team shows up in the right frame of mind. …

"A lot of more talented players are younger players – true freshmen, redshirt freshmen and redshirt sophomores. That's just the way we've elevated recruiting the last three years. But again, some of our better leadership and experienced guys are seniors.

"I'd rather have a senior group facing high expectations than a less experienced group and younger guys."

Taylor's Debut
Now that nearly every player is on campus and working out, Bowden said the one player he can't wait to see in person and on the field is "J" receiver Rendrick Taylor.

Taylor, who has one of the muscular bodies on the team, is in a new position, which requires him to line up in several different locations. During the spring, Taylor showed flashes of brilliance, which as the entire offensive coaching staff drooling at his potential.

"I'm always anxious to see what Rendrick Taylor looks like, because he's so young and he's so gifted and his body is kind of unique," Bowden said. "I'm always anxious to see what he looks like physically. Is he having a hard time keeping his weight below 230?"

Have You Driven a Ford Lately?
One of the five or six freshmen expected to make an immediate impact is wide receiver Jacoby Ford, who is small in stature, but one of the fast players in the ACC and nation.

Fans can expect to see him touch the ball in several different ways this fall, i.e. reverses, punt returns, kickoff returns, bubble screens and deep passes.

"He's the fastest on our team," Bowden said. "I've got a note to our staff that I don't want to find out in the seventh game that he's real good. I want to find out quick. It's their job to find out in the first three weeks. I don't want to be saying in the seventh game that I wished we would have used him more. That's the challenge for our staff."

Growing Pains
Last season's offense, while not prolific by any stretch of the imagination, showed signs of life for the first time since 2003.

However, it didn't come without some difficult decisions.

After a disappointing 2004, Bowden made dramatic changes, giving up the play calling duties and his style of offense, as well as firing Mike O'Cain, who served as offensive coordinator for only one season.

"It wasn't anybody's fault but mine," Bowden said of the lack of production on offense, particularly in the running game, prior to Rob Spence's arrival as offensive coordinator. "I had to make some changes, but it surely wasn't any of the guys that I changed fault. It was mine. I just had to go and find a guy that had experience with what I wanted."

Getting rid of O'Cain was a very tough decision, Bowden said.

"It was (tough) because it involved making changes of very good people," he said. "It wasn't their fault, and that's always hard. … It was very difficult, but you can't fire yourself. So, you've got to bite the bullet and go."

Humble Pie
The quick whit is still there, but Bowden's outlook on life as a college football coach has changed over the years.

He no longer thinks he's a step ahead of everyone else.

"After you come here undefeated like I did, you do think you've got a lot of the answers, so you're humbled in that regard," Bowden said. "I went to Tulane and won seven games and they hadn't done that in 17 years. Then I went undefeated and they've never done it. I came here and won six and then we went 8-0 and third in the nation. It was like, boy, this is going to be easy. It's a humbling profession. It does give you a different perspective. … I appreciate the job even more now."

Quick Hits
The battles for starting positions are the same as they were exiting spring practice, with most of the challenges being on defense. … Bowden said he likes where the team is as far as the depth and numbers on the offensive line. … Bowden credits the WestZone Project for getting the type of recruits the Tigers have landed the last two years. "I really didn't think it'd have this much effect," he said. …

Bowden said he hasn't spoken to officials in the compliance office about possible NCAA violations regarding linemen Roman Fry and Nathan Bennett riding waverunners owned by Clemson boosters.

The compliance office is expected to begin looking into the matter Thursday however Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret said, "Knowing what we know early on in this preliminary phase, it appears the worst it will be is a secondary violation." Top Stories