SUNSET — While most people are saying a 7-4 season would be considered a good one for the Clemson Tigers in the new Atlantic Coast Conference, its football coach isn’t one of them.
Tommy Bowden told the media Tuesday at his seventh annual media golf outing at The Reserve on Lake Keowee that he has higher goals for his Tigers.
“I hope (fans) don’t (want just seven wins),” he said. “I sure wouldn’t. I mean that is about my average in six years, but I want to elevate it to a higher level, and I’m sure they would want too.
“I mean that has not been the norm around here. It’s not the same conference either, but it’s not what I’m expecting and I hope it’s not what they’re expecting.”
What Bowden is expecting is for his team to be a little more productive early in the season and maintain a level of consistency throughout the year as opposed to the slow start and strong finish the 2003 and 2004 teams did.
“I want to see a team that plays extremely hard from snap to whistle for 60 minutes, and obviously, productive at the end of the year,” he said.
Despite what most pre-season publications have said about Clemson and where it ranks with the rest of the conference, Bowden himself was very uplifting when he spoke about the new season and his 2005 team.
“Just looking I think we have close to seven starters coming back on defense, and a veteran quarterback that I feel comfortable is going to be more productive than he was last year,” Bowden said. “We’re solid at wideout, running back — pretty good support system for that quarterback, and the same thing defensively.
“For the first time since I have been here, two kickers are going into their third year as starters… but from a number of people back offensively, defensively and special teams, I have a pretty good feeling with those type of people coming back.”
Despite his optimism, Bowden still has some concerns. He is worried about the Tigers lack of a running game over the last three seasons, and he would like to see his team do a better job of holding on to the football.
“We lost four of our first five games and we led the nation in turnovers or right there at it,” he said. “Defensively we were near the bottom and offensively we were at the bottom. Then we stopped that and won five out of our last six.
“So the concern would be turnovers. That red flag goes up to meet with that statistic. If you are 50th in the nation do you win eight or nine game? I don’t know, but we need to find out.”
Bowden also pointed out his receivers dropped more passes than it did the year before and that played a big role in the offense’s lack of production, but he feels the off season moves he made, including the additions of Rob Spence (new offensive coordinator), Vic Koenning (new defensive coordinator) and Marion Hobby (new defensive line coach) to his coaching staff will help sure up some of those problems.
Bowden did say that tailback Duane Coleman is on the team and is listed as the third team back behind running backs Reggie Merriweather and Kyle Browning.
Tough competition. Despite a spring game in which he caught eight passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns, plus thus far has a good summer report academically, wide receiver Kelvin Grant is still listed on the second team on the preseason depth chart. Red shirt freshman Aaron Kelly is listed as the starter. Bowden said the battle between Kelly and Grant will be one of the better competitions of fall practice along with the guard positions between Nathan Bennett, Roman Fry, Chip Myrick, and Brandon Pilgrim.
What’s next? Bowden will join the media next Sunday in Hot Springs, Va., as part of the ACC Football Kickoff Conference. After that he and his coaches will head to their usual hideaway spot before returning for return of Clemson players to campus, which is set for Aug. 4.
Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.