Bowden Comfortable with the Progress of Program


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<font class=caption>Junior linebacker Keith Adams returns one year after setting 10 school records and leading the nation in both tackles (186) and tackles for loss (35).</font>
Junior linebacker Keith Adams returns one year after setting 10 school records and leading the nation in both tackles (186) and tackles for loss (35).

CLEMSON, SC - On the cusp of his second season opener at Clemson, head coach Tommy Bowden is comfortable with the progress his program has made in 18 months.

The uncertainty of 1999 is replaced by the anticipation of 2000. And though injuries and disciplinary measures have robbed the Tigers of depth, especially along the offensive line, all systems are go as Saturday's 6 p.m. clash with The Citadel draws near.

"We know a lot more about the team," Bowden said at his Tuesday press conference. "We know what to expect out of (quarterback) Woody (Dantzler), some of our receivers, backs, linemen, defense...really a lot more about both sides of the ball than this time last year."

The known quantities are impressive:

- Junior linebacker Keith Adams returns one year after setting 10 school records and leading the nation in both tackles (186) and tackles for loss (35). The preseason All-American's totals shattered all Atlantic Coast Conference records, and he is a candidate for both the Butkus and Lombardi Awards;

- Senior free safety Robert Carswell, also a preseason All-American and a Thorpe Award candidate, led Clemson with six interceptions a year ago and was third on the team with 129 tackles;

- Senior wideout Rod Gardner led Clemson in every receiving category last season and is considered one of the 10 best wide receivers in the nation;


AUDIO
Tommy Bowden's press conference on Tuesday.


- Senior running back Travis Zachery proved himself to be a solid, if not spectacular, compliment to the Tigers' high-octane passing attack, leading the team in rushing yards (820) and touchdowns (16);

- Under-sized junior center Kyle Young (6-foot-3, 265 pounds) anchors the offensive line and went through the entire 1999 season without a bad snap from the oft-used shotgun formation;

- Junior quarterback Dantzler has been handed the keys to Bowden's offensive machine, one year after completing 58 percent of his passes in his backup role to Brandon Streeter.

But there are concerns weighing on Bowden's mind as Saturday approaches.

The loss of starting left tackle Akil Smith for the season (blood clot in the lung) robs Clemson of its best offensive lineman. Add Neely Page's career-ending back problems, redshirting junior college transfer Derrick Brantley, the disappointing preseason of Nick Black, and the dismissal of tight end Pat Cyrgalis from the team, and suddenly the Tigers are thin across the front.

Replacing the combined 99 receptions of Brian Wofford and Mal Lawyer will be one of the key aspects of Clemson's offensive success in 2000. Who besides Gardner - Justin Watts, Jackie Robinson, Joe Don Reames, Matt Bailey, Kevin Youngblood, Ronnie Thomas and/or Derrick Hamilton - will step forward as an effective target for Dantzler?

And the kicking game, though strong throughout preseason, will continue to be a thorn in Bowden's side until place kickers Aaron Hunt (freshman) or Tony Lazzara (sophomore) prove they can make pressure kicks in game situations.

That may be the biggest question of all. Last season things deteriorated to the point that Bowden shunned field goals as the year wore on, putting more pressure on his offense.

But the emergence of true freshman Hunt and the improvement of Lazzara has Bowden hopeful those days are behind him.

"We're going to try kicking the first couple of games," Bowden said. "Aaron Hunt made 46 and 47 yarders back-to-back in (last Tuesday's) scrimmage, so we're going to try to kick field goals initially."



Dan Scott is the sports editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger.
His columns can be read at www.dailyjournalmessenger.com.

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