Heat Precautions Highlight First Day Of Practice

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CLEMSON - In many ways Saturday's first Clemson football practice was typical.

Coaches barking, young players struggling to find their way, veterans trying to crank it up again - routine sights and sounds for an early August evening at the Jervey practice facility.

There was one atypical aspect of Saturday's workout, which lasted in excess of three-and-a-half hours:

Because of the heat, head coach Tommy Bowden scaled back a bit on the end-of-practice conditioning runs his teams always do early in fall camp.

"It was a good first day, but it was a long first day," Bowden said. "And it's only going to get worse, I understand, from a heat and humidity standpoint. You hate to go out there and drain them the first day...We did conditioning, we just didn't do as many as I'd planned."

The move seems to indicate Bowden is buying into the "it's a marathon, not a sprint" approach. And why not? The advance forecast into late next week is calling for high temperatures routinely reaching 97-99 degrees.

And with the heat-related tragedies that have occurred on football fields across the country in recent years, the Clemson training staff continues to be at the forefront of player safety issues.

"This is the first time I've ever cut back on conditioning the first day, but other than that our trainers do a good job," said Bowden. "We talk about water, we give them water...The only reason we're out here so long is because we give them a lot of breaks and try and make them sit down.

"I think we're doing the things from a medical standpoint we should do. But anticipating the (temperatures) we're supposed to have Monday and Tuesday, I decided to cut back on conditioning today."

Of course, conditioning drills will still be run and there's no reason to believe the Tigers will have any problems in that area by the time the Labor Day opener with Florida State rolls around.

But there are a handful of players who will need special attention when it comes to getting into top condition over the next month. But Bowden would only identify one - the expected arrival of an out-of-shape Antonio Clay.

Clay, who spent the spring semester at home recovering mentally after playing last season under the shadow of the death of his sister, reported to camp in good spirits - but not peak condition.

"Mentally I think he's okay," Bowden said. "He's just out of shape. He's not in good football shape yet, so he's got some work to do in that area before he's really crisp again."


- Bowden said the three players who switched positions prior to camp opening - Michael Wade from quarterback to safety, Sadat Chambers from safety to running back, and Kevin Alexander from linebacker to bandit end - all seemed comfortable in their new surroundings.

- The coach said he watched with great interest the work his kickers put in Saturday. Bowden said that Mark Buchholz seemed to have the early upper hand over Richard Jackson in placekicking, but Jackson turned around and had a better day punting than Jimmy Maners.

- The only player who missed the first practice on Saturday due
to injury was first-year freshman Drew Taylor. Taylor suffered a
broken ankle at home in Birmingham before coming to Clemson. He
was the only Clemson player in a yellow jersey on Saturday.

- Bowden announced after practice that five walk-ons have been
put on scholarship. The five players are punter Jimmy Maners, center
Ben Ramsey, tight end Jermaine Martin, wide receiver Chris Wade, and
defensive tackle Bryan Baker.

- Among the coaching personnel on Saturday were student
assistant coaches Marion Dukes and Damonte McKenzie.

Dukes was a starter the last three years for the Tigers, including all 13 games
in 2006 when he helped the Clemson offense score a school record 425
points, best in the ACC. Dukes was released by the Miami Dolphins
recently and has returned to Clemson to finish his degree.

McKenzie lettered for the Tigers from 1995-99 and is also back on campus this
fall to finish up his degree requirements.

Clemson SID contributed to a portion of the notes package.

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