CLEMSON -- Time was when the spring was a chance for a football coach to
install a few new wrinkles in the offense and keep his team loose.
Clemson starts spring practice Saturday at 10 a.m. and, according to head
coach Tommy Bowden, this year should be more intense than most.
He plans on making personnel evaluations on defense, where he lost seven
starters, and on offense, where he might see a lot of new faces as well.
"The number-one concern is to replace as many defensive guys as we can on
the interior and the secondary," said Bowden.
He knows that expectations are high. Despite the losses on defense, many
expect the Tigers to be competing for the Atlantic Coast Conference
championship by the time Florida State arrives for a game at Death Valley in
"I haven't beaten Georgia Tech, much less Florida State," said Bowden. I've
got a few more hurdles before I get to them."
He plans on getting past as
many of the hurdles as he can this spring. He'll be watching the defense
In the defensive secondary, he'll have his eyes on cornerback Brian Mance.
"Mance needs to be a full-time player," he said. "He's talented, but he
needs to play that way on a full-time basis. He's being challenged. By
challenged I mean this is the first time in three years he's not a part-time
player sharing time. The question for him is, 'Can you handle being a
Bowden usually leaves the final decisions on defense to coordinator Reggie
Instead, he spends most of his time with the offense, where he'll be
watching the competition at wide receiver. He has plenty of ammunition to
force the action there. The four wide receivers he signed a month ago will
be at Clemson this spring in spirit, if not in body.
"We're going to look at those freshmen early, so there's going to be guys
this spring that won't get work in August," said Bowden. "Not possibly. Not
maybe. They are going to be looked at. If you're going to nail down a spot,
you better nail it down solid. If you don't you're going to get less work in
Kevin Youngblood, Jackie Robinson and Matt Bailey have the most at stake
this spring. Youngblood was a star last spring. He was impressive in the
scrimmages, particularly when hooked up with quarterback Willie Simmons.
However, he averaged just one reception a game in the fall. Robinson caught
24 passes and Bailey caught nine.
"I would like to develop more of a drop back passing game," said Bowden.
Quarterback Woody Dantzler will see little action this spring. He's still
recovering from ankle surgery. Running back Travis Zachery is out after
breaking his foot in the Gator Bowl. That gives Simmons and Keith Kelly a
chance to impress Bowden.
"If you lose ground, you lose ground," said Bowden. "We're going to put in
some new things and if Woody struggles when he comes back, that's the nature
of the beast."
Anyone that struggles this spring could find it hard to catch up in August.
"To get where we want to be with double digit wins, the intensity has to
step it up a notch," he said.