Rested and Ready, Tigers Begin Preparation For Gamecocks

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Rested and rejuvenated after a long weekend of rest, Clemson hit the practice field Monday to begin preparation in earnest for Saturday's matchup with in-state rival South Carolina.

This year's version of the battle - set for a noon kickoff at Death Valley - features a Clemson team trying to regain its offensive firepower, a South Carolina team which thinks it has found its offensive stride, and dueling fan bases who have waiting 51 weeks for this game to roll around again.

For his part, Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden seemed pleased with what he saw on the practice field Monday evening. After three workouts in the middle of last week, giving his team last Friday-Sunday off appears to have been just the right tonic for curing the ailments built up over 11 consecutive games.

"I thought they practiced with a lot of spirit and enthusiasm today, especially for it being cold and windy," he said. "The three days off helped."

Spirit and enthusiasm are nice. But real concerns remain.

Among them:

- A South Carolina defense which has been much inspired since Tyrone Nix became coordinator. Bowden especially likes the looks of the Gamecocks' middle linebacker, Jasper Brinkley.

"To me he's the heart and soul of their defense. He's a cold-blooded killer," he said. "He'll knock your head off...He's what Anthony Waters was to us."

- Speaking of rejuvenated, South Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell - the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week - has been red hot since regaining his starting spot. Beginning with his relief performance vs. Arkansas three weeks ago, Mitchell's passing has given the Gamecocks and entirely different offensive look. A much more dangerous look;

- On the flip side, Bowden said he expects the Gamecocks to do what each of the last three Clemson opponents have done - load up against the run and bet that Will Proctor can't beat them throwing the football.

In the Tigers' last outing, the 20-14 victory over N.C. State, Proctor played reasonably well. But the fifth-year senior missed three open receivers on his only three throws deep downfield, the kind of plays which - if successful - loosen up the opposition's run defense.

"All he's got to do is hit one of those," Bowden said. "That changes everything."


- Brandon Cannon was back at practice Monday. There were no other injuries to report.

- Saturday's game will be televised by ESPN and kickoff at 12:02 p.m. The West Virginia-South Florida game fills the ESPN2 slot.

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