Ask a Clemson veteran about the differences between this year’s practices and last year’s and you will hear words like “tempo,” “intensity,” and “urgency” repeated over and over.
The Tigers veterans have handled an entirely new offensive package, an altered defensive philosophy, and a new coaching staff’s hands on approach seemingly in stride.
“We’re picking up the system. It’s no problem. We pretty much had it installed during the spring and so it was easy for me personally to pick up everything just like that,” says running back Javis Austin as he snaps his fingers for effect.
Offensive guard Neely Page says things haven’t been exactly easy but progress is being made.
“We’re still making some errors out there with the new offense. We’re getting the handle on it, though. Each day it’s looking better. By the time the season rolls around, I think we should have it where we should execute pretty well.”
T.J. Watkins has been faced with the additional task of learning a new position as well as a new offense. The sophomore tight end was moved to offensive tackle last week.
“So far so good,” Watkins says of the move. “I’m having a good time over there. It’s a little more physical than playing tight end. The most difficult thing to learn right now are all the play calls with the center making the defensive calls.”
It seems that every Clemson veteran agrees: this year’s practices when compared to last year’s are like a whole new world.
“The biggest difference is the pace of the offense. Also, the work ethic that the coach likes to see. He wants to see everybody going full speed all of the time,” Page says.
Center Kyle Young points to the new staff’s added focus on conditioning.
“There’s been lots more emphasis on running. With this high-paced offense, you’ve go to have a lot of stamina now matter what position you play- offensive line, receivers, qb’s. Everybody’s been running a lot.”
Practices allow little time for rest under Tommy Bowden.
“It’s two or three hours of constant practice. It’s pretty much non-stop. We get two five-minute breaks per practice. In between breaks, it’s full speed, all go, all of the time,” says Watkins.
Tiger defenders echo Watkins’ sentiments.
“It’s more intense, the tempo is more upbeat. It’s a lot of speed- everything is right now. There’s real urgency on the field,” says safety Robert Carswell.
“ The biggest thing about this staff is that they’re more hands on, they get in your face. Coach Bowden’s philosophy is that if we have a certain drill, he will make it competitive. It’s intense every practice” says senior Damonte McKenzie.
Down to a man, it seems that the Tiger players don’t mind the grueling practices as long as they get results. As Javis Austin says, “It was very disappointing last year. We want to get things done coming off a 3-8 season. We just want to win.”