CLEMSON, SC - Tommy Bowden has circled Dec. 1 on his calendar in bright red.
Not that he'll have any trouble remembering, but that's the day he can sell his story to recruits face to face.
He reminds his team of it nearly every day - every time a lineman is a step slower than he should be. With every missed assignment they're reminded that somewhere out there is someone ready to step in.
"What you would like to do is put them on the bench," Bowden said of his technique for correcting effort and performance problems. "At this particular time, we're thin on depth. We're really thin."
That's good news, sort of, for anyone that isn't performing up to standard. But it's just a matter of time, Bowden figures, before he'll have more options. Maybe he can't replace someone not performing up to par now, but he assures his team every day that it won't be long.
He sat sophomore tackle Akil Smith at the start of the Wake Forest game Saturday and started redshirt freshman Brady Washburn. Smith has been a starter pretty much since he stepped foot on campus at Clemson. He's got some of the best feet Bowden's ever seen on a lineman. He didn't practice well enough last week, though.
"He had practiced as hard as Brady," said Bowden. "Akil could be as good a lineman as there has been here, but he hasn't prepared and hasn't practiced to perform at that level. He sets a standard for Saturdays and he hasn't practiced up to that standard."
For now, Bowden has just a few options. The weight falls off the scale once you get past the first two levels of depth on the line. "(Offensive line coach) Ron West has got to use his expertise and motivational skills," said Bowden. "We did not display any toughness."
If his team isn't thinking about Dec. 1, Bowden thinks about that day every time he watches his offense plod along like a grind-it-out power football team.
Clemson had two drives of ten plays or more that didn't produce points against Wake Forest. 394 yards of total offense produced 13 points. Clemson scored 31 points against N.C. State with 26 less yards.
"When your execution has to be perfect for eleven, twelve or thirteen plays, that's hard to do," said Bowden. "This is an offense for play makers. We've had one run over twenty yards by a back. Woody (Dantzler) has four. What does that tell you? We're playing the wrong guy at tailback."
Bowden figures he can do something about his problems in a month. "If these guys can't get excited about the chance of going to a bowl, then we can fix that with recruiting."