CLEMSON - Tommy Bowden shook his head and grinned a sick little grin. It was the kind of look you might see from a high-rolling poker player who, needing only a 10 for an ace-high straight, drew the three of clubs.
He didn't want to tell the media. But he had little choice.
Starting linebacker Leroy Hill missed Tuesday's practice with a sprained ankle, and at this juncture is just about "50-50" to play in Saturday's season opener vs. Wake Forest. Hill originally injured the ankle during Monday's practice, but Bowden didn't want to say anything until after the senior had gone through treatment Tuesday morning.
"Sometimes a player will tweak something like that, he'll come in for treatment the next day and be fine," Bowden said. "But Leroy missed the last half of practice (Monday) and didn't go at all today. Based on experience with these things, this being a Tuesday practice where he did nothing, I'd say he's about 50-50 for Saturday."
How devastating would it be for Clemson's psyche if Hill couldn't play?
"Well, had you asked me two days ago who's the one guy you wouldn't want to lose, Leroy would be the guy," Bowden said.
With three full days before game day hope remains for Hill's recovery.
But Bowden usually likes his injured players to be back at practice by Wednesday during game weeks, the last full workout of the week. And even though Hill is a veteran, All-ACC performer, Bowden would prefer Hill get as much time in this week as possible because of Wake Forest's unique offensive style.
"Later in the year, especially with a veteran guy, maybe it's not so bad," he said. "But first week of the season, with all the defensive calls that need to be made, you'd like to have him here."
If Hill can't play, David Dunham would start in his place.
Elsewhere Tuesday, the race for starting place kicker between Jad Dean and walk-on Stephen Furr remains in a dead heat. Or perhaps at a standstill.
"Both guys made a couple today. Both missed a couple. Neither really stood out," Bowden said.
Wide receiver Michael Collins (leg), defensive end Vontrell Jamison (arm) and guard Chip Myrick (mono) all should be available Saturday, but likely in limited roles.