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CLEMSON - Tommy Bowden's 2004 spring practice will kick off under extremely different circumstances than his 2003 effort.
A year ago the "Bowden is on the hot seat" train was beginning to pull out of the station. Now, after a strong finish to the 2003 season - which culminated with a Peach Bowl victory and a Top 25 ranking - Bowden has long-term security thanks to a lengthy contract extension.
But don't think the security has dulled his sense of purpose.
If anything, Bowden seems more intense than ever as Spring 2004 unfolds.
"I'm still interested in improving the running game," he said at Friday's media gathering. "We need to be pushing...2,500 yards rushing. We're still going to do some I-formation, not as much as we did last spring but we will do some. We just have to be more creative with what we do out of one back (sets).
"But again, that will be an emphasis going into spring. That, and redzone touchdowns instead of field goals. I didn't do a good job at calling the right play to give us the best chance to score a touchdown in those situations last year."
The defensive focus will remain on increasing turnovers, beginning with practice and, he hopes, carrying over to games this fall. Bowden also thinks the Tigers still haven't reached the point of reckless abandon he'd like to see.
"We need to elevate our level of effort a little bit higher," he said. "There's another notch we can reach."
As for special teams, one focus will be on rising sophomore kicker Jad Dean.
Dean's strong leg gained him playing time a year ago on kickoffs, but he was unable to move ahead of Aaron Hunt on extra points and field goals. The job appears to be Dean's to lose, but Bowden seems intent on forcing a great deal of competition at the spot.
He also will be looking for a No. 2 punter to back up rising sophomore Cole Chason.
Probably the most anticipated move of the spring will come when Chansi Stuckey, a backup quarterback last year as a freshman, moves full time to wide receiver.
At least Bowden hopes the move is permanent.
"I'm really excited about seeing Chansi at wide receiver," Bowden said. "But if we finish spring and nobody has taken the No. 2 (quarterback) spot by the horns and, say, Charlie gets hurt, if Chansi's the best guy we have then he'd have to go back to quarterback.
"Right now I'd like to keep him there, since we signed two freshmen guys. But if nobody takes the bull by the horns..."
Elsewhere, as expected Bowden officially announced the movement of a number of assistant coaches to new responsibilities.
Quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain will maintain those duties, but also will be the offensive coordinator. Brad Scott, who was the assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and tight ends coach in 2003, will remain the assistant head coach and will now coach the offensive line.
Ron West moves from the offensive line to the defensive line. Thielen Smith will move from the defensive line to the rover and whip linebackers, while Jack Hines will move from the whip and rover linebackers to the tight ends.
Friday Bowden chastised several members of the print media for the way the shuffling of assistant coaches was presented in stories last month. Several outlets reported the moves accurately based on sources other than Bowden.
That in and of itself didn't irk Bowden. His problem came in the way the move of Scott from offensive coordinator to offensive line coach was handled.
"You got your information from inside sources but no one ever called me. Well, you called, but no one ever got confirmation of anything from me," he said. "You presented (the Scott move) as a demotion and that's not the case. I was very disappointed in the way that was handled.
"Brad approached me, which nobody in here wrote, and said if he was going to have the additional responsibility (of coaching lineman) I might want to let Mike (O'Cain be offensive coordinator)."
For the record, Scott maintains the title of assistant head coach and received a raise following the 2003 season.
Spring practice opens at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger. 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.