CLEMSON - Ask Tommy Bowden if anything he's seen this spring leads him to believe Clemson will be a better football team in 2005, and he answers without hesitation.
"Yes," he said. "We'll definitely be better."
But just as quickly, Bowden adds a qualifier.
"Of course we were 10th in offense in an 11-team league. It won't take much to be better," he said. "We were eighth defensively in an 11-team league. So we'd almost have to be better."
But caution aside for the moment, Bowden believes the Tigers will be a better football team this fall because of the strides his younger players have made during spring practice.
More evidence of such was apparent after grading film of last Saturday's major scrimmage, he said. And while he's nowhere close to breaking out with a win-loss prediction for 2005, it's easy to see the quiet optimism breeding inside the Clemson camp.
"You watch the younger guys, and all the sudden you see a light go on for them," Bowden said. "Suddenly they realize where they are and what they're supposed to be doing, and they're starting to really come on."
So impressed with the youngsters is Bowden that he, intentionally or not, fired a warning shot in the direction of his veterans.
"We've got some fifth-year seniors who need to crank it up a little bit," he said.
Underclassmen - all redshirt freshmen - which caught Bowden's eye on film included:
- Courtney Vincent is pushing incumbent Gaines Adams for playing time at the Bandit end position;
- Chris Clemons is pushing for a starting cornerback job;
- Adrian Kindred (Will linebacker) and Michael Hamlin (CAT safety) also have been turning in consistently sharp performances.
- Aaron Kelly and Andrew Diomande, have thrust themselves into the mix at wide receiver.
Meanwhile a player like Barry Richardson, a rising true sophomore offensive tackle, has garnered most of his attention from coaches pushing him to do more.
"He's a leg up on all these other guys because he's played. He's been through it," Bowden said. "But we need more out of him. There's another level for him to reach, and we're trying to get him there."
Clemson continues spring drills on both Wednesday and Thursday. The Tigers conclude the spring with Saturday's annual Orange-White game at Death Valley.
Kickoff is 1 p.m. and is free to the public.
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.