Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden was a recent guest on SportsTalk with Dan Scott to discuss the Georgia Tech game. SportsTalk can be heard from 9 a.m.-12, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9 in upstate South Carolina.
Listen to the full interview here: Windows Media
DAN SCOTT: I guess you're hoping there will be about 82 or 83 thousand of your closest friends there Saturday night right?
COACH BOWDEN: I'll bet there'll be a few more than that.
DAN SCOTT: Stuck in the corners and crannies and everywhere else. This game has been getting an awful lot of hype this week and of course the ESPN GameDay obviously adds to that, but we were sitting here talking just from the sheer number of people looking for tickets, number of phone calls, the talk, all the hype, everything surrounding it, closest thing I can come up with from an outsiders look anyway, was the first game you played against your father here back in 1999, it's kind of got that kind of feel to it.
COACH BOWDEN: Probably does. You know that game was the first time in the history of college football, father-son and they were undefeated, #1 in the nation. Now this doesn't have that scenario, but it does have, I think for the first time in 18 years here at Clemson, 2 teams ranked this high meeting here, so it's going to have a little bit of that electricity.
DAN SCOTT: No kidding and obviously a Georgia Tech team coming in here that after the loss to Notre Dame has played very very well and we've been talking all week long that when you start talking about the chess match ups for football games, this ought to be one of the best ones to watch. Rob Spence's offense go against Jon Tenuta's defense.
COACH BOWDEN: Yeah, it really will because their strength, which is multiple 5-man pressures, bring their 5-man pressures into the strength of our team, which is our senior offensive line, for fans sitting there watching should to be a pretty good battle. And then, if you take the maybe the most explosive guy in college football, if not one of the top five in their wide receiver, plus our defense and the challenge that he's going to present and their quarterback and then their running game versus our young defense, with just 2 seniors on it, so that should be a couple of interesting match ups.
DAN SCOTT: It should be. Let's talk a little bit about, and I know you sit in on mostly the offensive meetings, but let's talk first about Reggie Ball and Calvin Johnson and the Choice kid, their running back, who's come along and done a good job for them but one of the things that we've talked about earlier this week and I've heard you mention it and some others mention it is keeping the rush lanes where they should be and trying to keep Reggie Ball in the pocket and not letting him get out on the corner, become mobile on you and forcing him to throw from the pocket and see if you can't force him into some mistakes. Is that kind of the mode of operation you've taken there?
COACH BOWDEN: Very much so, because he's not a very tall guy and we've got some we've got some tall defensive lineman and they have some tall offensive lineman, and then if you can keep them hemmed up between the 2 tackles with contained guys, then I think it'll make his job more difficult. Like Woody Dantzler and a lot of guys his height, they feel a little more comfortable if they've got a lot of green space, and a lot of open room because they need clear vision their height just won't allow them to have. Not that they can't fit in there, it's just that their vision is not very good, so it's going to be very important that we show some discipline as far as staying in our rush lanes and contained.
DAN SCOTT: How tough is it for say, a guy like Gaines Adams, whose motor is saying get to the quarterback , get to the quarterback, and now maybe if he's on the end, he's got to play more of a contained role?
COACH BOWDEN: He can still get there, he's just got to get there more from the edge, plus our defensive staff does enough, Vic Koenning does enough to allow him an inside rush at times and then we'll loop a guy around from inside to contain so we do enough to not make his rush lanes too predictable because he's our best pass rusher so it'll be difficult, but he knows he's going to have chances to beat them on the outside and he also knows he's going to have a chances to utilize his inside moves and go outside, as long as he does it when he's supposed to.
DAN SCOTT: When you went looking for a new defensive coordinator a couple of years ago, and decided on Vic Koenning, it's become obvious that you couldn't have picked a better with the staff and the performance on field, and it has seemingly gotten better and better. He did a great job last year of keeping Calvin Johnson in containment, I think 4 catches for just 40 something yards, he was never really a factor in the outcome of the game and this year we've much documented all the injuries and the young kids who are playing, and the defense seems to be getting better and better and better. What is it about Vic, his style, his personality, why has he been so successful here in the first year and a half in the system?
COACH BOWDEN: I just think he's very confident in what he teaches and I think his teaching skills and presentation is one that the players can understand. I think that's kind of obvious by the success we've had. As I started to do research on him the year we hired him, only Southern Cal and Troy were the 2 defenses that had the most categories in the top 10 in the nation and then I watched some Troy and South Carolina tapes, Troy opened up at South Carolina I believe that year, so I of course, saved some of that tape that year and checked his track record. He does have a successful Division 1-A track record as a coordinator. That's awful important as Rob did also, so those are the things I look for and it's really worked out well.
DAN SCOTT: Now flipping it to the other side, that other chess match up, Rob Spence's offense against Jon Tenuta's defense, you touched on it a bit at the beginning but expand on it a little more, why is Jon Tenuta so highly respected in this business as an defensive coordinator?
