CLEMSON - All the talk about Clemson's need for improvement in rushing yardage from the one-back set begs an obvious question:
Will fans notice anything significantly different about the Tigers' offense in 2004?
"Depends on how much they've been drinking," head coach Tommy Bowden said with a laugh.
But seriously folks.
"There won't be much difference. We have a base offense like most teams do, and that's what we run," he said. "But every (off season) you go out and try to add a wrinkle or two. We'll highlight a certain part of the package and some of it will contain a new wrinkle."
No question the wrinkles will be in the running game.
Bowden has made no secret of his desire for longer runs from his tailbacks. Clemson's offense produced just seven rushes of 25 yards or more a year ago, and three of them were by wide receivers. Finding a running back to deliver the home run has been a priority of Bowden's since the day he walked on campus.
So, in search of new ideas, Bowden and his staff spent time with Utah head coach Urban Meyer, among others, examining the Utes' one-back sets this spring. He also conceded that the Tigers' own quick screen and flare routes technically should be figured into the team's rushing yardage - in his own mind - because he views those types of plays as extended handoffs.
But as to what they may have picked up from Utah or any of the other off season visits made by his staff, Bowden isn't saying.
"We've made some tweaks in our blocking assignments, but I'm not going to tell you who we're helping out or what we're doing. (Opponents) read stuff off the Internet, just like we do."
Bowden said the advent of the Internet as a learning tool has made an impact on his preparation the last couple of seasons.
Every day a graduate assistant is assigned to scan the Web for news stories on Clemson opponents, checking to see if any of them have been careless enough to let slip some point of strategy, the kind of thing Bowden works so hard to conceal. Asked if he could provide a past example of the system working, he laughed again.
"No, I won't say anything. If someone was dumb enough to let it slip once, maybe they'll do it again."
- After an abysmal performance in Wednesday's practice, Bowden said Thursday was much better.
"We were 50-50 in short yardage situations on offense, so we were better defensively. There was a little more spirit. They were a little more enthused. It was the last hard practice we'll have before game week, kind of like breaking camp. I think they were just really uninspired (Wednesday).
"It drives you nuts as a coach, but I'm sure it's the same way across the country at this point."
- Today's practice is Bowden's annual "Beanie Bowl," a full dress rehearsal for game day in Death Valley.
The day includes everything from dressing in the locker rooms to running down the hill, pregame stretches to sideline deployment. The coaches will be in their assigned spots in the press box and a semi-live scrimmage will be held.
"We'll go full speed above the waist," Bowden said. "No one will be taken to the ground."
- Defensive tackle Cory Groover, trying to make the adjustment from defensive end, made a sterling play during Wednesday's scrimmage - tipping a ball at the line of scrimmage and then intercepting it with a dive.
- Sophomore wideout Kelvin Grant did not practice Thursday due to a minor calf injury, but should return on Monday.