Dan Scott Interview: Tommy Bowden

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Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden was a guest on Cruise Control with Dan Scott earlier this week. Following is the printed version of their conversation:

Dan Scott: How has this two-week period between games been for you? I can
imagine that on one hand you needed the break because of the injuries, and
that's been a good thing. But has it seemed like this Central Michigan
game has been forever in getting there?

Tommy Bowden: Yeah, it was needed because we were really beat up. I can't remember
in the last 9 years when we had so many starters with nicks and bruises,
that would have cost us last week because I don't think that they would
have played. And of course, it gives us another opportunity to improve on
mistakes in our first six games. And it gives us a little more
preparation time for Central Michigan. Now, you hate to lose going into
an open date because you have to live with it for two weeks. That's the
good thing about basketball and baseball, if you lose, you can usually
counteract quickly. But with football, it's either seven days or two
weeks when you have an open date. So that would be the negative, but
there are some things we worked on that I think we got better at.

DS- From an injury standpoint, I know you said earlier this week that it
looks like everyone was back with the possible exception of Rendrick
Taylor. Is that still where we stand right now?

TB- Yeah, pretty much that's where we stand. Rendrick had a torn
hamstring. Not a pulled or a strained, but a torn one and those take a
little bit longer. If he doesn't go this week, maybe we can get him down
for our conference games. I think Tim Bourret told me the other day that
when Rendrick plays, we're 17-4. When he doesn't play, we're 3-7. So we
need to get him back on the field.

DS- Pretty good record.

TB- Yeah, I know it. I didn't know that.

DS- In talking about improving some things, obviously the focus, as it
should be, on special teams first, and I know you've worked with the
offensive line as well, but I saw a quote from Frank Beamer after the
Virginia Tech game and it indicated that they went back and actually
looked at film again on Saturday morning. He said he was glad they did
because he felt like they found something, a flaw in your scheme, that
enabled them to take advantage of the kick return. Have you seen that
from him and in retrospect, have you looked back, and I know you said you
felt like it was more personnel than scheme, have you re-examined that

TB- Well you know, we didn't have any blocks, so it's not in protection,
it's moreso in coverage. If you remember the return, our two starting
gunners were the fliers and we just didn't make the tackle. So yeah, it
could have been that he said if you make these two guys miss, then we see
that they've skewed heavily towards protection moreso than coverage.
Because when you pick your personnel, you ask which is more important,
protection or coverage? Well, if it's protection, then maybe you go with
a bigger guy that can cover more space. If it's coverage, then you need
to go with a guy that's a little bit faster and trimmer, that can make an
open-field tackle. So, maybe he's talking about that. We've made some
adjustments over the open date. But I think their guy is in 3rd place all
time in punt returns. If I had to do it again, I wouldn't kick to him,
like we did with Devon Hester at Miami. We would just never kick to him.
But I would say that when you've got your two starting guys miss a tackle,
I think we may need to go with a little bit bigger guy in coverage. Guys
like that, when they find out something like that, they usually don't
share it with you.

DS- I know you said you worked on it, and you feel like you've got some
problems solved, and I guess you never really know until that next kick,
do you?

TB- No, you don't. And that's why we're doing things like we did last
year in protection. We had no punts blocked. Same guy coaching and
pretty much the same personnel and we didn't have one blocked in 13 games.
So we're teaching the same way, spending the same amount of time and same
thing in coverage. In our first three games, we were knock-out in
coverage. And then all of the sudden, you've got two or three guys miss a
tackle in coverage against Virginia Tech, two of them starters. So we've
got good personnel on there, but sometimes you've got to put a guy in
place to make a play and he's got to make the play. If he doesn't, then
you've got to make adjustments. You either give the guy a little more
encouragement to make the play or you change your schemes. Those are the
different routes you can go.

DS- This Central Michigan team coming him has been beaten by 30 by a D1-AA
team earlier this season and now as they've moved forward, offensively at
least, as they seemed to have found their stride. They've scored 100
points in the past two games and maybe present you with a challenge in the
passing game that you haven't seen this year.

TB- Well, right now, of the teams we've played, they're no doubt the most
productive and efficient in throwing and catching, passing yardage,
nationally ranked in that regard. They're very similar to
Louisiana-Monroe as far as their style of attack. But again, a little bit
different in personnel. Their personnel is a little bit better at Central
Michigan. The quarterback was player of the year, threw for over 3,000
yards last year, MVP in the bowl game...He's a pretty talented player.