COACH BOWDEN: Well the fact that a lot of guys bring pressure some; he brings it practically every snap. I want to say that maybe 75 to 80% of the time he's going to bring 5-man pressure. Most people are 4-man pressure and defend with 7. Obviously, if you defend with 6 as opposed to 7, it's more holes, but he's really complicated in who drops into those 3 holes underneath. It's very unpredictable on where they're going to come from, which safety's going to drop down and which guy's going to drop off the defensive line to be one of those 3-deep underneath coverage guys. People do bits and pieces of it, he's married to it, and he's really been ultra successful at it. As I mentioned before, the ultimate compliment was given to him this summer by Charlie Weiss this summer and you know he's supposed to be the top guy in the NFL and college offensively, so I think that really shot his marketability up.
DAN SCOTT: Now with the veteran offensive line that you talked about, it's kind of strength versus strength, if you are able to successfully, more often than not, pick up where that 5th pressure guy's coming from and make the right call, does that open them up for big play possibilities?
COACH BOWDEN: Oh yeah and if they can run through at all, they're pretty good at getting off block because they're not real big, but again, if we can run through an arm tackle then they have less guys in a defensive secondary structure than a 4-man rush. Anytime they commit another guy up field, that's one less in the underneath coverage and underneath running lanes so it opens up a little bit bigger gap, so yes, it does present an opportunity for bigger plays but obviously by their success and national ranking, they haven't' given up a bunch.
DAN SCOTT: Do you expect them to come in and make a conscious effort early to try and shut down your run and force Will Proctor to try and throw the ball?
COACH BOWDEN: I would think. You know, that's what we do best. We're nationally ranked in the running, not passing and that's kind of their forte to stop the running, that's every defensive coordinator, so I would say yes, they're going to come in and try to stop the run, but they're not going to do it from outside their scheme. They're going to try their scheme first and if it's worked against everybody else, so now if they have to commit another guy, then hopefully Will can have the success he had against Boston College where he threw for 345 yards.
DAN SCOTT: Or even the Florida State game when you had the 2 big runs but outside of that the running was tough and he had to throw the ball down there quite a bit, I think 40 times.
COACH BOWDEN: Exactly, and even in that game against Temple, I think he was 8 for 9 and one was that we didn't get the right call or we didn't get a guy out or he would have been 9 for 9, so he is an accurate passer. And then if you do blitz them, you know we do have some screens and stuff that can hurt ya.
DAN SCOTT: I believe it was one of the talk shows in Atlanta earlier this week, or it might have been a writer, they all run together after awhile. They were kind of joking but your kick-off coverage problems have been documented. Georgia Tech's statistically I think is even worse than you. There was some question in this guy's mind of whether either offense would ever see the field. It might just be a track meet up and down the field.
COACH BOWDEN: Or returns, kick-off returns. Yeah, I'm sure that they have worked on it, just like we have and it's amazing we've never had this big of a problem before and I think we'll eventually get it ironed out, but boy, as you watch college football, I might have mentioned it to you earlier in the week, but I've never seen so many kicking problems with the Virginia Techs and the University of Florida's, the Alabama's and teams that don't traditionally don't experience them, but seems like they're having them across the board from coast to coast.
DAN SCOTT: The team that I guess would surprise you the most that's having them would be a Virginia Tech wouldn't it given Frank Beamer's reputation?
COACH BOWDEN: Exactly, they've had them and Boston College's are well documented nationally and you could just go on down the line so we're not alone, but it doesn't make us not want to correct it, but again, there's other people experiencing problems, and most people get it ironed out.
DAN SCOTT: Well, one guy who, you hope is getting it ironed out is Jad Dean. How's he looked and what's your confidence level in him right now if you have to answer drives with field goals rather than touchdowns?
COACH BOWDEN: Well, I think Chan Gailey had some comments about some kicking difficulties they had with their guy who had a great year one year and slacked off a little bit, but eventually the good ones will get it ironed out. Jad has had success, it's in his system, the rhythm is in his system, he'll eventually rediscover it like most athletes do and most skilled guys do in his position. He had a good week this week and he kicked pretty good last week so I would think the one he got last week was more of a temptation problem so he's eventually going to get back in his groove where he feels comfortable.
DAN SCOTT: Finally, Coach, you and the team obviously have to try and stay as focused on the game as possible with all of this other stuff going on around, College GameDay here from ESPN and everything that it means, and you addressed it a little bit earlier in the week, but if you could just talk about it again, I know from your standpoint, it's the gamefocus, but what does this kind of hype, this kind of national attention, what good can it do for your program?
COACH BOWDEN: Well, I think that it gives you exposure that you traditionally would not get. There's going to be a lot of good things said about this University other than just the Athletic Department and other than the athletic arena so I think that's a plus and it's going to show a part of the campus up around Bowman Field and some of the campus that sometimes on a game that's televised, you just see the stadium and the facilities surrounding it and that's it, so I think there will be a lot of positive things said about Clemson. I think just the electricity and environment that we have on game day is something that will surely just showcased nationally.
DAN SCOTT: By the way, before we let you go, I saw in the paper this morning where Ray Ray and Fahmarr taped about a 4 or 5 minute segment for Oprah Winfrey. Did you make sure that he had his que cards and said some good things about his Coach?
COACH BOWDEN: I wrote his script. (Laughter) No, he's done all of that without my help. I'm sure he will in the future.