Sunday, August 31, 2003

In the aftermath, media negativity explodes

Virtually every press account of Saturday's 30-0 whipping by Georgia was unrelentingly negative. Here goes:

THE GAME STORY: "Smashed in the mouth," says The State; "Dawgs' Day Afternoon," says The Greenville News; "Georgia deals Clemson shutout," says the Anderson Independent-Mail; "Tigers scoreless against rival in home opener," says the Charlotte Observer (and by default every other Knight-Ridder paper in the country); "Georgia shuts out Clemson," says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and "Clemson no match for high-flying Bulldogs," says the Athens Banner-Herald, which also had the best lead for its game story:

Georgia's thrown-together defense threw Clemson all over the field Saturday, powering the No. 11 Bulldogs to a rousing season-opening win and emptying Death Valley of all but the angriest fans.

That pretty much sums it up.

THE STATS: Here's a complete statistical summary of the game.

GAME ANALYSIS: The ridiculous play-calling of coach Tommy Bowden gets raked over the coals here, and Bowden's shaky job status is explored in this column by The Greenville News' Bart Wright. The killer lines:

He called all the plays, and when he walked off the field, he carried the offensive burden with him on his shoulders.

For this, he will always remember his 50th game as Clemson head coach, and for this, and others like it, the odds are extremely long that he will be around for another 50.

Or even another year. There is no controversy on this matter. Without a major turnaround in the next three months, Tommy Bowden will be out of a job.

Augusta Chronicle columnist Scott Michaux writes about the potential psychic damage the loss could wreak on the Tigers:

You can preach all you want about opening games and long seasons, but Clemson took Saturday's crushing 30-0 loss to Georgia like it was a death sentence in Death Valley.

"We're not going to recover from this," said senior linebacker John Leake, the man who labeled this a must-win for the Tigers just five days before. "It's going to be in the back of our heads all year long."

Clemson players have had to live with one gut-wrenching defeat after another the past two years. But their worst defeat since their last defeat eight months ago seemed particularly deflating.

Ken Burger of the Charleston Post & Courier continues the death-penalty theme:

Now in his fifth season at Clemson, the consensus is that Bowden's job is on the line this season.

But as the orange throng started departing the stadium in the waning minutes here Saturday, that big goose egg on the scoreboard began to look a lot like a noose around Bowden's neck.

Other than the dangling participle in the first sentence, that's a good point.

The Anderson Independent-Mail also has a piece on superstar defensive back Justin Miller getting badly burned by Georgia receiver Fred Gibson (that's also discussed here), and another story on the Tigers' offensive ineptitude. (More on the poor performance in the running game is here and here.)

THE PUKING INCIDENT: The State's Ron Morris leads off his column with it, and it's the lead item in this notebook from the Anderson Independent-Mail.

NEXT WEEK: Clemson hosts Division I-AA Furman, which defeated Elon 24-7. On paper, this should be an easy win for the Tigers, but, as ESPN's Kenny Mayne says, they don't play games on paper, they play them inside little TV sets. (Except for this one, which won't be televised, so I guess they'll play it inside little radios.)

But Clemson has got to be emotionally crushed after such a humiliating loss. It's within the realm of possibility that the Paladins could pull an upset. If that happens, you can be sure Bowden will be gone by the following Monday.

And then what?

ACC ROUNDUP: Virginia rolled over Duke 27-0 Saturday, but Matt Schaub, the Cavaliers' Heisman candidate quarterback, injured his shoulder early in the first quarter and didn't return. He'll undergo tests today to determine whether he'll be able to play next week at South Carolina. (Speaking of the Gamecocks, they squeaked out a 14-7 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. Not a very impressive win.)

Florida State thumped North Carolina 37-0 (good), Wake Forest upset Boston College 32-28, and N.C. State crushed Western Carolina 59-20.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

(UPDATED at 2 02 a.m. Sunday after several Bass Ales)

Bowden suffers first shutout -- and the grumbling grows

Pathetic. Disgraceful. Simply awful. Pick any aspect of Saturday's game, and it's a safe bet Clemson sucked at it. I'm sure that includes the halftime show, and running down The Hill, too. (In fact, according to the posters on the Tigernet message boards, it does include running down The Hill.)

Some lowlights: Timid, ineffectual, and occasionally stupid play-calling -- "100 percent" of it allegedly the work of coach Tommy Bowden. A nearly absent offensive line. All-star cornerback Justin Miller getting burned -- badly -- on a 56-yard touchdown pass. A missed field goal that looked like it came off the toe of a junior-high kicker wearing corrective shoes. (I can say that because I used to wear corrective shoes.)

Hell, our center even puked on the football at one point, resulting in a fumble.

Hold on a minute. PUKED ON THE FOOTBALL!?!? According to Google, those words have never appeared together in the same sentence in the entire history of the Internet. (However, if you Google "puked on the ball," you stumble across this gem and a story about rugby, where puking on the ball is probably accepted -- encouraged, even. Then again, a Google search for "vomited on the ball" produces a couple of hits, as does "threw up on the ball." All of the links seem to involve Donovan McNabb. What can I say? I haven't followed pro football for several years. I gotta work Sundays.)

Sigh. Anyway.........Tigernet's Dan Scott sums it up best:

All in all, the Tigers hardly looked like a team which had been preparing for this game since spring practice began last March.

All in all, no kidding.

You know that positive stuff I've been posting about Clemson for the past month? I take it all back.

I'm going to soak my sorrows in Bass Ale tonight, and I'll post links to the media blood-letting on Sunday. (Unless I puke on the keyboard. All bets are off if that happens.) Until then, here are some positive-spinning notebook items from the SID's office. Yay.

Dogs, Tigers meet for 62nd time today

There's not much more that needs to be said. Kickoff is at noon. The game is on ABC. Go Tigers!

GAME PREVIEWS: Tigernet's Dan Scott (and another story by Scott), Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Greenville News, Charlotte Observer, Myrtle Beach Sun News.

OTHER PREGAME STORIES: The State looks at how the Tigers will try to defend against Georgia defensive end David Pollack. There's also a brief injury report, and a short Q&A with receiver Michael Collins.

The Greenville News takes a softer approach, focusing on the pregame excitement felt by Justin Miller and Charlie Whitehurst, as well as a fan's eye view of the impact of the Georgia game.

FOLLOW IT ON THE NET: The official Clemson site will have live coverage of today's game, including constantly updated stats and a direct feed of the Clemson radio network, where announcer Jim Phillips will be calling his 400th game.

