NOTEBOOK: Tigers Get After It

CLEMSON - CUTigers.com checks in with the key players from Saturday's scrimmage to get the real scoop.

CHECKING IN WITH CULLEN: CUTigers.com caught up with QB Cullen Harper for the first time this week to get his thoughts on Saturday's scrimmage. The redshirt senior, who was named the No. 1 senior quarterback in the nation by Scout.com Friday, completed 12-of-20 passes for 140 yards a touchdown and two interceptions on the day.

But the bigger story had to do with the play of his offensive line.

"The first-team O-line played very good," he said. "I think they only gave up one sack today. They are coming together as a very solid unit for us. They are a smart group of guys and that can be underrated sometimes. They play a lot smarter than you'd think.

"Today we showed a little bit of our potential. We had some penalties here and there but we moved the ball really well today."

Harper also said the hype surrounding the arrival of freshman running back Jamie Harper, so far, has been deserved.

"He's just a big explosive back. He's got great cutting ability and he runs the ball hard and he's a lot faster than you'd think," he said.

Jamie Harper led all rushers with 36 yards on the ground on eight carries, but he also had the biggest play of the afternoon, returning a kickoff back 60 yards for the scout team.

SAM I AM: One of the more intriguing battles of preseason camp is taking place at the SAM linebacker spot, where a pair of sophomores are battling for first-team honors in Scotty Cooper and DeAndre McDaniel.

McDaniel, a reserve safety a year ago, intercepted a pass and recorded five tackles Saturday, and by most accounts has looked good in his new position through the early stages of camp.

After Saturday's scrimmage, McDaniel told CUTigers.com that even though he's still more comfortable playing as a defensive back, he's making the most of his opportunity to play closer to the line of scrimmage.

"I'm working for it. Me and Coop are both working hard right now trying to get that spot," he said. "Right now I feel I can bring more speed to the table and better coverage as well.

"But whatever gets me on the field the most I am fine with. I like to make plays period. I can blitz from either position so that's big."

McDaniel also said this year's defense has set some lofty goals when it comes to the 2008 season.

"We are shooting for being the No. 1 defense in the nation. We want two championships this year, the ACC championship and the National Championship," McDaniel said. "That's what we've been talking about and those are the goals right now."
"We are shooting for being the No. 1 defense in the nation. We want two championships this year, the ACC championship and the National Championship," he said. "That's what we've been talking about and those are the goals right now."

In case you are wondering, last year the Tigers finished No. 9 in the country in total defense, giving up just over 306 yards per game.

BACK IN ACTION: Left guard David Smith, who is competing with Jamarcus Grant for the starting spot, is finally back at full strength after dislocating is toe almost a month ago.

"I went first string, second string and goal line today," he said. "I've got a little soft cast molded to the top of my shoe so I don't have any more mishaps. It's difficult at times, and it takes a lot of patience but I handled it okay today.

"I didn't want to let the guys down out there today. They've been busting their butt all of camp and it's time for me do it too. I'm back 100 percent all the rest of the way now."

Smith also said he's seen significant improvement from Clemson's young linemen through the first nine practices of preseason camp.

"We are doing very good," he said. "We are young but we are getting better and learning a lot but so far we've been stepping it up and I think that showed out there today."

KOENNING LOOKING FOR SAFETIES: While some of the familiar names will be mentioned in many of the write ups regarding Saturday's scrimmage, the reality is many younger, more inexperienced players saw the majority of the action.

From Jamie Harper to Byron Maxwell to Sadat Chambers, the staff spent much of Saturday evaluating individual players who may or may not have a big impact on the team this coming season.

"The projected second and third-team safeties played almost the whole day," defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said. "I can go flip on last year's tape and watch Hamlin and Clemons play. We need to get them in shape but we need to find out who the other guys are."

One of the players mentioned by Tommy Bowden earlier in the day was safety Sadat Chambers, who made a big play with an interception and also led the defense with seven tackles.

Not so fast, said Koenning.

"He made an interception but he also gave up a touchdown," he said. "He's not anywhere near where I expect him to be. We need to not get back to when he wasn't doing well with me before and it comes down to concentration and attention to detail.

"The big thing I told him today, when the success of the team is more important to you than the success of you then you become the ultimate member of the team. We got to get a lot of guys to get the 'I' out of there."

Koenning said one player who he was pleased to see do well today was second team corner Byron Maxwell.

"I was excited to see Byron Maxwell make some good plays today because he's been in the dog house as far as work ethic, work habits and attention to detail. I told him while we were running those gassers he's making it hard for me from day to day because I don't need all of that."

Maxwell finished the scrimmage with five tackles.

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