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Clemson Opens Football Practice

Aug. 5, 2003

Clemson, SC – Clemson held its first practice on Tuesday as it prepares for the 2003 season opener against Georgia. Tommy Bowden welcomed 105 players to practice, 80 scholarship and 25 walk-ons. The Tigers worked for almost three hours on the practice fields behind the Jervey Athletic Center.

The day got off to a slow start when the team was taken off the field as the result of the sounding of the weather alarm system. The team was in the middle of calisthenics at 2:20 Pm when the horn sounded. The team retreated to the Jervey Athletic Center for over an hour before they were allowed back on the field.

“This is as excited as I have been on the first day in my seven years as a head coach,” said Bowden. “It is great to get back on to the field and we are looking forward to the season.

“We had an interruption at the beginning due to the weather and we lost some practice time as a result. We have final exams on Wednesday for the end of the second session of summer school so we are locked in to our schedule today and tomorrow.”

The Tigers will practice at night (7-10 PM) on Wednesday to accommodate exams during the day. The Tigers will practice once a day from Tuesday through Saturday. Saturday will be the first day the Tigers will be in full pads.

“Overall we had a good first day,” said Bowden. “We were in good shape. Of course, most of the players were here working out in the summer so they should be in good shape. We have five or six who need to make improvement in that area, but we knew who those players were going in.

‘”I liked the tone of the workout. The defense played well when we were in skeleton, and forced a couple of turnovers. That is good to see.”

Bowden said he hopes one of the leaders of the defense will come from the interior line. “People look for Justin Miller to be one of the leaders of our defense, but I hope someone steps up in the defensive line. We need to stop the run. The opposition can take Justin out of the game if they can run the ball.”

One of the defensive players who could be a leader this year is junior Eric Sampson. He was suspended last year at the end of the regular season, but returned to the team for practice on Tuesday.

“Since I announced Eric’s suspension in early December, (an action that suspended him from the Tangerine Bowl), I was presented some additional information in January concerning a situation he was involved in that made me open to the possibility of allowing his return to the team,” said Bowden. “He came back to school for the second semester with no guarantees and has done all we have asked academically and in other areas in the seven months since then.”

Sampson was a starter in all 12 regular season games last year as a linebacker. He was fourth on the team in tackles as a sophomore with 79. He had a career high 15 tackles in the win at Duke last year. He had key plays in victories over Georgia Tech and South Carolina in 2002. He had a 35-yard interception return to ice the win over Tech and stopped a fake field goal late in the win over South Carolina.

“I want to thank Coach Bowden for giving me this chance,” said Sampson after practice. “I made some immature decisions last year. But, since January, I have worked hard to get my academics in line and I am anxious to make a contribution to this team by working my way back into the lineup. It was great to be back on the field with my teammates today.”