CLEMSON - With his seniors off attending graduation ceremonies and another
key member of his defense injured, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden eliminated
almost all live scrimmaging from Thursday's Gator Bowl practice.
Almost all of it.
Clemson's offense and defense went head-to-head for roughly nine plays in
the subfreezing temperatures. Several of the plays were the new wrinkles
Bowden promised the Tigers would incorporate by the Jan. 1 showdown with No.
5 Virginia Tech in Jacksonville, Fla.
"It was just eight or nine plays," Bowden said. "The communication's
different now because Rich (Rodriguez) is gone. We worked on that a little
bit. But we needed to get everybody (coaches) off the field and let
(players) go out there and play. We hadn't done it since South Carolina
Clemson's 2 1/2 hour workout Thursday was the last "hard" practice the
Tigers will have before breaking for Christmas, Bowden said. Today's
practice is scheduled last 90 minutes, then players and coaches will disband
for the holiday and reconvene next Tuesday in Jacksonville.
The break could be coming at just the right time for Clemson's beleaguered
defense. After losing Nick Eason and Marcus Lewis until next fall with
injuries last week, not to mention Terry Bryant's sprained ankle, the
defensive line took another blow when Terry Jolly suffered a rib injury
during recent workouts.
Fortunately, Jolly should be ready to play by Jan. 1.
"(Trainer) Danny (Poole) threw some kind of name on me I've never heard,"
Bowden said. "It's something to his ribs, but it's not serious enough where
he won't be ready for the game."
- The string of unpredictable weather may work to Clemson's advantage
because of the Gator Bowl's history of the same.
"I could be cold, it could be sleet, it could be rain," Bowden said. "We've
had several of those practices, so if it is we'll be prepared for it."
- Despite the rash of injuries, Bowden has remained upbeat through this
week's workouts. He remains confident the game plan for Virginia Tech is
coming along as expected.
"There's nothing you can do about the injury factor and all that," he said.
"I'm happy with who's here and the work we've done to this point and time."
- Noting Virginia Tech's dangerous punt return game, a reporter asked Bowden
if he would have punter Jamie Somani kick away from return specialists
Ronyell Whitaker and Andre Davis.
"I don't think so. He's not that accurate. If he tried that it would be like
one of you (media) kicking out there," Bowden said with a laugh. "He'd
probably kick it into the fourth row up there with his mother."