Thursday Practice Notebook

CLEMSON - Clemson coach Tommy Bowden is just like any coach when he enters a game, he wants to get off to a good start.

But how important really is it?

Two weeks ago, the 20th-ranked Tigers fell behind 6-0 when N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving returned Cullen Harper's first pass of the game back for the Wolfpack's lone touchdown. Clemson responded with a 76-yard drive on its next possession and then rolled to a 7-6 victory.

"You would like to get off to a good start, bust gosh if we don't, I sure don't want them going and tanking it on me with 57 minutes left in the game," Bowden said following Thursday's practice.

But the Tigers (3-1, 1-0 ACC) slow start two years ago against Maryland in a noon game in Death Valley did cost them. Clemson struggled offensively, especially in the red zone as it settled for four Jad Dean field goals.

The crowd was never in the game and the atmosphere in and around Memorial Stadium that day was dull to say the least. Maryland (3-1, 0-0) rallied with a last second field goal for a 13-12 win.

But those are things Bowden said he can't worry himself with. He has to make sure his squad understands that no matter how the game starts, they still have a lot of football to play before it is over.

"That's not how I coach it," he said. "I just got through talking to them. Nothing is going to happen the first couple of minutes in the game that is going to determine the outcome of the game.

"It is going to be 70 plays, 60 minutes and four quarters. If they break a punt or score and you are down 7-0, well gosh, there is 60 plays left in the game."

Are we talking about practice? Bowden said practice has been spirited all week, which he believes might have something to do with the fact the coaches had to take the pads off a day earlier than usual.

Maners to start. Senior punter Jimmy Maners will get the start for Clemson against Maryland. Bowden said he has played well the last two games and has done nothing to lose that status to freshman Dawson Zimmerman.

With that said, Bowden says the competition between the two is still good and he will not red shirt Zimmerman.

Maners is averaging 44.2 yards a punt with a net of 36.5 through the first four games. Zimmerman is averaging just over 40 yards and 34 net so far.

Injuries. Left tackle Chris Hairston (knee) is questionable, left guard Jamarcus Grant (shoulder) is questionable, linebacker Stanley Hunter (ankle) is questionable, defensive tackle Antwon Murchison (hamstring) is out and left guard David Smith (ankle) is out for Saturday's game.

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