April 12, 2004 CLEMSON After Clemson finished the 2003 football season with four impressive victories, expectations for the 2004 campaign started going where expectations always go for the Tigers through the roof. Since Clemson won the national championship in 1981, many fans have considered the Tigers an annual contender for the national crown, at least until the opening kickoff of the first game. That's when reality usually sets in. Unfortunately, the 2004 team could be very good and still have a mediocre record, because the schedule is the most difficult the Tigers have faced since Tommy Bowden's first season. During Bowden's 6-6 debut in 1999, the Tigers played and lost to three undefeated teams: Marshall, Virginia Tech and Florida State. In all likelihood, the first four games will make or break Clemson's 2004 season: Wake Forest and Georgia Tech at home, Texas A&M and Florida State on the road. For great things to be possible, the Tigers will have to emerge from that stretch 3-1 or 4-0. Clemson wrapped up spring practice on April 10 with a typical final scrimmage in front of about 15,000 fans at Death Valley. A lot of players the fans have never heard of played. There were no revelations, no surprises and no major injuries. However, enough problems/question marks emerged in March and April to help Bowden dial down the out-of-whack preseason expectations: p Bowden doesn't know if his offensive tackles are bad or his defensive ends are great. In the final spring scrimmage, the ends went around and through the tackles with little or no resistance, and defensive linemen knocked down 12 passes. Bowden spent the entire spring complaining about his offensive tackles. So, is it the tackles or the ends? "I won't know until game time," Bowden said. In addition to the struggling tackles, the second-team offensive line has a long, long way to go. p The defensive ends may be good, but the defensive tackles are almost invisible. There was little or no push up the middle. Bowden knows that if the Tigers run into a team that can control the ends, the Tigers will be in trouble. There is some talent at tackle. It just has to develop quickly, and that doesn't happen often at that position. p Clemson will go as far as quarterback Charlie Whitehurst can carry them. He is the one player on the team who simply cannot be replaced. There is no adequate backup. Will Proctor is listed as the No. 2 QB, but Clemson's quarterback of the future probably isn't on campus yet. p The two converted quarterbacks, Chansi Stuckey and C.J. Gaddis, both are doing well at other positions, but they could come back to haunt Bowden on the recruiting trail. Both players signed with the Tigers largely because they were promised a serious shot at the QB job, but now Stuckey is at wide receiver (and making plays) and Gaddis is at cornerback. Don't think the opposition won't use the position changes against Bowden in the next battle for an athletic prep signal-caller. Gaddis, who also is a big-time baseball prospect, will spend the rest of the spring semester with the baseball team. He wasn't very happy about the position switch on the gridiron, but Bowden said he made remarkable progress is just one week at cornerback, where the Tigers have no proven depth behind starters Tye Hill and Justin Miller. p Clemson still lacks a great running back. The offense is designed to set up long runs, but the longest of the final scrimmage was a 25-yard scamper by Stuckey. None of the backs gained more than 47 yards on the day, and there is no tailback on the roster who could go 70 yards for a touchdown. "This offense is designed for a 1,000-yard rusher," Bowden said. "But to rush for 1,000 yards, you have to break some long runs." p Running the ball is still going to be an adventure. The Tigers used some I-formation during the final scrimmage, and the results were less than positive. When they line up in the I, it's no secret: There's a great chance it's going to be a running play. And the blockers simply aren't good enough to open many holes when the defense knows what's coming. p The receivers talked the talk in March and April, but can they walk the walk? Derrick Hamilton and Kevin Youngblood will be difficult to replace. Kelvin Grant, the wideout who was supposed to make everyone forget about Roscoe Crosby (as if that was a difficult task) but has struggled with academics and consistency, did not play in the scrimmage because of "internal issues." Bowden said the issues would not affect Grant's status this fall.
Phillips Makes More Solid Moves On March 30, Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips announced major personnel moves for two long-time members of the athletic department. Bill D'Andrea, who has served as a football coach and more recently as an administrator during his time at Clemson, was named senior associate athletic director of external affairs. Bert Henderson, a long-time member of the IPTAY staff, was named the new executive director of IPTAY. A large number of insiders at the school applauded both moves. The clear consensus was that both D'Andrea and Henderson will have positive impacts on their respective areas. D'Andrea helped establish Vickery Hall, Clemson's academic support center, as one of the best in the country. His name was considered when the Tigers were looking for an athletic director in 2002, and he has been mentioned in association with several openings (e.g. East Carolina) for AD jobs elsewhere in recent years. He didn't get the Clemson position, obviously, but he did move back across campus from Vickery to the athletic department as a well-respected assistant to Phillips. D'Andrea will coordinate all external affairs, including IPTAY, fundraising, constituent relations, the ticket office, marketing and sports information. Perhaps he even will be able to do something about the paranoia that has exuded from the athletic department for years. The biggest challenge facing D'Andrea is helping raise money for the much-ballyhooed West End Zone project. Phillips has looked at several financing options for the project, including private money. The Hooters West End Zone? Don't bet on it, even though the color coordination would work quite well and Hooters chairman Bob Brooks, who is from Myrtle Beach, is a big Clemson supporter. Another challenge will be selling the seats. It costs $1,000 to reserve a seat. The number of seats that can be reserved depends on how much money the purchaser has given to IPTAY. The facility looks great on paper, with prime end zone seats, top-notch food service, etc., but it has been a tough sell so far. Henderson's promotion also was well-deserved. Few, if any, people on campus have raised more money for Clemson than Henderson. He has worked his way through the ranks and deserved the opportunity to replace George Bennett, a Clemson man through and through who retired after a successful career as a fundraiser and athletic director. Henderson knows how to talk to Clemson people, and he always is highly visible on the IPTAY trail. There was some talk of a national search to replace Bennett, but bringing in an outsider to be the executive director of IPTAY would have been a major mistake. Henderson is not a graduate of Clemson, but he's been around long enough and has established enough contacts to be a natural fit.