Friday, August 29, 2003

(UPDATED at 4:10 p.m. Friday; scroll down for new items)

Currie bumps Hamilton from starting lineup

Receiver Airese Currie has been given the starting job over Derrick Hamilton for Saturday's Georgia game, according to this story. It says a lot about Clemson's depth at receiver that Hamilton, who had an ACC-leading 1,883 all-purpose yards in 2002 (the fifth-most in league history), can't crack the starting lineup for one of the biggest games in recent memory (though I'm sure he'll see plenty of action Saturday).

SOMETHING SPECIAL NEEDED: Clemson's special teams must play better to defeat Georgia this year, according to this story. If special teams had done their job last year, the Tigers probably would have beaten the Dogs.

MYSTERIES ABOUND: What will Clemson's newly revamped offense look like when it hits the field Saturday? There are some hints, but no one is saying anything definite.

ON THE ODDS: John Brasier of the Anderson Independent Mail spins a column off the current line for the Clemson-Georgia game (the Dogs are only favored by 2.5 points, down from 9 several days ago).

THE BROTHERS HOWARD: The State has a story on the Howards: Clemson defensive end J.J., and Georgia linebacker Marcus.

SWAMI SAYS: Columnist Ron Morris of The State predicts an 8-4 season for both Clemson and South Carolina.

LET'S MEET LIONEL: Here's another Anderson Independent Mail Q&A with a Clemson player. Today, it's linebacker Lionel Richardson.

BACK TO ANDERSON: Clemson's players and coaches will spend the night in Anderson before home games, an old tradition that has returned.

COLUMNIST BITES DOGS: Augusta Chronicle sportswriter Scott Michaux says he doesn't understand why Georgia is favored in Saturday's games. He thinks Georgia's rash of injuries and suspensions could clear the way for a Clemson victory.

VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE: The Athens Banner-Herald has a nice package of pre-game stories today. There's a profile of Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, a quick look at the keys to the game for both teams, a column that takes a historical perspective on the Clemson-Georgia rivalry, and a short item on Esso Club fan Brent Musberger's return to Death Valley.

LOTS OF QUESTIONS: The State's Ken Tysiac has answered at least nine questions since I last blogged about his forum feature. Check 'em out.

ACC ROUNDUP: Well, well, well. Maryland, one of the ACC's "teams of the future" or "programs on the rise" or something like that, lost in overtime Thursday night at Northern Illinois. (Fanblogs has more.) Enjoy next week's trip to Tallahassee, Ralph.

Meanwhile, Georgia Tech lost 24-13 at BYU on Thursday. (No real surprise there.) The Jackets host Auburn next week.

And here's a quick preview of Saturday's other ACC games.

CU/GEORGIA MEMORIES: The official Clemson site has posted video highlights of 1990's 34-3 Clemson victory over Georgia. Give 'em a look.

ACC EXPANSION: I found this one on the Tigernet message board. Here's a column from Charlie Barnes, the executive director of Seminole Boosters, on the ACC's addition of Miami and Virginia Tech. It's a bit long, but it's a helluva read. Who knew a booster-club president could write so eloquently?

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Pressure builds on Bowden, Richt

Tommy Bowden and Mark Richt, the coaches for Clemson and Georgia, are feeling job pressure, but for different reasons, according to this story. Bowden has been under fire for what Clemson fans perceive as mediocre results during his four-year tenure, while Richt is under the gun because of an off-season that saw Georgia's lineup decimated by injuries and suspensions.

BOWDEN IN CONTROL: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tony Barnhart reports that Clemson's head coach will call "100 percent" of the plays Saturday:

What Georgia will see on Saturday will be more I-formation and more smash-mouth football than Clemson fans have seen previously under Bowden. Bottom line: After going 7-5 and 7-6 the past two seasons, Bowden is tightening the reins on this program. Clemson needs a big win, and so does he.

He certainly does.

VETERANS WON'T START: Defensive back Toure Francis and linebacker Eric Sampson apparently were unable to regain their starting jobs in the preseason.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: On Saturday, Clemson's defense will have to come up with a good plan to contain Georgia's quarterback tandem of D.J. Shockley and David Greene. Shockley is more of a runner; Greene is the patient passer who threw for 22 touchdowns last season.

"When they have Greene in there, we're going to be more free with our blitzes and rushes," senior defensive end J.J. Howard said. "More stunts will be run, but when Shockley is in the game, we have to be more technique sound. Keeping our containment and not get out of our lanes. We have to be a lot sharper with Shockley in the game."

Please do.

THE POLLACK PROBLEM: Meanwhile, Clemson's bigger-but-untested offensive line will have to figure out what to do with Georgia's All-American defensive end David Pollack.

NO MORE GEORGIA: Here's another story about the scheduling problems that won't allow for many Clemson-Georgia games in the future.

CU/GEORGIA MEMORIES: The official Clemson site has posted video highlights of the 1987 Clemson-Georgia game, a 21-20 win for the Tigers -- another classic that I was lucky enough to attend. Just like in 1986, David Treadwell kicked the winning field goal in the dying seconds. By the way, you can watch the '87 game today at 4 p.m. on ESPN Classic. That's proceeded at 2 p.m. by the 1983 CU-Georgia contest. On Friday, see the 1986 and 1984 Tiger-Dog clashes at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively.

Additionally, there's a very good story on the 1977 Clemson-Georgia game, a tough 7-6 victory for the Tigers in Athens that was one of the program's landmark wins.

I was there that day with my father. I remember it was rainy and humid, and the game was a fairly boring defensive struggle. I was only 11 years old, and other than the big win over a ranked team, I remember the hundreds of Georgia fans who got a free look at the game from two vantage points: the road bridge behind one end zone and the ridge with the railroad tracks running across it behind the other. At one point during the game, a train came through, forcing those folks to get out of the way. Georgia has massively expanded Sanford Stadium since then, and both free-viewing spots are now hidden by stands. But it was kind of neat.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Bowden holds first press conference of the 2003 season

The weekly get-together with the media on Tuesday generated plenty of stories. Here goes.

BOWDEN STEPS UP: Coach Tommy Bowden says the embarrassing loss to Texas Tech in the Tangerine Bowl has pushed him to become more involved in every aspect of the football program. He was forced to "get different," and we'll see whether that approach pays off Saturday against No. 9 Georgia.

REDEMPTION SONG: That's what Clemson hopes to be singing after a victory against Georgia. According to this story, last season's heartbreaking loss in Athens set the tone for a mediocre season.

SHORT-YARDAGE IMPROVEMENT: Offensive line coach Ron West believes that the Tigers will be able to get those two- and three-yard gains that so often eluded them last season.

LINE 'EM UP: This story focuses on defensive linemen Donnell Washington and Eric Coleman, who, along with the rest of the line, have been under pressure in preseason workouts to bring it up a notch or two.

