Will More Football Victories Come?

by - Correspondent -
Bowden returns 14 starters and the most lettermen in school history this season.

Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

SUNSET -- As the 2004 Clemson Tigers get set to open the new season on Sept 4., one of the more popular questions facing this year's team is will it build off last year's nine-win season, or will it fall back to mediocrity?

Reporters and fans alike have gone back to head coach Tommy Bowden's second and third season to look for answers.

In 2000, Clemson won its first eight games and peaked at No. 3 in the national polls before winning just one of its last four games to close the year. After the success of the 2000 season, Bowden at the time said his program was ready to go to the next level ‹ a 10-win season.

But instead of winning 10 games and fighting for ACC Championships, the Tigers fell into the middle of the pack again and won just seven games in both 2001 and 2002.

With those visions in mind, Bowden was quick to point out at his media golf outing Tuesday at The Reserve on Lake Keowee that the overall program still has a lot of work to do before it can take the next step.

"We maybe have a few more starters coming back and maybe are quarterback situation is a bit more stable, but as far as the whole ball of wax being different then it used to be three or four years ago, right now no. Two more years it should be changed," he said.

In 2001, Clemson played nine freshmen as it struggled to a 7-5 campaign.

This year, Bowden doesn't see nine freshmen playing, sighting the fact he returns 14 starters and the most lettermen in school history.

"We had a lot of guys that played last year and a lot of starters coming back," he said. "It sounds like based on what Tim (Bourret) said we played nine freshmen (in 2001).

"I can't see nine freshmen playing. They might, but I can't see nine playing." Bowden said the overall growth of the program shouldn't be measured just on how many wins his team gets from year-to-year ‹ though he admitted that's still very important ‹ but on other factors too. He mentioned his team's graduation rate, off-the-field conduct and facilities as other areas the program still needs to grow and be measured by.

"There are some facilities issues we have to address," Bowden said. "They haven't been addressed so are we in better shape? No not really.

"Nothing has been done yet. Now, I think we have the commitment that we're going to start (the West Endzone project) after the season so I think expectations are the same, but we have to be realistic with the expectations." Which comes back to the original questions. Will this year's team build off last year's nine-win season, or will it fall back to mediocrity?

"Quarterback, wide outs, running backs and the interior offensive line there are not that many question marks," Bowden said. "At the offensive tackle position, it is not a matter of talent, it is a matter of experience. We will have some good tackles eventually ‹ they just haven't played. The only way they can become good is to play and to get experience so there aren't any question marks there.

"I think we have question marks in the interior defensively because we lost two starters that played a lot of football. In the secondary there shouldn't be any question marks. Linebacker we have a little question mark in one position, but other than interior and linebacker we shouldn't have any question marks.

"I think overall there will be less."

But will it added up to more victories than last year? With a schedule that features road games at Texas A&M, Florida State, Virginia and Miami, the answer to that question will be answered in the months to come.

Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.

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