CLEMSON - Seven months after his team was embarrassed in the Tangerine Bowl, the day Tommy Bowden has been waiting for has almost arrived.
Bowden's 2003 Clemson football team takes the field for the first time Tuesday (2:30 p.m.), as preseason workouts begin at the Jervey practice complex. The practice is the first of a five-day "acclimation period" dictated by new NCAA rules, which did away with the old system of freshmen reporting a few days before veterans.
"The only real difference is that in the past the freshmen got all the attention for the first few days, then you weaned them off," Bowden said. "Now they're out there with everyone else from the beginning, and we'll evaluate them as we go and see if any of them can help us this year."
While most of the freshmen appear to be ticketed for redshirt status, Bowden did say that the rover/whip, secondary and tight end positions could provide opportunities for some of the newcomers to make an immediate impact "if someone wanted to say 'hey, I can move over there and give it a try.'"
But the majority of the freshmen will "line up at the positions we signed them," he said.
Players were due to check in Monday afternoon, and Bowden had nearly perfect attendance. Missing were tight end Rod Whipple, who is transferring, and incoming freshman cornerback Robert Reese.
Reese has yet to be cleared to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse, though that appears to be just a matter of time. Bowden said he expects Reese to be in camp in a matter of days.
The only other addition to the roster appears to be the pending official announcement that linebacker Eric Sampson has been reinstated.
Sampson, who was "permanently" dismissed from the team earlier this year for academic reasons, apparently has fulfilled a list of requirements which will allow him to play again this season. Sampson's return is important, because Clemson is thin in both talent and experience at the linebacker position.
Sampson has been seen around the athletic facility in recent weeks, and he was enrolled in the second semester of summer school where, according to officials, his performance would be the final determining factor in his return.
An official announcement is expected Tuesday.
All fall practices are closed to the public