WHITEHURST A COOL CUSTOMER: Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, a Georgia native, says he's not angry that he wasn't strongly recruited by the Bulldogs while in high school. But it's definitely been on his mind.

BALANCE: That's what Bowden says he's seeking on offense -- equal effectiveness whether running or passing.

DOGS' WOES: They're hurting all over, and they have a brand-new offensive line. I smell an upset.

IT'S NATHAN TIME: Here's a Q&A with offensive lineman Nathan Bennett. Check it out.

CU/GEORGIA MEMORIES: Check out video highlights of the 1986 game, a 31-28 Clemson victory in Sanford Stadium, right here.

NOTEBOOK TIME: The State's notebook leads off with the importance of the Clemson-Georgia game (duh), and includes an item on receiver Curtis Baham's application for pre-trial intervention on a charge of simple marijuana possession. The Greenville News' notebook leads with Baham's legal troubles. Other items include Toure Francis and Eric Sampson having to work their way back into starting jobs (echoed in the Anderson Independent Mail's notebook), plus a run-down of freshmen who could see playing time against Georgia.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Will the running game work?

The talk of Clemson's off-season practices has been the push to shore up an anemic running game, especially in short-yardage situations. Tiger fans will find out Saturday if that work has paid off, but here's a look at what they can expect. (Here's another look.) For example, Duane Coleman is slated to start at tailback.

TOMMY SPEAKS: Coach Tommy Bowden held his first in-season press conference Tuesday. Here are the relevant quotes. I'll post newspaper accounts Wednesday.

McCLINTON TO MISS SEASON: Defensive tackle Todd McClinton, who has been suffering from mysterious seizures, has been ordered not to play football for six months until the source of his fainting spells has been discovered.

DOGS BITTEN: The State has a story about Georgia's wave of preseason injuries, and Clemson's relative lack of the same.

TIGERS MOTIVATED: Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes about Clemson's huge expectations for Saturday's game.

CLICK 'HOWARD'S ROCK': Be sure to check out The State's new Clemson-themed Web page, Howard's Rock. It's pretty spiffy, and it's loaded with content.

There's a season preview for both Clemson and South Carolina posted here; a story on how the fifth year has been a big one for the Bowden coaching family; an article about coach Tommy Bowden assuming more play-calling responsibilities this season (and a short story on Bowden's call in the 2000 victory over South Carolina that produced Rod Gardner's memorable reception); 10 questions about Clemson's upcoming season; and a feature on the diversification of all-star cornerback Justin Miller here.

CU/GA MEMORIES: The official Clemson site has highlights from the 1983 Clemson-Georgia game, which ended in a 16-16 tie. The last seconds of the game saw both teams unsuccessfully attempt back-to-back 60-plus-yard field goals in order to break the deadlock. (That's another great game my father and I attended.)

THIS IS YOUR CHANSI: The Anderson Independent Mail introduces readers to backup quarterback Chansi Stuckey. Give it a look.

TIGER GREAT DIES: Billy Hair, a tailback for Frank Howard whom my father saw play at Clemson, died Sunday. He was 74.

'RITES' REVIEWED, KIND OF: The State has a semi-review of Bragging Rites, the documentary on the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry. Check it out.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Countdown to Georgia game begins

There was no practice Sunday, and with the showdown against No. 9 Georgia just five days away, media outlets produced a few feature-type stories.

INFORMATION OVERLOAD: Clemson's sports information department has posted the depth chart for the 2003 season, and Tigernet tells us who moved where. In addition, there's the voluminous pregame notes for the Georgia game. (PDF required.) And here's a nice side-by-side chart of information about Clemson and Georgia -- depth charts, rosters, pregame notes and statistics for both teams.

CU/UGA MEMORIES: Clemson's official Web site will be posting video highlights from great Clemson-Georgia games of the past. Today, it's the 1981 game, a 13-3 Clemson victory that was the springboard for the Tigers' national championship season.

I was there that day. I remember going into the stadium a couple of hours before kickoff and standing by Georgia's team bus as the players disembarked. The legendary Herschel Walker, a player I greatly admired despite his choice of uniform, was the first one off. I'll never forget what happened next. He eyeballed me, cracked a slight grin and tossed off a friendly, countrified "What's up?" For a 15-year-old boy, it was pure heaven -- but the Tigers' victory was so much sweeter.

And The Greenville News reminisces about the 1986 Clemson-Georgia game, which ended in a memorable 31-28 Clemson victory. David Treadwell kicked a 46-yard field goal in the dying seconds to lift the Tigers to the win in Sanford Stadium.

Here's a video clip of Treadwell's kick. And don't forget, the 1986 Clemson-Georgia game will be shown Friday on ESPN Classic at 3 p.m., followed at 5 p.m. by the 1984 CU-Georgia contest.

STAYING FRESH: The State has an interesting story on Clemson's new preseason regimen. The Tigers have fresher legs this year because the coaching staff moved back the date of a mandatory conditioning test.

ANSWER MAN: The State's Ken Tysiac poses five questions for the Tigers, and keeps answering queries from fans.

A FAMILY AFFAIR: Clemson defensive end J.J. Howard will have a family reunion of sorts in Saturday's game. His brother, Marcus Howard, is a linebacker for Georgia.

HELLO, CURTIS: The Anderson Independent Mail continues its profiles of Clemson players. Today, it's receiver Curtis Baham. Check it out.

SHRINKING ODDS: As of 11:43 a.m. Monday, Georgia was favored by about 3 points against Clemson. A couple of weeks ago, the Dogs were favored by 9.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Whitehurst slowed in practice by bruise

Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst took it easy during Saturday's practice because of a bruise (this report says it's a thumb injury), but he should be back to full speed for Monday afternoon's session.

FEWER GET HURT: Speaking of injuries, here's another story on how the Tigers have avoided serious injuries during the preseason.

END OF AN ERA: I know we've heard this before, but The Augusta Chronicle has a story about why this year's Clemson-Georgia game could really, really be the last one:

From Georgia's standpoint, playing eight SEC games isn't the only problem. The Bulldogs have traditionally played Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., which limits their home games to six per year in an 11-game season.

So playing Clemson in a home-and-home series would mean just five games at Sanford Stadium when the Bulldogs visit the Tigers. And it's a good bet that isn't going to happen.

And with the ACC's expansion to 11 teams next season, it will be more difficult for Clemson to fit Georgia into its schedule. It's as simple as that.

HALL MONITOR: The Anderson Independent Mail has a good profile on tight end Ben Hall, who had considered transferring in the spring.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Linebacker Leroy Hill is the latest player profiled by the Anderson Independent Mail. Check it out.

