How to Judge the Talent of the 2002 Clemson Football Team?


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - What is the proper way to measure the overall talent of a football
program?


According to Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden, the annual NFL Draft is the
best indicator. The Tigers didn't have anyone drafted a year ago, he said, so
the talent level was down. Next April's draft will determine how talented the
current team is, according to his reasoning.


But what about head-to-head competition? The NFL Draft only judges seniors
and/or players who decide to leave school early.


Isn't the overall talent of a team better judged by its weekly performance,
especially against the teams within its own conference?


The question was put to Bowden over the weekend. His initial response was
that he didn't understand the question. Another reporter tried rephrasing it,
and again Bowden said he wasn't sure what the writer asking.


The first reporter tried again.


"What I'm asking," he said, " is this: Is the NFL Draft a better overall
judge of a team's talent level than the team's actual won-loss record?"


Finally, Bowden crafted an answer.


"The talent level here is definitely increasing," he said. "I don't think
there's any doubt that it's increasing. Where (the talent level is) in
relation to the conference, the best indicator is the NFL Draft. It always
is.

"There are a lot of teams equal in talent, and when that's the case you have
to win your share of games. When the talent's not equal, then you have to
upset some of them. When you have superior talent you should win the majority
of your games.


"The upsets...that's what we've not done here yet."


Bowden points to his team's track record against quality opponents.


He is now 3-13 against ranked opponents, and lately those games have been the
ones in which the Tigers seem to make the biggest mistakes. Clemson is 0-4 in
nationally-televised night games this season, all four against teams that are
or were ranked in the Top 25.


"We don't execute good against quality opponents, and a lot of that is the
talent level we're playing," Bowden said. "At some point and time we have to
elevate the program to make plays against a quality ranked
opponent...Eventually we've got to step up and answer the bell."


Still, Bowden proclaims the ship remains on course, despite a 6-5 record in
his fourth season.


He points to the loss of last season's record-setting quarterback, Woody
Dantzler, as one reason for the struggles of his offense in 2002. Injuries to
the offensive line - most noticeably the loss of right tackle Derrick
Brantley - have hurt, as well.


"I thought we might be a little ahead (of schedule) this year," he said.


But publicly, at least, Bowden remains optimistic.


"If you look at the last three years, with what we have I believe we're right
on schedule," he said.

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