CLEMSON - The more Tommy Bowden sees this when Clemson's offense commits a
turnover here during two-a-days, the more John Lovett smiles.
Lovett, Clemson's defensive coordinator, has been preaching turnovers to his
players since taking over the position from Reggie Herring shortly before
spring practice. And with good reason - the Tigers were No. 101 in the nation
in turnovers caused (16) in 2001, and 90th in turnover ratio (-.64).
So when his defense forced three fumbles in Saturday's first major scrimmage
of prefall camp, Lovett afforded himself a brief smile.
"Since I've come here we've been working on turnovers," he said. "Every day
after practice we work on turnovers. We emphasize turnovers. That's one of
the things that's going to make you a good defense.
"You've got to get the ball back to the offense. You've got to sit on the
sideline and drink water, you can't be out there on the field. The more times
we can get the offense the ball, the better chance we have to win the game."
Lovett refused to single out any player who may be improving his chances of
becoming a major factor in the 2002 defense, choosing to reserve comment
until early this week after he had a chance to look at the scrimmage film.
But it's obvious a cautious enthusiasm is running through Clemson's defense,
one that seems to be growing by the day.
There remains plenty of room for improvement, of course.
The secondary was unable to come up with an interception Saturday, and gave
up one long touchdown pass from Willie Simmons to Derrick Hamilton. And on
two occasions a player or players seemed lost when trying to line up in one
of Lovett's two basic defenses.
But such errors are correctable. And to this point Lovett likes the identity
his team is developing.
"Since they showed up for fall camp they've kind of taken off from where we
started in the spring," Lovett said. "They've pretty much made pretty steady
progress every day. I just want to make sure guys know what they're doing
when the ball's snapped...We have some pretty athletic kids out here, and I
want them where they're supposed to be so they can go make plays."
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Florence Morning News. He also hosts SportsTalk from 10 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.