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Published: Wednesday, 8/25/2010

Clawson's young players set to take leading roles

BOWLING GREEN - We might think Dave Clawson is just starting his Bowling Green State University football rebuilding job. In reality, it began about 30 seconds after he took the job in December of 2008.

Sure, unlike most coaches who succeed fired coaches, Clawson had the luxury of a cupboard that was far from barren, especially on offense. The Falcons had a lot of problems off the field, in the community, in the classroom, etc., that cost his predecessor the job and left the non-senior classes thin to the point of decimated. But talent, at least one deep, wasn't an immediate concern.

Now, whether Clawson inherited a bowl-ready team is debatable, especially considering that one deep was tested early on when a couple very promising receivers went down with injuries, but he got them there nonetheless on the strength of seven wins.

All along, he knew the 2010 season was just around the corner and that 22 seniors, 16 of them starters, would be missing.

Now, that season is imminent. There is an electronic clock in the BGSU football office counting down to the season opener at Troy and, right about now, it's at 10 days, 10 hours, 10 minutes and, if you read fast and we're very lucky, 10 seconds. And Clawson seems about as relaxed as a college football coach can be.

So, is this a rebuilding year or has the heavy lifting already been quietly done while none of us were paying attention?

"The numbers would certainly indicate [rebuilding,] and I look at this every day," Clawson said, calling up a color-coded depth chart on his laptop. "The greens, purples, and blues are the seniors, juniors, and sophomores. You can see they're outnumbered by the redshirt freshmen and freshmen. That's where we're at.

"But a lot of these guys are very talented. They don't lack for talent, just for experience. I'm happy, very happy, with how they've practiced and played. Now, when the lights go on, they'll get a baptism by fire and we'll hope the wires don't get crossed up."

Gone is 4,000-yard passer Tyler Sheehan, but Matt Schilz is 30 pounds heavier and maybe 30 times stronger and just might surprise us.

Gone is NCAA record-setting receiver Freddie Barnes, but Clawson thinks this group of receivers, including Tyrone Pronty and Calvin Wiley, who got medical redshirts a year ago, might collectively be better.

Gone are the top six playmakers on defense, but BG's coaching staff prepared for that with its first recruiting class.

At some positions, like the secondary, Clawson and his assistants recruited two years ahead and doubled the usual numbers taken at certain positions.

Half the group played as freshmen; half redshirted. All 21 of the redshirts at all positions got a plethora of reps last season with and against the first team in daily practices, which is unusual but which Clawson knew would be a key to preventing the wires from getting crossed this fall.

So, the Falcons started the rebuilding process long ago.

"I guess that's one way of looking at it," Clawson said, again managing not to actually use the word rebuilding. "The positive way of looking at it is that the core of our team is in place for four years."

And many in that core might be more ready to play - and win - than we might imagine. We'll find out soon. Another few minutes just evaporated from that electronic clock.

Contact Blade sports columnist

Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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