NOTEBOOK: Tigers Very Sharp

ATLANTA – Need even more proof that the No. 15 Clemson football team is taking this season's bowl game more seriously than last year's? Look no further than what took place during the Tigers' first on-site practice in the Georgia Dome Wednesday morning.

Even quarterback Cullen Harper was a little surprised but transpired.

He said it was practically a perfect practice with no mistakes, which doesn't happen all that often.

"We all had a little bit of a break, but we all came back and ready to go," he said. "We were mentally prepared and we didn't have really hardly any mistakes. I think we're just all focused and excited to be here. So, it was a good first day back."

That's quite a long ways from last year's Music City Bowl, when the players couldn't have cared much less about being there. And when they lined up against Kentucky, it pretty much showed.

That obviously isn't the case this year.

"Sometimes after a break, some guys will have some busts and stuff, or just mental mistakes," Harper said. "But I feel like today that everybody came out here focused and ready to go. Once again, I think that's just because we're all excited to be here and to be playing in this game. We all know how much this game means to this program."

As coaches are prone to do, Clemson's Tommy Bowden downplayed the quality of the practice somewhat, but he was still complimentary.

"Playing in here is where a lot of them would like to play in their future careers, and I think that helps," he said. "Anytime you have four days off it helps. It was a pretty good practice and I think the environment really helps. …

"I think a lot of them envision themselves playing here and I think that helps. Last year they had to practice outside. Auburn is also practicing indoors and I wouldn't be surprised if their practices) went the same way."

IN AWE: Most of the players were taken aback by the absolute enormity of what the Georgia Dome looks like from the field. While it is a decent size stadium, the fact that it's a complete bowl and has a roof makes it seem larger than Memorial Stadium.

"That's the first thing that stood out when I first walked in – man, this place is really big," Harper said. "I've been here for a couple of Falcon games and the Peach Bowl and high school playoff games, but I never really remembered how big this place was, and that's what stood out to me when I first walked in."

Junior wide receiver Aaron Kelly, an Atlanta native like Harper, played in the dome while in high school. But even he knows Monday's game isn't going to be anything like those prep games.

"It's great to be back here," he said. "I didn't think I'd be back. I can't wait to see how it feels with all of our fans and their fans in here. It'll be a little different than playing in high school."

QUICK HITS: Bowden said all players were present and accounted for and that they all made it to the hotel on time Tuesday night. … Bowden said he hasn't spoken to offensive coordinator Rob Spence to see how his interview went with Tennessee last Friday. Bowden told the media to check back in a day or two. …

Harper and Kelly said they each like the artificial field in the dome. Harper said that it was more compact and harder than what the team practices on in Clemson, while Kelly said that it has a good grip and that it also felt hard. Both agreed that it was a very fast surface. …

Bowden also said the team will do nothing but work on specific parts of the game plan while practicing and that there will be no scrimmaging. He did say that parts of the practice will include, goal line, short-yardage, red zone, first-and-10, third-and-medium, and special plays.

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