Bettering Turnover Ratio Among Bowden's Priorities


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<font class=caption>Tigers hope to force more turnovers like Nick Eason's recovery against Duke last season.</font>
Tigers hope to force more turnovers like Nick Eason's recovery against Duke last season.

CLEMSON - Among the other problems facing Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden
entering the 2002 season is turnovers, from both a give and take standpoint.


Bowden watched in frustration a year ago as his offense gave the ball away
with alarming frequency, especially early in the season. It got so bad that
he nearly benched quarterback Woody Dantzler against Georgia Tech after an
early fumble.


On the other side of the ball the Tigers' forced just 16 turnovers during the
regular season, or few enough to rank No. 101 in the country. Add the numbers
together and Clemson's turnover ratio was 90th overall at -.64.


The issue was alarming enough that Bowden made it a focal point for his
coaching staff's annual "hideaway," a solitary retreat held just a few days
before the beginning of practice during which he outlines the operating plan
for the coming season.


And two days into full squad workouts, he is cautiously optimistic that the
scrutiny is paying immediate dividends.


"After just two days I can see we're already a little better," Bowden said
Sunday during the media portion of Fan Day. "Our quarterbacks are making
smarter decisions with the ball, and defensively we've created turnovers by
knocking the ball out of a player's hands, which we didn't do much of last
year."


The quandary facing Bowden during two-a-days is the punishment vs. reward
factor.


Any offensive player who exhibits a tendency to put the ball on the ground
will be pulled out and sat down ("They can see if they have more fun playing
or sitting," he said). But at the same time, he wants the defense to force
turnovers.


How does one balance the practice system?


"The first skeleton (drill) we had we didn't have any (turnovers) on
offense," Bowden said. "You're feeling great until you look over at the
defense and you didn't get any. You do have to find a way to reward and
motivate both sides. The ideal situation would be to knock it out as opposed
to an interception or fumble on the center-quarterback exchange or
quarterback-running back exchange.


"You want a hat on the ball with vicious contact, as opposed to just being
lazy and coughing it up."


The balance sometimes can be easily skewered because of Bowden's offensive
philosophy and sometime gambler's mentality.


In a scheme that has the quarterback operating out of the shotgun, constantly
on the move and throwing the ball often, the chances of something going wrong
are greater than those in a more conservative offense.


On the other hand, a timid quarterback can't effectively run Bowden's
complicated offense. Quarterbacks are, by nature, usually the gambling type
themselves, and Bowden wants to see that type of mentality out of both junior
Willie Simmons and redshirt freshman Charlie Whitehurst.


Again, it's back to risk and reward.


"The last thing you want with your quarterback is for them to be scared,"
Bowden said. "You want to have them be a little bold, daring, have a little
audacity and a little courage. But at the same time you've got to be smart."


As for the defense? Following the fiasco of 2001, the approach should be
simple, Bowden said.


"Creating (turnovers) on defense is a matter of pride. It's going to be the
defensive staff's job - and mine - to see that they take a little pride in
creating turnovers."


Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Florence Morning News. He also hosts SportsTalk from 10 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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