Bowden's Keys to the Season

CLEMSON – In order for Clemson to make the leap from pretender to contender, Tigers football coach Tommy Bowden has a list of things that must occur early during the 2006 season for that to happen.

According to Bowden, maybe the most important aspect of season is the emergence and continued growth of the defensive line, specifically at nose guard, tackle and end.

Bowden cited that the play of Phillip Merling, Jock McKissic, Dorell Scott, Rashaad Jackson, Donnell Clark, Etta Etta-Tawo and Antwon Murchison as the key into what the future of Tigers hold.

"Those seven guys, if I had to say which area really has to step up in order to compete for a championship, is going to have to be that position," he said.

However, not to be overlooked is the team's punting, which ranked 117th in Division I last season.

Bowden said there's a definite battle for the punting job between incumbent Cole Chason, newcomer Richard Jackson and walk-on Jimmy Maners.

"I think we'll find out quick because Cole Chason has injured his foot and is going to miss maybe the first week of practice so therefore Richard Jackson is the first team punter, which is good," Bowden said. "That's kind of a blessing in disguise for the simple fact he'll get every rep with the first team. Then Maners, the walk-on, will get all the second team reps.

"So when Cole comes back we'll have a pretty good idea by the first game whether Richard is going to be a factor. Cole is going to be out for a while so you feel sorry for him but it gives us an opportunity to force feed Richard and give him quality reps with the first team."

A third item on Bowden's list is the play of the freshmen and the immediate impact they may have.

"We've got to identify the six or seven freshmen that are going to help us early and get the pegs in the right holes pretty quick so they can be a factor early in the season, would be a third objective," he said.

Bowden has stated in the past that he doesn't want to find out in the sixth week that a freshman can help the team. He wants to know early so the Tigers can use him from the outset.

RB C.J. Spiller, WR Jacoby Ford, DE Jamie Cumbie, DE Ricky Sapp and DB Crezdon Butler are several freshman believed to have the best chance to see the field this year.

The fourth objective, according to Bowden, is quality leadership.

But early on, that appears to be the least of his worries.

By all accounts, leadership by the seniors and some of the underclassmen has been better than in previous seasons.

"I just feel like the expectations are so high, that at the same time, we've embraced those expectations," said Will Proctor. "We are not complacent with where we are at. We want to get better. We had a lot of guys coming in the weight room and taking it upon themselves to get better (this summer). That's something we really haven't had before."

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