GOOD SOD, MAN: The field at Death Valley (it's officially known as Frank Howard Field) is in better shape than it was last year, according to this report.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Crosby is now officially 'acclimated'

Receiver Roscoe Crosby has completed his mandatory 5-day acclimation period, and coach Tommy Bowden says he will probably see some action against Georgia on Aug. 30.

SIMMONS OK'D BY NCAA: Former Clemson quarterback Willie Simmons has been cleared by the NCAA to play for The Citadel. Thank God that's over.

BENNETT TO START: Redshirt freshman Nathan Bennett will start at right guard for the Georgia game.

HERE'S BOBBY: The Anderson Independent Mail continues its Q&A series with Clemson players. Today, it's tight end Bobby Williamson. Check it out.

DAMAGED DOGS: The Greenville News examines Georgia's injury problems as the Dogs prepare for next week's season opener at Clemson.

QUESTIONABLE: The State's Ken Tysiac has more questions and answers posted. Give them a look.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Crosby gets some first-team work

Minor injuries to other players allowed receiver Roscoe Crosby to practice with the first team Thursday. Coach Tommy Bowden said Crosby ran well, but was a little rusty in his pass-catching technique.

ROLLING IN RECEIVERS: Everyone knows Clemson is loaded at that position. But didn't the Tigers spend spring and fall practice trying to improve the running game? The Charleston Post and Courier asks Bowden what he's got in mind:

"We've got a very talented group of wide receivers and I think Charlie Whitehurst is a very good quarterback," Bowden said. "It would be dumb on our parts to ignore one of the strengths of our team. We'll still throw the ball. But I think to get where we want to go, we've got to be able to run the ball. We have to be productive in both areas."

Bowden said Clemson's opponents will dictate much of the Tigers' play calling this season.

"If (the defense) has eight or nine guys at the line of scrimmage trying to stop the run, then we're going to throw the ball more," Bowden said. "If they've got eight or nine guys in coverage, then we're going to run it. Whatever the defense gives us is what we're going to take. That's why we've got to be able to be productive running and throwing the ball."

Sounds like a plan.

WHO GETS TO START: The battle for a starting job between cornerbacks Toure Francis and Tye Hill is so close, Bowden says he won't be making a final decision until 48 hours before the Georgia game.

FOUNTAINS OF DUANE: The Anderson Independent Mail introduces you to sophomore running back Duane Coleman. Stop by and say hi.

LEAKE ON BUTKUS LIST: Clemson linebacker John Leake is a preseason Butkus Award candidate. Congratulations, John.

NO REDSHIRT FOR YOU: Freshman offensive linemen Brandon Pilgrim and Marion Dukes have played so well in fall practice that they won't be redshirted.

THAT'S THE TICKET: The Clemson-Georgia game is officially sold out. No surprise here.

PACKMAN'S COMING: The Southern Fried Football Tour, a fun promotion run by Charlotte radio personality Mark Packer (son of longtime basketball broadcaster Billy Packer), is coming to Tigertown for the Aug. 30 Clemson-Georgia game. They'll return for the Nov. 15 Florida State contest, and will roll into Columbia on Nov. 22 for the South Carolina game.

KEEP 'EM COMING: The State's Ken Tysiac has new questions posted. Check it out.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Sloppy scrimmage marks start of Georgia preparations

Mistakes and penalties abounded in Wednesday's scrimmage in Death Valley.

"It was real ragged," coach Tommy Bowden said. "It wasn�t real sharp. I would have liked it be more sharp. We would have lost the game today."

The offense took the opening drive 80 yards over 15 plays but was aided twice when the defense jumped offsides after third-down sacks. According to Bowden, the defense was offsides five times in the first 25 plays.

"We�re going to be fine, but that effort was bad," defensive coordinator John Lovett said. "They kids just didn�t feel like playing today. I know when they play Georgia they�re going to be excited. But when you�re playing another team, you might not be as excited and that�s when you have to have the concentration to play."

It's a little discouraging to read something like this, but I guess it happens. Perhaps the players are getting tired after a couple of weeks of hard work.

PLAYER PROFILED: The Anderson Independent Mail has another player Q&A. Today's subject is kicker Jad Dean.

MORE ON KICKING: There also are a couple of stories on punter Cole Chason, who is feeling the pressure to improve on Clemson's abysmal punting record over the past couple of seasons:

The Tigers� 29.7-yard net punting average last season was 113th out of 117 Division I-A teams. (Wynn) Kopp averaged 37.1 yards per punt, which was Clemson�s worst individual mark since 1991 and the second lowest over the past 27 years.

Opponents had better average starting field position than Clemson in seven of 12 games last season. In N.C. State�s 38-6 rout of the Tigers ... the Wolfpack�s starting average field position was its own 42-yard line.

With statistics like that, there's nowhere to go but up.

WHITEHURST PROFILED: Tony Barnhart of Atlanta Journal Constitution and ESPN fame writes about the cool leadership displayed by Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Check it out.

SLOW TICKET SALES: Clemson is projected to sell 55,300 season tickets this season. That's down from the 56,808 sold last season. (My dad is among those who chose not to re-up.) But then again, the athletic department raised prices, so revenues are up.

REFRESHING NEW RULES: Apparently, Clemson's players like the NCAA's new rules regarding preseaon practice.

HE'S GOT THE ANSWERS: The State's Ken Tysiac is still answering questions from Clemson fans. New ones are posted here.

WE'RE PICKED SIXTH: Fanblogs picks Clemson to go 6-6 and finish sixth in the ACC. Personally, I think we'll win at least seven games, and we could win nine with a little luck.

HURTIN' DAWGS: The injuries keep piling up for Georgia. Starting defensive end Will Thompson is gone for the year.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Training camp update: Preseason workouts end

Clemson moved into game-preparation mode Tuesday with the end of preseason practice. Beginning with today's scrimmage at Death Valley, coach Tommy Bowden says the focus is clearly on the Aug. 30 home opener against No. 9 Georgia:

"After Wednesday the pegs will be in the holes. We will be in preparation for Georgia and we should have most of the starting spots determined. There probably will be some battles that won't be decided until next Thursday, but Wednesday is the last scrimmage opportunity to make a statement."

I can't wait for the 30th.

WAKE-UP CALL FOR LEAKE: Linebacker John Leake says new linebackers coach David Blackwell is pushing him to play better by threatening to yank his starting job. Seems like it worked, too.

MEET DEJUAN POLK: The Anderson Independent Mail continues its series on lesser-known Tigers. Here's a Q&A with defensive tackle DeJuan Polk.

