Clemson Opens Football Practice

Clemson opened its 10th season of football under Head Coach Tommy Bowden on Friday evening, but it was unlike any of the previous nine first years. On Friday morning, Clemson was ranked ninth in the nation in the USA Today preseason poll, the highest preseason ranking for the program in the Bowden era.

In fact it was the highest preseason ranking for any Tigers team since the 1991 preseason when Clemson was ranked ninth under by Associated Press.

"It is nice to be ranked that high, but this is the preseason, not the postseason," said Bowden. "It means that we accomplished some things last year and that many of the players who did those things are back. A lot of it has to do with the skill position players, the high profile players we have back like Cullen Harper, James Davis, C.J. Spiller and Aaron Kelly."

Davis and Kelly are close to setting Clemson career records for rushing and receiving, respectively. Spiller led the team in all-purpose running and has a school record 10 touchdowns of 50 yards or more for his career. Harper led the ACC in passing efficiency last year when he had 27 touchdowns passes and just six interceptions.

"If the rankings motivate our players, and give them a sense of urgency to retain that ranking, then it is a good thing. But, if they see the ranking and think they have arrived, then we won¹t have the ranking for a long time."

Many of the questions on the first day surrounded the youth of his offensive line. Clemson has seven starters back on offense, but must replace four starters in the offensive line. Since 1965, Clemson has had 13 seasons in which it has had to replace four starters on the offensive line. Clemson is 79-66-4 in those 13 years, only a 54 percent winning percentage.

"We have good, talented players on our offensive line, but they are inexperienced. It is a position where you need repetition. These preseason practices will tell us how complicated we will make the assignments on offense. We don't want to put our players in a position where they are indecisive and hesitant.

"The first game against Alabama will also tell us where we are. We will be going against Nick Saban, a coach who has won the national championship. He is an outstanding coach who will have six months to prepare for our offense."

Clemson had 105 players at its first practice, including 85 on scholarship. No one missed the practice due to injury and no one left the practice due to injury. The team worked in just jerseys and shorts per NCAA rules. Clemson will be in the same gear on Saturday, then have two days in shells.

The 105 included 25 new freshmen. Xavier Brewer arrived at Clemson this week and the cornerback from Jacksonville, FL participated in the practice. All 24 scholarship student-athletes signed by the program in February are enrolled in school and practiced on Friday.

The list of student-athletes who went through practice included cornerback Haydrian Lewis, fullback Chad Diehl and quarterback Willy Korn, all of whom missed much of last year due to injury. Diehl and Korn received medical red-shirts and are freshmen this year.

The Tigers worked three hours in 94-degree temperatures. More hot weather is expected over the weekend.

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