Tigers and Bulldogs Set to Renew Rivalry


by - Correspondent -
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ATHENS, Ga. - The numbers kicked around this week haven't been pretty from a
Clemson standpoint.


The renewal of one of the South's greatest college football rivalries (7:45
p.m. at Georgia, ESPN) brought with it a reminder of the Tigers' futility at
Sanford Stadium (2-19) and in the overall series (Clemson trails 39-17-4).


But Tommy Bowden has his own set of numbers to worry about.


Specifically, how many plays can he get out of three injury-riddled skill
players - wide receivers Derrick Hamilton and Kevin Youngblood and running
back Bernard Rambert?


Hamilton has a high ankle sprain, Rambert has tendonitis in his foot, while
Youngblood has been back at practice less than a week after missing two weeks
with a sprained foot.


Bowden already has spent much of prefall camp talking about the difficulty of
opening the season against the No. 8 Bulldogs, ticking off one dilemma after
another - highly-ranked opponent on the road, national television game,
hostile environment, new quarterback, four new starters on the offensive line
and an untested defense under a new coordinator.


So on top of all that, getting limited or no contributions from the three
injured skill players would seem to make an upset in Athens today highly
unlikely.


"The other players have worked hard and they all know the plays," said
offensive coordinator Brad Scott. "But you'd like to have your best
playmakers out there. We'll just have to see how it all works out."


If the trio can play significant roles today, Clemson's ability to put points
on the board would be greatly enhanced.


Georgia coach Mark Richt earlier this week expressed concerns about both his
defensive front and his secondary, particularly the safety position, worrying
that the Tigers might take advantage of inexperience at those spots.


If those areas indeed are trouble for Georgia, the question then is can
Clemson effectively attack the weakness with a backup running back (Yusef
Kelly, Tye Hill or Chad Jasmin) and with possible significant playing time
from freshman wideout Kelvin Grant?


"Bernard's our senior, our guy with the most experience," Scott said.
"Obviously you'd like to have him back there. But we'll have to wait and
see."


One area the 'Dogs don't figure to be weak is at running back.


Musa Smith is back and healthy, and should carry most of the load for Richt's
running game. But given that injuries limited Smith to just five starts a
year ago, expect to see Tony Milton and Tyson Browning carry the ball as
well.


As for the quarterback spot, sophomore David Greene seems firmly entrenched
as the starter. But Richt said redshirt freshman backup D.J. Shockley will
see playing time, though "there may not be a certain time on the clock that
he will go in..."


Expect to see Shockley in the first half.


Then, of course, there is the atmosphere of Sanford Stadium. Over 86,000
people will be jammed between the fabled hedges tonight for the
nationally-televised contest.


Long considered one of the most hostile environments in college football for
opposing teams, the place figures to be rocking tonight as this intense
rivalry begins a brand new chapter.


"It is a great college environment," Bowden said. "The noise will be a
factor. It will be
emotional, and I'm sure that will cause a momentum change during the game.


"We practice with crowd noise and a lot of our signals are done by hand, so
noise is not as big a factor. (But) I imagine that at some point there will
be some communication problems up front because of the noise."


Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Florence Morning News. He also hosts SportsTalk from 10 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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