DON'T JINX IT: This story discusses how the Tigers have avoided major injuries in the preseason (unlike Georgia, which has been decimated). Damn it, don't they know you're not supposed to write anything like this when things are going well?

SEASON PREVIEW: The Greenville News apparently published its big football preview section the other day. Stories on Clemson are here and here.

NOTEBOOK TIME: This one from the Greenville News features an item on massive defensive tackle Donnell Washington, who has yet to play up to his potential. And this one from The State leads with Bowden urging Washington to play as hard as DeJuan Polk.

ASK AND RECEIVE: The State's Ken Tysiac keeps answering questions. Give them a look.

TV FLASHBACKS: Get your VCRs ready, because Clemson is going to be all over ESPN Classic in the next two weeks.

First off, the 1999 "Bowden Bowl" game between Clemson and Florida State airs today at 5 p.m. ET. That's another game I attended that ended in a tough loss. Another close, tough defeat, last season's Clemson-Georgia game (a so-called "Instant Classic"), airs on Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 3 p.m. ET.

On Thursday, Aug. 28, the 1983 Clemson-Georgia game, which ended in a 16-16 tie, airs at 2 p.m. ET, followed by the thrilling 1987 Clemson-Georgia contest, which the Tigers won 21-20. I was at both of those as well. If I remember correctly, the '83 game was the one where both teams attempted 60-plus-yard field goals in the final seconds.

And there are TWO MORE classic CU-Georgia games on Friday, Aug. 29. The 1986 game, a 31-28 Tiger victory, is on at 3 p.m. It's followed at 5 p.m. by the 1984 contest, a 26-23 loss.

I didn't go to the '86 game, but my father and I attended the '84 meeting in Athens, and we got an up-close and personal look at Georgia fans in their native habitat. I was wearing shorts that day and had a huge bandage on my leg from a big scrape. I'd acquired it playing soccer in a P.E. class on the artificial turf at Appalachian State, my alma mater. (In a side note, Bob Pollack, Clemson's great track coach, was my instructor. He was at ASU then.)

Anyway, as we were leaving Sanford Stadium, I must have had 20 drunken rednecks gleefully point out my bandage with some variation of "looks like you got you a big dog bite there, boy!" God, they were obnoxious. We endured much more taunting on the walk to the car, and got the bird flipped at us a few times by the overalls-wearing hicks who lined the highway back to I-85. Very nice. I guess that's sportsmanship and Southern hospitality, Clarke County style.

Yes, I hate Georgia. But I'll still watch the 1980 Georgia-Florida game at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23., on ESPN Classic. The Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott touchdown pass in the dying seconds is one of the great moments in college football history, as was Georgia radio man Larry Munson's unforgettable "Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!" call.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Training camp update: Crosby takes it slow

Clemson receiver Roscoe Crosby, who hasn't played a down with the team since the 2001 Humanitarian Bowl, practiced with the Tigers on Monday. (Here's The State's take, and the story from the Greenville News.) Crosby worked out in shorts and a helmet on Monday, which was the final day of two-a-days.

Wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney said Crosby reported in "decent shape" and will work at the player�s pace to make sure he is comfortable. Crosby has missed two weeks of installation in the offense � he said the terminology is not much different from 2001 � and believes the mental part of the game will be the toughest adjustment.

"He�s raw. He�s just kind of an athlete running around right now," Swinney said. "We�ve got to get him polished into a receiver again, and get him to know where he�s going, when he�s supposed to be there and what he�s supposed to do when he gets there so he can play fast."

Crosby will begin by playing at his old "X" position behind Kevin Youngblood, Curtis Baham and Kelvin Grant. First, Crosby must go through a five-day acclimation period required by the NCAA. By the time it is complete, Clemson will be into game-day preparation for the Aug. 30 opener against Georgia.

Crosby said he hopes to get in sync by the third game, Sept. 13 against Middle Tennessee.

Good to have you back, Roscoe.

NCAA LABYRINTH: The State's Ron Morris writes a column about the medical absence waiver granted to Crosby, and the fiasco involving the Willie Simmons transfer. Check it out.

YES, QUESTIONS: The Anderson Independent Mail has a Q&A with safety Travis Pugh. (It's the first in a series of profiles of lesser-known Tigers.) And, The State's Ken Tysiac keeps answering fans' questions.

BRINGING 'EM BACK: This notebook from The State highlights coach Tommy Bowden's success in bringing back three players who looked like they were gone for good in the spring: Crosby, tight end Ben Hall and linebacker Eric Sampson. All were part of Clemson's stellar 2001 recruiting class. Other notebook items include freshman Roy Walker voluntarily giving his No. 25 jersey to Crosby (a very minor story, but an indicator that the receiver's return may not upset the team's chemistry too much) and an announcement that the Tigers will officially begin game preparations for Georgia.

GEORGIA FANS WORRIED: Speaking of the Dawgs, as of about 10:30 a.m. on Monday, a majority of Georgia football fans were concerned about the upcoming game with Clemson, according to an online poll at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They should be. The Dogs will play their season opener without five of their top defensive backs. And Georgia may have to add to their numerous disciplinary suspensions after starting linebacker Odell Thurman was arrested on alcohol-related charges. That would be a blow. The Dogs lost their entire linebacking corps from last season.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Training camp update: Roscoe's on the field

Tigernet is reporting that wide receiver Roscoe Crosby returned to the practice field Monday. I'll have more details and links tomorrow.

QUIET ON THE FIELD: There was no practice session Sunday, so most weekend Web reports about the Tigers were feature-type stories.

WHITEHURST IS READY: Tigernet has a story on quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who says he has recovered, both physically and mentally, from the Tangerine Bowl fiasco. He's looking forward to the upcoming season.

MILLER TALKS TRASH: All-star cornerback Justin Miller has the cockiness of a Deion Sanders -- along with most of Sanders' skills.

HOWARD'S A HIT: The Anderson Independent Mail has an excellent story on defensive end J.J. Howard, who has been outstanding in preseason workouts and is increasingly viewed as a leader by his teammates.

MEET THE A.D.: The State profiles Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips, who has lit a fire under the sports program with his ambitious facilities plan.

THANKS FOR THE LINK: The Palmetto Journal has added Tigerpundit to its perma-links. Thank you, and I'll do the same.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Training camp: Weekend update

The Tigers held a 120-play scrimmage in Death Valley on Saturday. The standout player of the day was running back Chad Jasmin, who rushed for 53 yards on 10 carries. Jasmin may be working his way into a starting job. Additionally, the first-team offense did not commit a turnover.

