Spring Practice Insider (DAY I)

CLEMSON – It's only been a little more than two months since the last time the Clemson football team played a game, but there were a ton of changes and news on the Tigers first day of spring football practice.

First, in the coaching ranks, running backs coach Andre Powell has been named as the special teams coordinator, which goes completely against what head coach Tommy Bowden has preached since his arrival at Clemson.

Bowden always scoffed at the thought of having a special teams coordinator because he said that he dad, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, never had one and that was good enough for him, even though special teams has been a major problem area for the Tigers the last six seasons.

But after more problems last season and the background of Powell, Bowden finally has a special teams coordinator.

"I finally had a guy ask for it," Bowden said of Powell. "He wanted it when he first came here. He's the first guy I've had that had the background and who wanted it."

Powell's new title means that he will coordinate and organize the weekly meetings about special teams, which will take place in the spring for the first time this year. The Tigers are going to put more emphasis on that area this offseason, which means they need someone to keep track of everything.

Brad Scott will still be in charge of the field goal and extra point units, while Billy Napier will still be in charge of the punting unit.

PERSONNEL MOVES: There were several notable absences from practice Saturday, with the two biggest being rising redshirt junior running back Ray Ray McElrathbey and rising redshirt senior linebacker Cortney Vincent.

It appears the football career for McElrathbey at Clemson is over, whether it's his own choice or not.

With Clemson being over the scholarship limit, McElrathbey was told that his scholarship wouldn't be renewed since he graduates in August. The Atlanta native will either transfer to another school to continue his playing career or remain at Clemson as a graduate student.

If he remains at Clemson, he could conceivably remain on the football team as a walk-on. But that's the least likely of all scenarios.

McElrathbey was more famous for his life off the football field than on it. He reached stardom when it was made public that he had essentially become the father of his younger brother, Fahmarr. He became the guardian of his 11-year-old brother despite being a just a freshman in the spring of 2006.

As a result, he was the recipient of the Keith Jackson Award of Excellence on the ESPN College Football All-American Show. He also won the 2006 FedEx/Football Writers Association Courage Award, an honor he received at the 2007 FedEx Orange Bowl.

"I'm not going to say he made a bad decision by leaving," fellow Atlanta native and running back James Davis said. "If he wants to play, going to another place is going to make him happy. But you can't forget about Fahmarr.

"You can't fault the guy for wanting to play, but with me and C.J. (Spiller and the two incoming freshmen), it's going to be hard for him to get on the field. He's in a tough situation."

As for Vincent, his absence is for a completely different and more troubling reason. He was suspended for the spring due to violating team and university rules.

This comes on the heels of being charged in December with DUI. That case is still pending and may not be resolved until June.

"He could be a possible dismissal (from the team) after the spring," Bowden said. "I'm always disappointed when people make bad decisions just like I am when my children do that."

If Vincent isn't kicked off the team for this latest violation, Bowden said he could be if the DUI charges stick.

Other personnel moves include the transfer of safety Darius Gaither, who just completed his redshirt freshman season.

Also, true freshmen linebackers Stanley Hunter and Tarik Rollins will each miss at least the first half of spring practice. Rollins is recovering from an ACL injury, while Hunter is trying to get over some medical issues. Rising senior placekicker John Early also torn his ACL and is out for the spring.

Receiver Jacoby Ford fielded punts in practice but he won't do any contact drills the first two weeks of spring as he recovers from his broken ankle he suffered last season.

LINEBACKER SHORTAGE: With the two freshmen hurt and the suspension of Vincent and the leave of Antonio Clay, the Tigers are paper thin at linebacker this spring as there are roughly six available for service, and that includes Rendrick Taylor, who played receiver his first three seasons.

"He's extremely raw," defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said. "You try to find positives in anything and the positive thing is he is going to bet plenty of reps."

The lack of players at that position also enables Brandon Maye to show his talents and what he can do with the first team. It's quite a leap for someone that was never saw the field last year as a true freshman.

"It's a good opportunity for me," he said. "I've just got to do what the coaches say."

A BETTER J.D.? Star rising senior running back James Davis said there's going to be a new and improved version of him this football season.

Davis said after seeing all the 40-yard dash times at the NFL Combine this year that he went to the Clemson track coach and asked help in becoming faster.

"I went to the track coach and said, ‘I've got to be fast,' " Davis said. "I saw they were running 4.3 (seconds) and I was running 4.41."

Davis said he is practicing with the track team but that he won't compete like Spiller.

Also, Davis said the coaches want him to be a more physical runner between the tackles, improve on his pass blocking and make more catches out of the backfield.

And if he stays healthy, he could break the school's all-time marks in touchdowns, rushing touchdowns and yardage.

"I think catching the ball out of the backfield is going to be a big thing for me this year," he said. "I've still got those goals written down and it'll be a big deal for me (to break those records).

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