ORLANDO - While Clemson goes at it hard on the field here in Orlando,
preparing for Monday's Tangerine Bowl vs. Texas Tech, a solitary figure roams
Derrick Brantley, who entered the 2002 season as the starting right offensive
tackle, can only watch as his teammates work in the hot Florida sun. Missing
since the second game of the season with a torn ACL, Brantley has become
something of a forgotten man among many of those who follow the Tigers.
But to his teammates - and most importantly to himself - Brantley remains a
vital part of this Clemson team, even if it is from the sidelines.
"I worked hard all through (last) offseason and waited patiently to get my
opportunity to start here," Brantley said. "I was really looking forward to
doing that. The injury was very discouraging, but I've tried to make a
positive thing out of it. I'm gonna strive for a little bit more, and
hopefully I can do that."
Brantley still has vivid memories of the play that short-circuited his senior
It came against Louisiana Tech in the season's second week, and happened
despite a warning from head coach Tommy Bowden.
"I remember going into the huddle, and they called a zone play to my side,"
said Brantley. "Coach said to watch out for the blitzing linebacker. I did
see him and the linebacker came through, but unfortunately I got rolled up. I
was in a little bit of pain, but I didn't think it was that serious. But when
I stood up the knee was real loose and I figured then the knee was kind of
Because of swelling Brantley had to wait more than a month to have surgery,
which finally came on Oct. 18. Now he walks with just a hint of a limp,
although he continues to wear a brace on the knee at all times.
But his recovery appears to be going well and "Big Daddy," as he is known to
his teammates, has his sights set on proving the naysayers wrong and making a
career for himself in the NFL.
"I want to show people I can still do it," he said. "It's all a matter of how
hard I want to work, and this is something I really want. The NFL people have
told me they want to put me through an individual workout the week before the
draft to ease their minds about the knee, and I plan to be ready."
KEEPING THEIR ATTENTION
With two-a-day workouts completed, Clemson's players now will have their
attention divided between single daily workouts and the extra activities
scheduled through the Tangerine Bowl.
The fun portion of the week isn't what worries Bowden as much as keeping his
team focused through an unusual set of circumstances.
"(Wednesday) was the fifth practice," he said. "It's beginning to get
monotonous. In a normal game week you're practicing four days a week then
playing. Now we're at five with three to go. So we did address that before
practice today. The team that can take the next three days and get better
- Redshirt freshman quarterback Charlie Whitehurst didn't expect to be
leading the Tigers into a bowl game when this season began. But that doesn't
mean he hadn't made plans, just in case.
"I didn't expect it, but that doesn't mean I wasn't ready," he said. "I've
been preparing like I was the starting quarterback all year."
- Bowden plans to keep the same running back rotation he's used for most of
the year - Bernard Rambert and Yusef Kelly splitting most of the load, with
Tye Hill getting in on occasion.
"We'll keep the same rotation," he said, "but we'll stick with the guy with
the hot hand. If someone breaks a couple of long runs, we'll keep giving him
- Redshirted quarterback Will Proctor, a native of nearby Winter Park, has
been impressive on the scout team pretending to be Texas Tech quarterback
"He's done a good job in practice," said Bowden, who plans to get a longer
look at his freshmen as the week moves forward.
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.