And this line from the Anderson Independent Mail story is especially good news: "One longtime Clemson football observer said it was the hardest he had seen the team work under Bowden."

KELLY & REESE: This notebook from The State provides an update on running back Yusef Kelly, who reported to training camp a little overweight. It seems his mind has been occupied; he's an expectant father.

Also, freshman cornerback Robert Reese has been cleared to practice by the NCAA. Reese's academic record was in question. Here's the good news:

Reese's arrival means junior college transfer Brian Staley was the only one of Clemson's 18 signees who failed to qualify for his scholarship.

Clemson did a lot better than some of its ACC brethren in this regard.

QUESTIONS ABOUND: The Charleston Post and Courier asks five of them about Clemson's upcoming season, and Ken Tysiac keeps answering the ones from Clemson fans.

SIMMONS SETTLES: Former Clemson quarterback Willie Simmons scrimmaged with The Citadel Saturday. Congratulations, Willie. It's not the best outcome, but at least you'll get a chance to play this year. And, I noticed that the Bulldogs have nine starters returning on offense. It could be an exciting season in Charleston.

GIVE UNTIL IT HURTS: IPTAY is leaning on members to contribute more to the athletic department. Yeah, that ought to go over well, considering that the Tigers sold fewer season tickets this season than they did last year.

THANKS FOR THE LINK: I'd like to give a shout out to the Backcountry Conservative for adding me to his perma-links. I'll gladly reciprocate.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Training camp Day 10: Crosby talks to Bowden

Wide receiver Roscoe Crosby, who received a medical absence waiver Wednesday from the ACC, has spoken with coach Tommy Bowden about returning to the team this fall. Apparently, Crosby hasn't decided when he'll return:

Technically Crosby has until 10 days after school begins (Aug. 20) to get enrolled in classes and report to Clemson's practice. However, waiting that late would seem to damage any chance he would have of being a solid contributor to the offense for at least the first half of the season.

The State is reporting that Crosby is definitely returning. According to radio reports, Crosby wasn't at practice Friday afternoon, but he's expected to show up soon. Whatever happens, Crosby's teammates seem excited about his return.

PRACTICE UPDATE: Beyond the heat, there wasn't much to report from Thursday's session. Bowden says he's seeing some leaders develop, singling out J.J. Howard and Khaleed Vaughn for praise.

SIMMONS SAGA CONTINUES: Former Clemson quarterback Willie Simmons is set to play for The Citadel -- if the NCAA lets him. The bureaucratic maze that is the NCAA is unbelievable.

In that same vein, here's a column by the Greenville News' Bart Wright that rips the NCAA for the unfairness of the Simmons fiasco and takes shots at the ACC for what Wright considers the arbitrariness of the Roscoe Crosby waiver decision. I agree with Wright on the Simmons issue, but disagree with him on Crosby. Playing football and continuing his education will be a positive influence on Crosby's life. Lord knows the kid has been through plenty of tumult over the past two years.

IMPROVING THE PROGRAM: Clemson has developed a six-point plan to improve the school's athletic department:

-Create a multicultural academic and social environment conducive to the success of minority student-athletes.

-Improve athletics' position within the ACC and NCAA Division I.

-Improve student-athlete retention and academic success.

-Ensure ACC and NCAA rules compliance and institutional control.

-Generate sufficient revenues to support athletics' strategic direction.

-Plan and build championship quality facilities.

Yep, that sounds like a plan.

JOE-BOB SAYS CHECK IT OUT: The documentary movie Bragging Rites: The Carolina-Clemson Rivalry premiered Thursday in Columbia.

I visited the movie's wonderful Web site yesterday (the URL in The State's story is wrong) and checked out a couple of clips. I was really impressed. It's shot in the familiar style of a Ken Burns documentary, with lots of still photos, rare footage and voice-overs. While there's plenty of on-the-field action to savor, Bragging Rites seems to be about much more than sports. It's really a slice of South Carolina's social history. I'll be ordering several copies, both for myself and to give to others.

RADIO DAYS: The Tiger Tailgate Show, that seemingly bottomless bowl of pregame cornpone (is it STILL three hours long?), will get some new personalities this season. Talented sports broadcaster Don Munson will be joined by Bubba Britton, who was a contestant on ESPN's Beg, Borrow & Deal, and former Tailgate Show personality Whitney Walters. "Hurricane" Duane Evans will continue to provide the music. No word on whether they'll be getting any new jokes this season.

QUESTIONS ABOUND: The State's Ken Tysiac has posted more answers to queries from Clemson fans. Read them here.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Training camp Day 9: ROSCOE'S BACK, BABY!

Hot diggety-damn. Receiver Roscoe Crosby, who has battled injuries and personal tragedies and seemed undecided about playing college football or pursuing a professional baseball career, has been granted a medical absence waiver by the ACC and will be able to play football this season. Crosby was rated the nation's top receiver coming out of high school in 2000, and in 2001 he set Clemson records for receptions and reception yards by a freshman. He'll have three years of eligibility left.

This is unbelievably good news. Crosby is perhaps the best athlete on the team, and his presence will put Clemson's receiver corps, already considered the best in the ACC, among the nation's elite squads. The thought of quarterback Charlie Whitehurst having so many targets to throw to -- Crosby, Derrick Hamilton, Airese Curry, Kevin Youngblood, Kelvin Grant -- makes my mouth water.

SIMMONS TO THE CITADEL: Former Clemson quarterback Willie Simmons is expected to join The Citadel. I hope that works out for him. He could be a dominating quarterback at the I-AA level.

THE INEVITABLE NOTEBOOKS: Here's one. And here's another. You know, I just realized something: These notebooks resemble blogs, don't they?

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Training camp Day 8: Defense dominates scrimmage

Clemson held a 112-play scrimmage Tuesday in Death Valley, and the defensive unit had the best of it. The relevant numbers: 11 sacks, two interceptions (including one returned 44 yards for a touchdown by Justin Miller), 14-of-23 passing by Charlie Whitehurst, and zero turnovers by the running backs or receivers (there was one bumbled snap from center). Additionally, Miller returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. (Good for Miller, bad for our kickoff coverage, which gave up five kick-return touchdowns last season.) Aaron Hunt was 3-of-4 on field goals, including a surprisingly long 49-yarder.

J.J. IS DY-NO-MITE: Defensive end J.J. Howard continues to have a dominating preseason. He had two sacks and three tackles for loss in Tuesday's scrimmage.

"He's bringing speed and power," Clemson senior offensive tackle Gregory Walker said. "Just the total package. It's the most difficult thing to block. He's the kind of defensive end we're doing to see in the ACC. He's really giving us a good look."