DS- When you look at a team like that and you see those numbers, and
you're working on defending it, do you take into account their quality of
competition at all when you look at those numbers or do you just throw it
out the window and just go basically by what you see on film?

TB- I think you have to look at the scheme moreso. Against Ball State
they scored 52 points, and they missed a field goal late to beat Nebraska.
So you gauge that competition a little bit. I played Army when I was at
Tulane, so I'm a little familiar with Army's personnel. So some of it you
do, but I think a lot of it has to do with timing, momentum, confidence,
new staff, and they have to learn a new system. And then all the sudden
they come in here to play us with a little confidence offensively. And
defensively a little deceiving, because when you score quick like they do,
you give the other team the ball a lot more often, so they're going to
accumulate a lot more yards. And then you look at us losing our last two,
so you have to fight the level of our confidence and then they come in
with a lot of confidence. With us, there is probably some doubts and
indecision by some of our guys, which you get up everyday and read
something negative about you, that's something that you've got to
overcome. That's why this sport's a little bit different from a
motivating factor, as I mentioned with baseball and basketball you get to
play the next day or day and a half and get the loss out of your system.
Here, you've got to live with it for a week or two weeks, so you've got to
address that because it's a different mentality. Same age and very
competitive, because you know athletes are competitive, but a little bit
different environment.

DS- Yesterday, I had an obligation with ACC Select and the Clemson Soccer
game, so I couldn't make it over after practice, but in checking out what
happened, the question about Willy Korn and redshirting him came up again.
Did it catch you by surprise?

TB- Well I think it comes up about every week, to be honest with you. I
think I've been asked that about every single week by one of those beat
writers or at my press conference. Especially the last two weeks since he
didn't play, I've been asked that. So it didn't really catch me by
surprise. I think with the open date looking for more things to write and
halfway through the season, didn't play the last two games, I think that's
a natural environment that would create much more interest and maybe more

DS- Is there anything to it? I mean he has had a little bit of a tweak in
the shoulder or the arm from what I've heard.

TB- The Furman game he got a little banged up you know. But we talk every
week, as I told the guys yesterday, we talk every week and we talked this
week and we'll both do what's best for the University.

DS- You mentioned Nebraska a moment ago and that brought something to
mind; I was kind of surprised that it wasn't asked in your press
conference back on Tuesday, and that is being someone not unfamiliar with
adversity yourself as a head coach here at Clemson, and seeing what went
on at Nebraska last week with the firing of their Athletic Director, did
you have any thoughts about that at all? Because normally you see the
coach get the ax not the AD, at least in the middle of the season. That
was a little unusual I thought.

TB- Well, now I think that at Florida State, their athletic director
announced a resignation about six months ago with a year and a half left
on his contract. So, of course, I'm not real familiar with their
situation and I'm not familiar at all with Nebraska and his situation,
what part of the country he's from, what his background is, where his
family's from. I think he came from Pittsburgh, which that job is open I
believe. The Athletic Director at Pittsburgh is open and that's where he
came from, so maybe there's correlation there. I happen to know the ex-AD
at Pitt real good so that would be the only thing I know, other than
seeing it scroll across the bottom of the TV.

DS- Finally, with this week setting up the way it is, Homecoming coming,
the big crowd, sometimes those things work in your favor from an intensity
and atmosphere standpoint, and sometimes all that stuff around the game
and away from the game can be a bit of a distraction. Any idea what to
expect out of not only the team but the crowd and everything that goes
along with this atmosphere this week?

TB- In the 9 years I've been here the crowd has always been a positive
benefit for the team. It's just better playing at home, more excitement.
Our environment, I don't know the right word, it's just better, I say
better, but it's such a great environment. There's so much electricity in
the air. Since I've been here in 9 years it's been a positive moreso than
a negative.

DS- Well, we'll see how it all plays out at Noon on Saturday against an
interesting, I guess, Central Michigan team.

TB- Yeah, they won 10 games last year, they've got a lot of confidence,
they had a first-rounder last year, and we had a first-rounder last year,
and they had a second-rounder and we had a third-rounder. I know our
people are not familiar with the type of talent they had, but they're a
talented team and one that is playing real good football right now. They
come in with a lot of confidence and they present a challenge offensively,
scoring 100 points in their last two games. So we're going to have to
manufacture some points on offense and play extremely good on defense and
be solid in the kicking game. So we'll tee it up at 12:01 I think and see
how it goes.

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