CLEMSON - Tommy Bowden enters his third season at Clemson cast as an
offensive-minded head coach, and why not?
After all, following years of the "three yards and a cloud of dust"
mentality, his no-huddle, shotgun, single back and four wide receiver offense
has produced record numbers on the field, and captured the fancy of even the
most rigid, old-time Tiger fan.
So when asked if more focus would be put on the defensive side of the ball
this season, Bowden's response might surprise many Clemson supporters.
"I'd say the emphasis on our offense has been by the media only," he said at
a press conference Sunday before Fan Appreciation Day. "If you check my
scholarship ratio for offense and defense, I allow more for the defense.
Practice time is geared toward defense. Everything we do from a coaching
standpoint is geared toward defense."
Not that he doesn't understand the fascination with the offense.
"Offensive records at Clemson are more easily broken than defensive records,"
Bowden said. "The defense had always been good in the past. Offensively, you
come in here and throw the ball like we did, and they never have, and it's
not as hard to break offensive records here...I think we've broken (over 70)
in two years here offensively, and (over 20) defensively.
"But from a practice standpoint, a scholarship standpoint and a recruiting
standpoint, all our priorities would be defensive first, and will continue to
be that way as long as I'm here."
Defense became a sore spot down the stretch in 2000, giving up more big plays
than the offense could overcome. In back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and
Florida State, Clemson's defense gave up a combined total of more than 1,300
yards, which in turn led to 85 points.
Crosby gets a lot of media attention |
Now, with just four starters returning from that unit, an air of uncertainty
hangs over the program as the 2001 season draws ever closer.
Bowden, however, remains confident.
"To be honest this is probably the best overall team speed we've had," he
said. "(Linebackers) Braxton Williams and Altroy Bodrick are running like our
wide receivers. We just don't have experienced depth behind a lot of these
"The only concern I have, and maybe the only reason I don't feel as good as I
did last year, is simply because of a lack of experience on defense. To win a
championship that's the key - defensive football and defensive depth. There's
a lot more question marks (on defense) in the preseason than my first two
Bowden and defensive coordinator Reggie Herring have taken steps toward
improving the defensive performance.
Starting defensive end Nick Eason has been moved inside to defensive tackle,
a shift the coaching staff hopes will allow the 280-pound junior to take
advantage of his speed.
The same goes for Williams, who will be playing the Star position in the new
4-2-5 defensive scheme. The Star, a hybrid of the linebacker and safety
positions, will allow the best use of Williams' speed and athleticism, be it
in pass coverage or rushing the passer.
That type of speed and flexibility is the main reason for the scheme change,
even more so than the need to stop the big play.
"Whatever (scheme) we would have played, that was a goal coming out of spring
ball," Bowden said. "I think the fact that we went to this scheme was
personnel first, big play second. We could have stayed in the other defense,
played a softer zone and given up less big plays. But we probably would have
been hurt more up front."