What is that thermometer over there going up to 100 percent?
Bowden: That is for special teams. We are trying to get 100 points. You get points off of returns. We had 75 points last year and the goal this year is 100. We've had the most consistency with special teams through the four games this year that we've had. Andre Powell has really done a good job. We aren't necessarily spending more time on special teams but he has done a good job with meetings and it is much more coordinated and organized. [We haven't changed] personnel or anything but everything is more organized. He came up to me and asked to be the special teams coordinator before and he handled it before. So after he had been on my staff for a year to come and ask me again ... I took a poll with the fans and also the media and it was unanimous to name a special teams coordinator. [laughing] He really has forced the issue.
Cullen's production seems lower this year. Would you agree?
Bowden: I think interceptions is ahead of schedule. Going into last week's game he was ahead of schedule he was ahead in passing efficiency. Yards per attempt is higher. Touchdown passes are behind. Not really
So you don't see a big difference between last year's Cullen and this year's Cullen?
Bowden: Not really. I really don't He's got four games. Ask me again after 12 games. He's got eight left.
So is he 100 percent right now?
Bowden: His shoulder is 100 percent. Ask him.
What has happened on the four interceptions?
Bowden: One would be scheme. One would be a blind pass. One would be forced. One would be a split by his wide receiver. That's about one and a half. Gosh do I need to play another guy? Let's break this thing down and look at the tape.
Have teams studied film and picked up on tendencies you think?
Bowden: Nah not really. Not from really studying the four interceptions. No it's not the same routes. The same passes. The same situations. It may be how defenses are playing us.
The hit he took on the shoulder against Alabama was that the same one as last year?
Bowden: I don't think so. There hasn't been a lot of talk about it. He was 14-of-18 against The Citadel through for almost 70-something percent. I talk with our trainer every Sunday and it didn't get a lot of attention.
You still think he's performing at a high level?
Bowden: Yes. I'm not happy with the four interceptions.
How do you think Cullen is handling it when Willy comes in two games and the crowd is excited?
Bowden: We've talked about that before, really before last season. That has been addressed. The only thing you really can't evaluate as a player, no matter how you performed the year before and you are the ACC preseason player of the year and you let that absorb for six months- he wants to do well. It's very common- that you never know. He had a productive year last year- I wish we were undefeated but we are not. But we aren't chopped liver right now. He's doing alright. None of his statistics are embarrassing.
Where is this team right now do you think almost a month after the loss to Alabama?
Bowden: I think it's week to week. After the Alabama game, there was a physical mismatch. After that you want to win a game. I'm talking about lack of hesitation and decision on assignments. David Smith and Mason Cloy- from an assignment standpoint, from a technique standpoint and from a lack of hesitation standpoint they really played well. There was improvement. Also Landon Walker. Yes it was South Carolina State and The Citadel which is what you guys see. We see the improvement in the all the areas I mentioned. That's tremendous improvement. How much? We'll tell now that the competition is better.
Have you been pleased with your team's improved toughness over the last week?
Bowden: Yeah you can. 54-0 there is some toughness involved defensively. We still really haven't played a good game. Wake Forest last year we did. Florida State we did. N.C. State last year we did. Maryland we did. Tim has told me we've never started three redshirt freshmen since 1943 and I know that team wasn't 3-1 after four games. Toughness? I've been pleased but we'll be able to tell better after the level of competition improves. I want those guys to play better right now.
Have you ever been this uncertain about a team four games into a season?
Bowden: Probably not. Since '43 they haven't started three freshmen here. That was when Frank Howard was 27 or 28 years. It's never been done here. It's kind of uncharted waters. I know there is so much out there on the table and fortunately we've gotten this far. I have seen improvement.
What does it say that you beat two FCS teams and N.C. State and you are ranked in the top 20?
Bowden: I'm glad N.C. State won because it looks like they are better than we gave them credit for. Same thing with Alabama. We play those teams to improve young guys, improve our technique. I think we got some good out of it. I think coaches, or whoever votes in those polls, realizes that a lot of teams have good players and it's not always easy to get big wins against those schools. Nothing really surprises me that much. I may would have been more surprised four or five years ago. Nothing surprises me anymore when Appalachian State wins at Michigan. We beat a pretty good team in N.C. State.
