Sampson and Tigers Open Practice

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Clemson, SC-Clemson held its first practice on Tuesday as it prepares
for the 2003 season opener against Georgia. Tommy Bowden welcomed
105 players to practice, 80 scholarship and 25 walk-ons. The Tigers
worked for almost three hours on the practice fields behind the
Jervey Athletic Center.

The day got off to a slow start when the team was taken off
the field as the result of the sounding of the weather alarm system.
The team was in the middle of calisthenics at 2:20 Pm when the horn
sounded. The team retreated to the Jervey Athletic Center for over
an hour before they were allowed back on the field.

"This is as excited as I have been on the first day in my
seven years as a head coach," said Bowden. "It is great to get back
on to the field and we are looking forward to the season.

"We had an interruption at the beginning due to the weather
and we lost some practice time as a result. We have final exams on
Wednesday for the end of the second session of summer school so we
are locked in to our schedule today and tomorrow."

The Tigers will practice at night (7-10 PM) on Wednesday to
accommodate exams during the day. The Tigers will practice once a
day from Tuesday through Saturday. Saturday will be the first day
the Tigers will be in full pads.

"Overall we had a good first day," said Bowden. "We were in
good shape. Of course, most of the players were here working out in
the summer so they should be in good shape. We have five or six who
need to make improvement in that area, but we knew who those players
were going in.

'"I liked the tone of the workout. The defense played well
when we were in skeleton, and forced a couple of turnovers. That is
good to see."

Bowden said he hopes one of the leaders of the defense will
come from the interior line. "People look for Justin Miller to be
one of the leaders of our defense, but I hope someone steps up in the
defensive line. We need to stop the run. The opposition can take
Justin out of the game if they can run the ball."

One of the defensive players who could be a leader this year
is junior Eric Sampson. He was suspended last year at the end of the
regular season, but returned to the team for practice on Tuesday.

"Since I announced Eric's suspension in early December, (an
action that suspended him from the Tangerine Bowl), I was presented
some additional information in January concerning a situation he was
involved in that made me open to the possibility of allowing his
return to the team," said Bowden. "He came back to school for the
second semester with no guarantees and has done all we have asked
academically and in other areas in the seven months since then."

Sampson was a starter in all 12 regular season games last
year as a linebacker. He was fourth on the team in tackles as a
sophomore with 79. He had a career high 15 tackles in the win at
Duke last year. He had key plays in victories over Georgia Tech and
South Carolina in 2002. He had a 35-yard interception return to ice
the win over Tech and stopped a fake field goal late in the win over
South Carolina.

"I want to thank Coach Bowden for giving me this chance,"
said Sampson after practice. "I made some immature decisions last
year. But, since January, I have worked hard to get my academics in
line and I am anxious to make a contribution to this team by working
my way back into the lineup. It was great to be back on the field
with my teammates today."

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