Familiar Faces

CLEMSON - The Tigers and S.C. State will face off for the first time ever Saturday in Death Valley, but Tiger fans will recognize many of the players on the Bulldogs' roster.

Do the names Julius Wilkerson, Phillip Morris, Travil Jamison and Malcolm Long ring a bell?

They should, as each current Bulldog was recruited by Clemson to some extent within the last three years. Wilkerson was actually committed to Clemson for quite some time and Morris even signed with the Tigers in Feb. 2005.

In addition, S.C. State defensive end Xavier Littleberry actually played for the Tigers for a season before transferring to Orangeburg three years ago.

And the intertwining of Clemson and S.C. State don't end there.

Current Clemson tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Billy Napier was an offensive coordinator at S.C. State and linebackers coach David Blackwell has a brother, Joe Blackwell, who is the offensive line coach/running game coordinator with the Bulldogs as well.

"Billy Napier talked to the team yesterday because he just coached there [at S.C. State] recently," head coach Tommy Bowden told the media Tuesday. "And yes there are familiar names. Macolm Long, Phillip Morris, there was an offensive guard [we recruited] and Julius Wilkerson.

"I'm a lot more familiar with the players they have compared to The Citadel. We also came close to recruiting Markee Hamlin."

Blackwell said while coaching against his brother, who is 11 months older than him, is somewhat unusual, he's not especially looking forward to the matchup.

"It's different," he said. "Having been here six years now and being through this with Tommy and his father it's not something you enjoy a whole lot because come Saturday, somebody is having a bad weekend. Even after our games I'm watching on the computer to see how they are doing so I don't like to see them lose.

"But I haven't seen him since vacation at the clinic in Charleston before the season started so it will be good to see him."

And if that wasn't enough, senior safety Mike Hamlin has two brothers- that's right two brothers, Markee and Marquais, who play for the Bulldogs.

Markee led the team in tackles (51) and interceptions (5) last season and was a big reason why S.C. State finished the year 15th in passing defense in the FCS, 22nd in scoring defense and seventh in total defense.

"I remember when we first found out we were playing S.C. State, their coach texted Markee while he was at the mall," Hamlin said. "He was really excited because Clemson is one of the places he's always wanted to play.

"I wish we could line up against each other but he wouldn't want to do that anyway because I'm the bigger hitter."

CLOSER LOOK AT S.C. STATE: It goes without saying S.C. State has elevated its recruiting in recent years and nowhere is that evident more than looking at those four players who were all FBS prospects but needed additional work academically to qualify.

Add in former Auburn running back Anthony Campbell who transferred to Orangeburg during the offseason, and S Markee Hamlin, brother of Clemson safety Michael Hamlin, and you have a team that has plenty of talent to attack its 2008 schedule.

Last year, the Bulldogs actually faced off with two teams from the FBS- Air Force and South Carolina for the first time in school history.

While it was a sizeable payday for their athletic department and great publicity, S.C. State only managed to score two field goals in the two games, losing 34-3 to the Falcons and 38-3 to the Gamecocks.

This year the Bulldogs had much more success against their only FCS opponent so far, when the battled Central Florida and trailed only 7-0 after three quarters before falling 17-0 in the first week of the season.

S.C. State lost to the Golden Knights, before rebounding the following week in a 42-3 win over Benedict. The Bulldogs tehn beat Bethune-Cookman 28-19 a week ago. Offensively, the Bulldogs are paced by a handful of players with FCS talent- including Long, Jamison and others but the key is RB William Ford. Last year as a sophomore he ran 210 times for 1,433 yards and four touchdowns and he is currently on track for even better numbers this season.

In fact he was named the MEAC player of the week last week for his performance last week when he rushed 28 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns.

"He's a guy that can run the 100 meters in 10.5 seconds," said Clemson defensive coordinator. "Our guys aren't sleeping a lot after watching him on film."

State averaged a respectable 26.7 points in 2007 and has averaged over 30 points in its last two games this season, but it is the defense that was the biggest reason the Bulldogs won seven games have jumped out to a 2-1 start in 2008.

Defensive back Markee Hamlin is one of the top defensive backs in the MEAC after recording 51 tackles and five interceptions a year ago.

Bandit Marshall McFadden is also a workhorse who should be a major factor in the Bulldogs' defensive plans this season.

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