Can you imagine what it is like to be a CEO or president who has come out and answer questions like this every day?
Bowden: I've never really thought about it like that. You know, I try to be honest as y'all as I can. But my No. 1 priority is with the team. To motivate the team. Everything I'm saying is geared to get those guys ready to play. I have a pretty solid foundation in my life. What's the most important- and that helps. You have to have thick skin
Do you ever get mad at the media?
Bowden: Not really. I really don't read the paper. I read the USA Today because I like politics. My name usually is not in there. Or a evaluation of my program.
Has the Internet made it better or worse?
Bowden: Oh yeah. Depends on if you win or lose. I think it's good. It gives the media a better format. I think it has definitely has made it worse when you can post things that aren't true and you don't have to sign your name to it.
Do you feel like your team is focused this week?
Bowden: I think we are. I thought we were focused last year before the FSU game and we were. I thought we were before Alabama and we weren't. I think we are. We'll have to find out. We'll have a pretty physical practice today. They have a 330 pound tackle, 320 pound tackle. They run the power so we have to practice like that. We'll see what they bring to the table today.
Do you bring up what happened two years ago against Maryland?
Bowden: Oh yeah. I talked about that with the team yesterday. Maryland starts 15 seniors. We don't. They have a bunch of players who have come in here and have been successful so they'll be confident. We'll see if our players are ready. But I don't have to mention two years ago because mostly everybody remembers.
Is it difficult to transition from a I-AA team to a conference team?
Bowden: Not really. No. Sometimes it's hard to get your team's attention against a FCS team.
What do you know about the Maryland defense?
Bowden: It's an odd stack. They've got two linebackers there and a weak-side linebacker moving around then a safety comes down and it starts changing all of your protections because you don't know if the safety is going blitz because of a difference by two feet. That's what they do to make it complicated. Just the movement of two feet... do they have two linebackers or three linebackers and then the safety is spinning down. Plus they've got eight seniors on defense. If they are running the ball and we can't slow them down and they have it all game, it's going to be a long day.
Is it hard to grab your team's focus considering how up and down Maryland has been, but especially when they lost to Middle Tennessee State?
Bowden: It's getting to be that way in college football altogether. What motivates your team you don't know. They lost to Middle Tennessee State and then they dominated California. I'm sure Maryland will look at us and say they were blown out by Alabama beat two I-AA opponents. Their players will come in with some preconceived notions just like ours will. As a staff you have to keep your players level-headed and not read too much into a win or loss.
Have you talked to [Middle Tennessee State head coach] Rick Stockstill about what he did?
Bowden: I don't think so. I know one of our coaches have talked to Willie Simmons who coaches up there. He said, "Oh yeah we beat them. Now you've got to play 'em."
What did Middle Tennessee State do offensively against Maryland?
Bowden: They ran the spread. They were mostly four wide outs. They were very little under center. Shotgun- one back, four wide outs.
In 2006, was it more of a motivational thing or something Maryland did to beat you?
Bowden: It was 13-12 ... we had a touchdown called back because we had 10 guys on the field. I don't remember. It was a typical conference game in what we face to week to week. You better bring your A-game or you are going to lose.
Do you think Maryland has a better feel for its program than you do right now for Clemson because they've beaten a ranked team?
Bowden: I think they have a better feel for doing that. Maryland has beaten one and beaten one rather significantly. Just pure raw statistical data- they've beaten one and we haven't.
What are your thoughts on Darrius Heyward-Bey?
Bowden: Some of the pro scouts think he's going to be the top receiver in the conference in terms of being able to play in the NFL. I think they have the leading rusher in the ACC.
What do you say to the fans who were booing Cullen Harper and then cheering Korn as he came into the game?
Bowden: I haven't heard a lot of booing this year. I got off the field pretty quick against Alabama. I haven't heard a bunch of fans. They always cheer for the second quarterback, like Willy did.
Tommy Bowden's Press Conference
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