PLAYING THROUGH THE PAIN: The State profiles defensive back Toure Francis, who is coming back from a knee injury suffered in last season's opening game against Georgia that forced him to miss the rest of the season.

MORE QUESTIONS: The State's Ken Tysiac, who covers Clemson football, has answered more questions from fans. Give them a look.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Training camp Day 7: Two-a-days begin

The Tigers worked out for a total of five hours Monday. However, there will be far fewer of the double practice sessions this year because of a new NCAA rule that prohibits two-a-days on consecutive days. Coach Tommy Bowden said receiver Airese Curry has been a standout. He also announced that Tramaine Billie will move from running back to offensive secondary, while Chris McDuffie will go from offensive tackle to defensive tackle.

SIMMONS SCREWED OVER BY NCAA: Willie Simmons, the highly recruited quarterback who lost his starting job to Charlie Whitehurst last season and transferred to Florida A&M in the spring, has for all practical purposes been denied his final year of eligibility by the NCAA.

"It's the NCAA being the NCAA, I guess," said Simmons, one of several D-I transfers, including former Clemson receiver Ronnie Thomas, at Florida A&M who will have to sit out this season. "When have they ever looked out for a player?"

Florida A&M made the move from Division I-AA to Division I in June, a month after Simmons transferred. (It's unclear if he was aware that the Rattlers were changing divisions.) Simmons hoped to get the NCAA to waive a rule that requires players who transfer to another Division I school to sit out a year. The NCAA said no. Simmons is a senior, so he effectively has no eligibility left unless he goes to another school in a smaller division.

This is so unfair. Simmons is truly one of the good guys. He showed tremendous class during last season's tumult, when he lost his starting job to Whitehurst, a redshirt freshman. I sincerely hope he winds up somewhere, and The Citadel could be an option, according to this story.

THE CROSBY CHRONICLES: They just go on and on. Clemson has filed a medical absence waiver with the ACC that would allow receiver Roscoe Crosby to play this season.

SHARPE FELLOW: Tigernet profiles center Tommy Sharpe, who has gone from walk-on to starter. Interesting story.

QUESTION AUTHORITY: The State's Clemson beat writer, Ken Tysiac, answers questions from fans. Check it out. The no-huddle offense and the facilities "arms race" are discussed.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Training camp: Weekend update

Sunday was Fan Day at Clemson, a chance for the players to take a break from summer workouts and meet the people who make Tiger football possible. The hopes and expectations fans have pinned on quarterback Charlie Whitehurst figured prominently in a couple of newspaper accounts of the day's festivities.

IT'S HITTIN' TIME: Clemson is working out in full pads now, and coach Tommy Bowden held a short-yardage scrimmage Saturday. As is typical for this time of the year, the defense was ahead of the offense.

HOT SEAT UPDATE: Speaking of Bowden, the Charlotte Observer has a good story on Clemson's beleaguered football coach. It sounds like he's more than ready to wash the taste of the 55-15 Tangerine Bowl loss to Texas Tech out of his mouth. He'd better be, or he may find himself looking for a new job.

GETTING A's IN CHEMISTRY: One thing that will help Bowden this year is a cohesive team with a fighting attitude. It looks like he's got just that.

SCRAPPY DUDE: Even the young players are copping an attitude. Freshman offensive lineman Nathan Bennett talks a lot of smack, and that's a good thing:

"We haven't had that in a while," said Clemson offensive coordinator Brad Scott. "I think (Bennett) is a guy that plays with a little more intensity. He likes to hit until the whistle, and he'll go downfield and pick a guy off the top of the pile and all that. I haven't seen a guy play like that since Theo Mougros when we were first here (in 1999)."

In fact, Bennett could become the first freshman starter on the line since 1994.

AUBURN PULLS OUT: As reported the other day, Clemson won't be playing Auburn in 2006 and 2007. The Alabama school is hoping to add an extra home game to help pay for $30 million in stadium renovations.

McCLINTON FAINTS AGAIN: Defensive tackle Todd McClinton is still suffering mysterious fainting spells. I hope he's OK.

HIGH-TECH TIGERS: Clemson's coaching staff is finally making good use of them there computer thingees. Good Lord. Am I the only one who's a little disturbed that it's 2003 and the coaches are JUST NOW STARTING TO USE computers!?!?

THE BROTHERS NELSON: That's Roosevelt and Maurice, and they look out for each other.

HOWARD GETS HUGER: Senior defensive end J.J. Howard bulked up over the off-season, and the Clemson staff thinks he could be an impact player this year.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Training camp Day 3: More rain

The weather siren sounded across the Clemson practice fields again on Thursday, so coach Tommy Bowden moved the workout into the unfinished indoor track facility. Bowden says he'll start holding practice in the mornings to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms.

Apparently, Clemson's low preseason rankings are motivating the Tigers (most pundits have picked the team to finish fifth in the ACC):

"I don't think they've picked us in any position we don't deserve right now, because the people they've picked ahead of us have beaten us," said offensive coordinator Brad Scott. "But I don't think there is a player on our team that thinks we're not capable of winning every time we dress out on Saturdays."

Well, that's good to know.

TOUGH ENOUGH: Clemson coaches and players say they're not concerned about the "toughness question." They also say that the switch to a more run-oriented offense could have something to do with the perception that Clemson was "soft" last season. Buried in the story is a bit of interesting news: Apparently, the offensive line has bulked up during the off-season. Four starters now weigh 300 pounds or thereabouts.

SERGIO SURGES: Freshman cornerback Sergio Gilliam has been turning heads in practice this week, and could work himself into a starting job. If he can hang with people like preseason All-American Justin Miller, Tye Hill and Toure Francis, then by all means get him on the field.

CU AT THE MOVIES: Here's a fun story. Filmmakers Jeff Sumerel and Chris White have completed a documentary on the Clemson-South Carolina football series. Bragging Rights: The Carolina-Clemson Rivalry will feature game footage and interviews with players, coaches and fans who have taken part in a century's worth of memorable football. Starting Aug. 14, you can purchase the 75-minute film at the official Web site (, in Bi-Lo stores in South Carolina or by calling 1-877-4-RIVALS.

SPEED DEMONS: Here's an item I missed the other day. Two Clemson players, receiver Airese Curry and defensive back Tye Hill, are among the 10 fastest men in college football, based on a ranking of players who also are on their school's track team. Curry was ranked third with a time of 10.29 seconds in the 100-meter dash, and Hill was tied for ninth with a time of 10.48 seconds. The only other ACC player in the top 10 was Florida State receiver Craphonso Thorpe, who was tied for eighth with a time of 10.43. That's impressive.

