CLEMSON - Tommy Bowden has always believed heat is a great mental test for his football players. Thursday, he got a chance to see first hand how they met the challenge.
With temperatures approaching 120 degrees on the newly installed artificial turf, Bowden put his Clemson team through nearly three hours of work in full pads. Save for new defensive end Bobby Williamson, who was carted off near the end of practice with cramps, everyone not on the injured list made it through the workout unscathed.
For Bowden, that was a positive sign.
"That's what I talked to them about after practice," Bowden said. "It was hottest day, the most humid day (of the year)...There were no clouds, no shade. It was 120 on the turf and 90 off, and we did most everything on it.
"(Strength and Conditioning coach) Joey (Batson) asked if I wanted to condition them on or off the turf. I said 'Let's see if they complain.' We ran them on the turf, and it was hot. The guys who practiced today took a step forward."
Bowden's recent practices have been starting in the neighborhood of 3:30 p.m. which, not coincidentally, is kickoff time for the Sept. 4 season-opener vs. Wake Forest at Death Valley.
The length of practice, also by design, has roughly been game length. And Bowden figures the more heat involved, the better conditioned - both mentally and physically - his team will be.
"If it's not hot that's one aspect of your mental toughness you don't have to check out," he said. "All of the sudden your nicked, in pain, practice is long and monotonous. Then you throw the heat on top of it, it adds something to the equation."
Most of the players were noticeably dragging after the end-of-practice conditioning runs Thursday, more so than any other day so far.
Even Bowden himself seemed a little out of sorts, though he blamed it on doubling his lunchtime run from four to eight hours. But as exhausted as everyone seemed to be Thursday, Bowden knows the worst is yet to come.
"Next week will be the toughest week," he said. "Game week you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Next week it will be a little more difficult, and that's where good teams can go out and get something done, have good focus and mindset.
"If you want to play for a championship you have to start fast. You can get to a bowl game and start slow. But if you want to get to the BCS you have to start fast and finish fast. We haven't done that yet.
"It will be interesting to see who can do that next week.
- Bowden awarded scholarships to three walk-ons Thursday - offensive tackle Jesse Pickens, guard Cole Downer and WHIP linebacker Lionel Richardson.
That brings Clemson's scholarship total to 84, one shy of the NCAA limit.
- Senior guard Cedric Johnson joined 14 other Tigers on the injured list Thursday, missing practice with a bruised knee. He could return Saturday.
- Bowden said Roman Fry, who opened camp fighting for the left tackle job, has looked so good at guard that he's now challenging Johnson for that position.
- Bowden was pleased with the choice of Jacksonville as the host site for the ACC Championship game next year. The reason? Weather.
"If it's gonna rain, I'd rather it be a warm rain that a cold rain or snow," he said.