Tigers Aiming 'Fresh' Look At Wake, Not GA, Says Bowden

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Monday it was Reggie Herring. Wednesday, Tommy Bowden.

Ask any other coach, or any player, if Clemson has given up on this season and is casting a watchful eye toward 2002, and the answer will be the same.

Any position changes, any tweaking done after the 38-3 loss to North Carolina last Saturday is in preparation for this week's game at Wake Forest, not next year's season opener at Georgia.

"I want to beat Wake Forest, I don't want to beat Georgia," Bowden said after Wednesday's practice. "We're 4-2. I wouldn't think there would be a mass exodus."

It's easy for fans, perhaps, to look at Clemson's team and get the false impression that next year is already upon them. On defense, especially, the depth chart continues to get younger and younger as Herring searches for answers.

Already freshman - true or redshirt - such as Leroy Hill, Eric Sampson, Donnell Washington and Eric Coleman are in the mix. This week, true freshman Travis Pugh has bumped senior Braxton K. Williams from the No. 2 spot behind Eric Meekins. Another true freshman, Tauvaughn Monts, was elevated to Charles Hafley's backup at the other safety, where he will battle redshirt freshman Ronnie Delusame.

And redshirt freshman Ryan Hemby is battling incumbent Kevin Johnson for one starting cornerback spot.

"You look at the defense and you're one play away (from starting freshmen)," Bowden said. "Of course in the games they're all playing a little bit (already)."

Meanwhile, Bowden's skills as a psychologist have been severely tested since practice resumed Monday.

The team appears to have put the UNC loss behind, but there's always that lingering doubt until the first play of the next game goes off.

"I don't think you ever know until you play," Bowden said. "At Georgia Tech (after the loss to Virginia) I think my answer was the same. You never know until you go play. I talked to some high school coaches today...and they're the same way. You just don't know."


- As sophomore Aaron Hunt quietly puts together a solid, if not spectacular, season, Bowden's confidence in his kicker continues to grow.

Hunt kicked a 48-yarder for Clemson's only points against North Carolina, a kick Bowden said likely would have been good from 58. His consistency, especially from the longer distances, has Bowden in a position unfamiliar to him during his first two seasons here.

"You don't hesitate as much to use him, and for longer distances," he said. "Depending on how much time is left in the game, how well the defense is playing and the score, I'd feel comfortable now putting him out there for tries of 55-58 yards."

- With the 1981 national championship team's 20th reunion celebration looming, Bowden was asked if he's constantly reminded about that team's accomplishments and the fans desire for more.

"I hear about it every day since I've been here," he said. "Not a day goes by I haven't heard about it. But that's one of the reasons that you come (to coach here). It shows it can be done."

And what about President James Barker's "desire" to win another title within 10 years from his inauguration?

"I've been here three years. I've got seven more," Bowden joked. "I forgot to tell him it took my father 16. He's fixing to be the all-time best coach in the history of football, and I've got to do it quicker than he did."

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