IS AUBURN SKEERED? Radio reports indicate that Auburn may want to back out of its upcoming games with Clemson in 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011. Stay tuned.

CLEANING OUT THE NOTEBOOKS: The Anderson Independent Mail reports on an increase in season ticket revenue despite selling fewer tickets for 2003. (Huh. I wonder how they did that?) There's also a quick plug for kicker Aaron Hunt, who is on the Lou Groza Award preseason watch list.

According to The Greenville News, Clemson hasn't heard from the NCAA yet on the status of freshman Robert Reese and senior Brandon Jamison. In another kicking-related note, Bowden says freshman Jad Dean will handle kickoffs this season unless sophomore Stephen Furr can do better.

FLASHBACK: I'm watching the 1988 "puntrooskie" game between Florida State and Clemson on ESPN Classic. (Sigh.) I was there that day. Great game, but it's still painful to watch. (This is the first time I've ever seen a televised replay.)

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Training camp Day 2: Leake's the man

Rain was once again a factor on Wednesday, but coach Tommy Bowden said he was pleased with what he saw on the field:

"We had a good practice. Charlie Whitehurst threw the ball very well and it looks like we will have some depth at running back. Kyle Browning, Reggie Merriweather and Duane Coleman all ran the ball well."

Day 2 of practice and we're already playing great!

CONFIDENCE MAN: John Leake, Clemson's hard-hitting senior linebacker, thinks the Tigers could win "10, 11, 12 games" this season. I love his confidence, but I don't see it happening. My most optimistic assessment has Clemson winning nine games, and that's with a whole lot of luck.

In more Leake news, ESPN reports that he just learned how to tackle properly this summer. (What the heck has he been doing for the past three years?) ESPN also reports that Leake has bulked up to 240 pounds.

BEN'S BACK: Tight end Ben Hall, who has shown flashes of greatness despite being underutilized, says he's glad he decided to stay on the team and not transfer to another school. We're glad, too, Ben.

MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS: Defensive end Todd McClinton is still battling health problems. He's had several seizures in the past few months, but doctors can't determine the cause.

NEW GAME-DAY ROUTINES: Clemson is redoing its post-game policies to allow fans onto the field to greet players. Athletic Director Terry Don Phillips has instituted a "Gathering at the Paw." It sounds pretty nice:

Under the new plan, fans will have immediate access to the field after the game, but event staff personnel will direct them toward the east end zone of the stadium near the "hill."

Coaches and players can shake hands while the university band is playing the Clemson fight song, "Tiger Rag." Phillips said that by having fans go toward the stadium's east end, the visiting team can go to the locker rooms at the opposite end without having to go through fans.

Clemson players will stand on the 50-yard line at the orange tiger paw and sing the alma mater with fans. Fans then can get autographs from players and take photographs with them, Phillips said.

Clemson will also be reducing the number of people who will be allowed to sit on "The Hill." It's normally about 4,000 to 5,000. It'll be half that number in the future.

It can get kind of dangerous up there. I was at a Clemson-USC game in the 1980s and happened to get caught up in the crush of fans who had gathered at the top of The Hill right before "the most exciting 25 seconds in college football." As the carpet that the players run down was rolled up, fans rushed to fill in the space. There were so many people packed closely together that I was literally being lifted and carried by the throng. People were yelling and beginning to panic. I think an old lady fainted or something. It got all sorted out after five minutes, but it was definitely scary.

And here's more good news for fans: Pass-outs, which allow you to leave the stadium and return, are back after being yanked for security reasons in the wake of 9/11. Cold beer at halftime: Yee-Haw!

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Training camp Day 1: Welcome back, Eric

The big news out of the first day of training camp was the return of linebacker Eric Sampson, who had been dismissed from the team in December.

NOTEBOOK NOTES: Here's the inevitable notebook from the Greenville News. Today's edition features an update on Clemson's attempts to get receiver Roscoe Crosby back on the field (the paperwork hasn't been sent to the NCAA yet, so it looks shaky); a quick discussion on the future of senior linebacker Brandon Jamison, who is academically ineligible this season; the possibility of playing time for redshirt freshman quarterback Chansi Stuckey; the big hit Toure Francis laid on a teammate; and a thunderstorm that shut down the first practice session after just five minutes.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

It all begins today

It's the first day of fall practice, and the Greenville News has a couple of Clemson-related stories of note.

First, there's a short piece on the heavy load quarterback Charlie Whitehurst will be expected to carry this year. (I didn't realize he'd made the cover of Street & Smith's college preview magazine. Way to go.)

Next, there's the ubiquitous notebook. Items include the pending decision on whether Eric Sampson will be allowed to rejoin the team; backup tight end Rod Whipple's expected transfer; an update on our freshman academic qualifiers; a plethora of fullbacks available, including East Tennessee transfer Steven Jackson; and the chances of freshmen earning starting jobs.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Players report, questions abound

Ahh, life is good again. Clemson's football players report to campus today, and practice begins tomorrow. In honor of that auspicious occasion, the Anderson Independent Mail and The State are asking questions about the upcoming season.

One theme that crops up in both stories is Tommy Bowden's desire to bolster Clemson's running game. Unfortunately, another theme is whether the offensive line is up to the task.

ACC NOT JUST FOR BASKETBALL ANYMORE: Does the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech make the ACC the nation's No. 1 football conference? A lot of people around the league say yes.

SCHEDULING WOES: Speaking of expansion, the ACC muckety-mucks are working on scheduling for the 2004-2005 season. As expected when your league goes to 11, there are going to be problems:

A priority will be given to preserving traditional rivalry games. Regardless of how the divisions would be settled, NCSU and North Carolina will play each season. So will Florida State and Miami, Virginia and Virginia Tech and very likely, Georgia Tech and Clemson and Maryland and Virginia.

But piecing together the schedules for all 11 teams will require some tricky maneuvering. That's because several non-conference games are essentially set in stone.

Clemson's annual game against South Carolina is one example. So are the Georgia Tech-Georgia and FSU-Florida games. Just because the ACC has expanded, those nationally significant rivalry games are not going to be moved to early or mid-season. All will remain regular-season finales.

Guys, go ahead and invite West Virginia to join the league. It'll make things easier for everyone.

OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: We didn't make the Top 25, but at least we got some votes. That's cool. They'll be ranking us after we beat No. 9 Georgia on Aug. 30.

I don't mean to sound cocky, but rom where I sit, the Dawgs are a tad overrated. They've lost their entire offensive line, all their starting linebackers, their top rusher and their top receiver. They're eminently beatable.

In other rankings, the Charlotte Observer says the Tigers will play the fifth-toughest schedule in the ACC this season. Okey-dokey.