CLEMSON - With game week finally having arrived, a few more pieces of the Clemson puzzle are falling into place.
The offensive line, for one, appears to be set. Barring injury or a total collapse at one or more positions, the starters - judging by how they lined up during Monday's practice - appear to be:
Senior Tommy Sharpe at center; Cedric Johnson (senior) and Nathan Bennett (redshirt sophomore) at guards; Jesse Pickens (redshirt senior) and Marion Dukes (sophomore) at tackle.
"We've got three more days of practice," Bowden said. "Someone could go out there on Thursday and blow a bunch of assignments and probably jeopardize a position."
Asked if there was one position more tenuous than the other, Bowden shook his head.
"Both tackles and both guards, to be honest with you," he said.
The insertion of Jesse Pickens into the starting left tackle slot is the culmination of a pretty good story line, regardless of how well he plays the rest of the way.
Pickens never started at Spartanburg High School, playing only about 20 snaps there during his career. He entered Clemson at roughly 215 pounds. Now, in his fifth year, Pickens has been awarded a scholarship and has bulked up to nearly 280 pounds.
"He's really come on," Bowden said. "Sometimes when you talk to a player and his parents about walking on, the father does all the talking because he's the one who wishes he could play. Jesse was awfully quiet when we first met, so you never knew for sure."
Meanwhile, senior Yusef Kelly will get the nod at starting tailback, though backups Reggie Merriweather and Kyle Browning continue to get a large number of reps in practice.
Incumbent starter Duane Coleman was at practice Monday carrying his helmet and shoulder pads - a task dictated by Bowden once a player reaches a certain point in his rehab. But there will be no miracle return for Coleman (broken foot) this week.
All Coleman can do to this point is run on the side and lift weights in the cage by the practice facility.
"He's a hard worker for sure. But I really don't see him back until about the third week. Maybe if I saw him at my church a little more often," Bowden joked.
- Bowden said guard Chip Myrick (mono) could play Saturday in a reserve role, but that won't be determined until he sees the redshirt junior go through more live situations this week.
"All we did today was shells (helmets and shoulder pads). He's been doing that."
- Vontrell Jamison continues to work in a limited capacity as he rehabs his broken arm. The only other players missing time are those out for the season - Rashaad Jackson (broken foot) and Roy Walker (torn ACL).
- Staying with the church theme after his remark concerning Coleman, Bowden - a devout Christian - happily reported the news that two more of his players had been baptized over the weekend.
Wide receiver Kelvin Grant and center Bobby Hutchinson both "took the dunk," as Bowden said. Linebacker Anthony Waters had been through it the week before.
Of course, even everlasting life apparently has its ups and downs.
"I told Kelvin the downside was that when I get to heaven I'll see my grandfather, father, mother...all my family. Then I'll look over and have to say 'Oh no, there's Kelvin. I thought I had enough of him back on Earth.'"