CLEMSON - On what was undoubtedly one of the longest days of his life, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden unexpectedly made it to his team's final on-field workout in preparation for Georgia Tech.
Bowden had flown to Fort Walton Beach, Fla. at 8:15 a.m. Thursday to attend the funeral of his former brother-in-law John Madden, 45, and 15-year old nephew Bowden Madden. Plans had already been put in place for offensive line coach Brad Scott to meet with the media after practice, and for coordinators Mike O'Cain (offense) and John Lovett (defense) to handle Bowden's weekly radio call-in show.
Instead, Bowden made it back to Clemson in time for Thursday's workout, although he said it wasn't necessarily by design.
"It was just (a matter of) time," he said. "My father (Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden) was taking off right after with an escort and going to Miami. I got my car in with his. My mother was there, my brother was there with my sister, so she had a lot of family support.
Later, he admitted the whole experience had taken an emotional toll on him.
"I've not really been to a lot of funerals," he said. "Usually you only have one casket. We had two. That was, um, unusual."
Back on the field, Bowden said Thursday's run-through went well, though he's anxious to see how the team reacts to the shorter preparation that comes with a normal game week.
"Not only the young guys, but this particular team hasn't been through it," he said. "I'll be interested to see how they react to having three days to prepare for a game instead of three weeks."
As to whether the Tigers are mentally prepared for the Yellow Jackets, Bowden shrugged his shoulders.
"I've stopped reading minds," he said. "I've gone into pregame meals where it's been loud, talking, I've had to yell at them, and then they go out there and kill people. I've never been able to 'guesstimate' by attentiveness on Thursday or pregame meal on Saturday."
Running back Duane Coleman has begged Bowden to dress for Saturday, and Bowden may relent. But don't look for Coleman to play.
"He's not even been released by the doctors yet," Bowden said. "Whether he feels better or not is a moot point. If he's not been released he can't play."
Bowden said it appears true freshman offensive lineman Akeem Robinson will play this season as opposed to being redshirted. He could see time at either tackle spot before the season is done.
Currently Robinson is working at second team right tackle along with Cole Downer.
"It's a matter of judging how quickly a player will accelerate," Bowden said, explaining his decision. "If it looks like he's going to develop quickly enough to accelerate past his competition in three or four weeks, then maybe you take a chance. You just hope you don't judge wrong."