CLEMSON -- Wide receiver Kevin Youngblood knows the burden that will be placed upon him, and he's ready to carry it.
Without knowing which of the freshmen receivers will show up in August, he appears ready to assume the role that Rod Gardner has played for two years.
Youngblood, a rising sophomore from the same high school in Jacksonville as Gardner, ended Wednesday's practice by breaking several tackles with his lanky frame during a scrimmage.
"At the beginning of the scrimmage he made some good plays," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, who watched his team practice for two and a half hours. Practice ended with a thirty-minute scrimmage that included field goals by Aaron Hunt. Hunt missed just one after missing all of his kicks in the 5:30 a.m. scrimmage the Friday before spring break. And, unlike Monday's practice which ended with the entire team doing up-downs after practice, just one group of player remained for extra work. The coaches appeared satisfied with the team's effort and Youngblood said he was ready to face someone else besides his own defense.
"You have to come out here with the right mind," he said. "It gets boring after a while."
Youngblood started the scrimmages by breaking an attempted tackle by cornerback Kevin Johnson on two consecutive plays. The first missed tackle raised Bowden's temper, but defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said he is pleased overall with how the defense has adjusted to some new schemes.
The cornerbacks are not playing as much press-man coverage and he has adjusted the defense from a 4-3 to a 4-2-5.
"I don't know if that that's the answer to life, but we've got a bunch of kids trying to learn to play hard," he said. "We've really had to start from scratch."
Herring said he would wait until August to make judgements on the players, but he is pleased with the defensive backfield which will start three new players.
"I think (Brian) Mance is getting more consistent every day," he said. "Kevin Johnson is coming along at a slower pace. (Ronnie) Delusme and (Marcus) Houskins and (Ryan) Hemby are all coming along. It's too early to pinpoint and brag on those guys. Right now everything is positive. We still have to improve on our physicalness. We're not very tough tacklers."
Bowden singled out Khaleed Vaughn for praise on the defensive line. Bowden had been told by the trainers at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning that Vaughn would not be practicing due to a pulled hamstring. However, Vaughn convinced the trainers to let him practice. "He isn't supposed to beg the trainer to practice," said Bowden. "This trainer is supposed to be begging you. That's a good sign. He had a really good practice."
The team will practice on Friday and then scrimmage Saturday morning at 10 a.m.
- Offensive lineman Gary Byrd suffered a knee injury and will probably miss the rest of practice this week. Bowden said he really liked what Byrd has shown them so far this spring.
- Running backs Bernard Rambert and Keith Kelly are impressing Bowden during spring practice. He called both of them "serious" threats to take over injured Travis Zachery's position. Fullback Chad Jasmin has also improved according to Bowden.