First Day in Full Pads? Hit the Goal Line, Son

by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - When Tommy Bowden arrived at Clemson, he brought with him a newfangled offense that, for two years anyway, set the ACC on fire.

Back then he was considered to be on the cutting edge of the new wave of major college football, a man whose style was to be the blueprint for success.

Of course, it hasn't quite worked out that way. In fact, after two years of inconsistent offensive production since the great beginning, Bowden has returned to his roots and installed more I-formation in the Tigers' attack.

The idea that sometimes the old school ways are the best apparently aren't limited to scheme and/or alignment.

It applies to Bowden's practices, too. And sure as the sun comes up in the morning, Bowden had his team working on the most brutal, yet simplistic, aspects of football on Saturday, the first day full pads were allowed:

Goal line and short-yardage situations.

Brutal because of 22 bodies swarming within sometimes a two-yard area. Simplistic because of matchups - one on one in the trenches determining which side of the ball controls the line of scrimmage.

Not every team does it. But Bowden doesn't know another way.

"I've always done it because I was weaned up by my father, and he always does goal line the first day," Bowden said Saturday. "It's the toughest part. It's toughness. (In the) open field you get collisions. Down there you don't get real big collisions.

"Down there it's compact. Everything's wadded and bunched up. It's man-to-man running, and you can't block them all. It's 10 blocking 11, and the back's always going to see an unblocked defender hitting him.

"To me it's what football's about. That's the best place to start, and I've always started right there."

Much as it did a year ago, Clemson's offense struggled in those situations Saturday.

Tiger defenders stopped the running back short of his mark six times in eight tries. No offensive performers distinguished themselves during the scrimmage portion of practice, Bowden said.

But at this stage he doesn't seem to mind. Defense seems to be the top priority for Bowden at this point in camp, and Saturday's performance was enough to satisfy him.

For now.

"We're going to keep working until we get better on offense...but I was happy with the way the defense played," he said.

What didn't please the fifth-year head coach was the way several of his players reacted to being in pads for the first day.

"Full pads, fatigue heat; A bunch of guys took themselves out," said Bowden. "There were some guys who were questionable, and the heat might have won today on a few guys I thought we were counting on.

"I'm not going to name names, but I know who they are. They know who they are. And their coaches know who they are."


- As is the norm for this early in camp, Saturday's workout saw several fights break out as the hitting progressed.

"Happens all the time," Bowden said. "Even in pro camps."

- Two players left practice early because of minor injuries.

Fullback Cliff Harrell suffered a cut on his nose that required medical attention. Linebacker John Leake had severe cramps during after-practice running and was carted inside for a fluid IV.

- Two other players missed Saturday's practice all together, but with good reason.

Wide receiver Kevin Youngblood and fullback Chad Jasmin attended their graduation ceremonies Saturday morning at Littlejohn Coliseum. Jasmin, especially, seemed to please Bowden.

"I'm extremely proud of him because he came in under some pretty adverse conditions," he said. "Earlier in his career there was speculation, by a lot, that he would never see this day. That's why you never say never."

- Student body president Fletcher Anderson blocked a punt during third team drills.

- Fan Appreciation Day activities begin under the South Stands at Death Valley today at 3 p.m.

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