Saturday Practice Insider

CLEMSON – Antonio Clay underwent his first practice since last December and it was evident that the middle linebacker had been away from the football field for some seven months. Nonetheless, members of the Clemson team couldn't be happier about having him back on campus.

Clay, a junior, left school during the spring after a deep depression set in following the sudden death of his sister in a car accident just before the start of the 2006 season.

"When I went home, I dealt with whatever I dealt with the best way I could," said Clay in his first interviews with the media in eight months. "I'm just happy to be out there again. It felt good to be back with the team."

Clay begins fall camp overweight, which isn't surprising considering he has been at home most of the summer. Head coach Tommy Bowden said Clay is in the low 240s weight wise. Clay began last season weighing 230.

First Practice Coverage
* CUTigersTV: Tommy Bowden
* Practice Brief
* Photo Gallery
* CUTigersTV: Willy Korn
* CUTigersTV: Antonio Clay
The extra weight and time away from the football field gave Clay a hard time during the hot, three-hour practice Saturday.

"He's just a little overweight and out of shape," Bowden said. "He really doesn't have his football sharpness and crispness back like as if had went through spring ball. You can definitely tell he's been out. …

"He's got too much weight to carry right now. But mentally, he looks in pretty good shape."

However, Clay said it won't take long before everything with him is like it was last year.

"It won't take too much," he said. "I've been out here during the summer so it won't take too long to get back into the swing of things. … I see football the same way. I still think I'm capable of making the same plays that I made a year ago."

Clay said while he'll never get completely over what transpired nearly a year ago, he said he is far better than where he was just a few months ago.

"What happened, it happened for a reason," he said. "I just tried to deal with it the best way I could. … I've came a long way. Each day that goes by, you just feel better and better with the situation. You're not going to forget anything like that, but each day you feel better and better."

WHO'S HOT: Redshirt sophomore Sadat Chambers, who spent his first day at running back after spending his two previous seasons buried on the depth chart at safety.

Chambers was moved to running back out of necessity after the Tigers failed to sign any in last year's recruiting class. He is running with the second team unit on offense.

"I thought Sadat looked really good at running back," Bowden said.

WHO'S NOT: Redshirt sophomore Ray Ray McElrathbey, who was moved from defensive back to running back in the spring. He missed practices during the spring due to academic suspension and missed a good portion of summer workouts because of minor knee surgery.

Bowden also said Friday that he's not sure the most famous older brother in college football will be able to handle school, football and raising his older brother. And now with Chambers' switch to offense, he finds himself in a fierce battle just to be on the second team.

QUICK HITS: Bowden said he was happy with the way the first day of practice went, despite it lasting three hours in intense heat and humidity. … Bowden said he was pleased with the way the other two players playing new positions looked in Michael Wade, who went from quarterback to safety, and Kevin Alexander, who went from linebacker to Bandit. … Bowden didn't run the team hard at the end of practice because of the weather. He said he didn't want them to spend all of their energy on the first day. … The team's five walk-ons, punter Jimmy Maners, center Ben Ramsey, defensive tackle Bryan Baker, tight end Jermaine Martin and wide receiver Chris Wade, were all put on scholarship.

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