First Spring Practice Brings First Look At New Coordinators

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Ask Curtis Baham about working with new offensive coordinator Rob Spence and the wide receiver simply smiles and shakes his head.

"He's a mastermind," Baham said Friday following Clemson's first spring football practice.

"You think because he's a little lightweight he's not aggressive. But he's a little fiery guy. I like that."

Clemson fans are hoping they like what Spence brings to the Tigers' offense, as well. And a large step toward implementing the changes Spence brought with him from Toledo began Friday.

It was the same story on defense, where returning players got their first taste of new coordinator Vic Koening's on-field coaching style.

All this, wrapped up in a nice, tidy three-hour practice taking place at the Jervey practice facility despite cold temperatures and high winds. It was a day to work, regardless of the weather, head coach Tommy Bowden understanding that every day is important to a team coming off last season's 6-5 performance.

Besides, a day like Friday is one more likely to challenge players than a nice, comfortable afternoon.

"From a receiver standpoint (on a cold, windy day) you have to concentrate throwing and catching a lot more," he said, citing one example. "It forces you to concentrate more than you'd probably have to, so I think it's good in that regard.

"That ball flutters a little bit and you've got to concentrate that much more. So it's a little more challenging in that aspect, but again I think that's good."

The objectives Bowden has laid down for this spring are simple:

- Find the best 11 players on each side of the ball;

- Find team leaders;

- Make sure players grasp the new schemes on both sides of the ball.

He spent much of Friday's practice doing what he always has - fluttering around the perimeter of things, taking notes for future team and staff meetings.

Spence is running the offense as promised, but Bowden hasn't wandered too far away from that end of the field.

"I did pretty much what I always do," he said. "I didn't do anything abnormal from what I've done the last several years. I make a comment here or there and just observe...That's traditionally what I do."

The offense will be under the microscope for much of this spring.

After struggling for most of last season, Bowden fired offensive coordinator Mike O'Cain and brought in Spence from Toledo. In doing so, Spence becomes the third different offensive coordinator for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst in three seasons.

But Bowden doesn't think the rising senior will be adversely affected by the change.

"I would think he's as equally as talented as the guy at Auburn (Jason Campbell) who had four in five years," said Bowden. "I'd think it would be a similar situation as that. I would think Charlie would be equally as capable as their guy was. Plus (still in the) no huddle, one back, plays are the same, terminology hasn't changed...really there's a tremendous amount of carryover in what we're doing."

As far as Baham is concerned, new coordinators aside, the only thing that matters is getting on the field and getting to work.

"Regardless of the system or the coordinator it's still football," he said. "We just need to learn all the terminology, stay fundamentally sound in what we're doing while we're learning, and we'll be all right."

Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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