CLEMSON - If there was one subtle, yet unmistakable message delivered by Clemson head football coach Tommy Bowden on Saturday's first day of spring practice, it was this:
Experienced or not, no player on the field should take anything for granted.
The Tigers opened workouts with an enthusiasm left over from 2005's strong finish, but under the weight of greater expectations for 2006. To that end, Bowden said, this is not to time for any of his players to get comfortable.
"We have more talent here than any year I've been here," he said. "Especially when you go back 4-5 years ago when we didn't have anyone drafted. And much of the depth of that talent now is young. So just because you're an older guy doesn't guarantee you anything.
"If you maybe have a day where you're not out there giving 100 percent, there's someone waiting to take your place."
Many of the questions surrounding Saturday's workout centered on new starting quarterback Will Proctor.
A fifth-year senior, Proctor opens camp for the first time as the starter. Such a situation might make most coaches nervous. But Bowden, outwardly at least, seems as comfortable with Proctor at the helm this spring as he did each of the last three with Charlie Whitehurst firmly entrenched as the starter.
"He's looked good for a while. I don't think his problem's going to be how he looks in practice," Bowden said. "Last year when Charlie was hurt he took every snap with the (first team), he's won the Iron Man competition over the summer...I believe he's ready to go."
Saturday was also debut day for the latest coaching hire on the Clemson staff.
Chris Rumph, the former Gamecock who arrived in Clemson this week via former Tiger head coach Tommy West's staff in Memphis, got his first look at his defensive line and pronounced himself excited with the product.
"There's a lot of talent out there," said Rumph. "It's young, but it's talented. What we have to do now is work on cutting out the mistakes they made last year and becoming better football players."
As for the expected questions about being a former South Carolina player now wearing Clemson orange, Rumph shrugged it off.
"I'm sure the people who know me understand. This is a business decision," he said. "I'm here, I'm a Clemson Tiger now. And I'm proud of it."
Besides, he said, he isn't the only such member of Bowden's staff.
"Brad Scott made it easy for me," he said with a laugh, referring to the former USC head coach. He blazed the trail."
- The team worked out in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts Saturday.
- Bowden had high praise for his redshirt freshmen, who are now officially competing for playing time with the upperclassmen.
"We threw a lot at them today, and I thought they handled it well," he said.
- The coach also liked what he saw from the three signees in his latest recruiting class who are already enrolled in school and, therefore, took part in Saturday's workout.
"Jacoby Ford, Jeff Ogren and Chris Russell all looked good," Bowden said. "Ford especially. He caught some deep balls out there today."
- The team resumes workouts on Monday.