CLEMSON - Altroy Bodrick can close his eyes and see the headlines developing.
"Clemson defense recaptures past glory," they say. He and the 2002 unit have
restored the school's glorious tradition of devastating defenses, and set the
stage for those who follow to keep hammering the opposition year after year.
And though they may only be dreams, at least at the moment, Bodrick and other
Clemson elder statesmen are working hard to make them become reality.
"The older generation of players like me and Nick (Eason) have to teach these
younger boys that Clemson used to be (dominating)," Bodrick said. "Back in
the day there was no such thing as a Clemson defense giving up so many
points. So we've been talking (to the younger players) about it."
Bodrick has a unique appreciation for the whole scenario.
When he came to Clemson five years ago, the Tigers still had a reputation for
playing staunch defense. That reputation held true through Tommy West's last
year, Tommy Bowden's first year and eight games into the 2000 season.
But since Week Nine of that year - Clemson's first loss of the season, a
last-minute defeat by Georgia Tech at Death Valley - the unit has gotten
progressively worse. It bottomed out in 2001 when the Tigers finished No. 101
in the nation in turnover ratio (-.64), leading defensive coordinator Reggie
Herring to resign.
In came John Lovett this past spring, and with him the usual dose of
enthusiasm that comes with any new coach.
But beyond that lie players like Bodrick, who besides agreeing to move from
linebacker to rover (safety) in order to allow talented youngsters behind him
to get more playing time, has taken those very players under his wing and
tried to educate them on the exploits of past Clemson defenses.
"Instead of kind of fussing at them we're showing them things," he said.
"(Recently sophomore linebacker Eric) Sampson came up here with me and I
showed him the Hall of Fame and the 1981 defense and told him 'This is what
Clemson used to be.'
"I think if we show them the way things used to be, instead of fussing at
them, they'll get motivated to get Clemson back to that."
Meanwhile, further motivation comes from the fact that the so-called experts
are again writing off this year's unit as below average, even before a game
has been played.
Eason, especially, seems to take the slight personally.
"The only people that know we can be a good defense is ourselves," Eason
said. "Going into the Georgia game no one gives us a chance at all,
especially on the defensive side of the ball.
"We've got a lot to prove...We're going to be real good, and I don't think
people realize that."