Originally created 11/05/99

Rookie coaches face off in ACC matchup



CLEMSON, S.C. -- Two disciples from Florida will clash Saturday in a battle of prominent proteges.

A pair of Atlantic Coast Conference coaching rookies, Duke's Carl Franks and Clemson's Tommy Bowden, will collide in Death Valley in an offensive showdown reminiscent of the Sunshine State's annual brawl for football supremacy.

Franks returned to his alma mater with lofty aspirations and Florida's playbook. He is in his first stint as a head coach following a 12-year apprenticeship under Steve Spurrier at Duke and Florida.

Bowden will attempt to counteract Franks' strategy with a game plan influenced by his father, Bobby, who has perfected the wide-open offense at Florida State.

Although each team's offense has its individual quirks, there are some similarities. Multi-receivers sets utilizing the shotgun from various formations will be employed by both sides.

While the two teams may resemble the Gators and Seminoles in theory, they are worlds apart in talent. Bowden said the Blue Devils (2-6, 2-3 ACC) have adopted more of Florida's style than his Tigers (4-4, 4-2) have of Florida State's.

"Coach Franks and myself don't have the weapons they have," said Bowden, who was an assistant to his father for five years in the late '70s and early '80s. "He's been around coach Spurrier a lot more than I was around my father. It's been more ingrained in him. I've been around more coaches."

Clemson's no-huddle, rapid-fire offense separates it from most teams in Division I-A. The Tigers minimize their size deficiencies by hastening the tempo to fatigue opposing defenses. Passing is a major component to both squads, but Franks said his offense is more deliberate than Clemson's.

The Blue Devils huddle and don't particularly use deception like the Tigers' last-second substitutions.

"They're much faster than we are," Franks said. "We seem to be better when we go a little slower. We like to get a bunch of plays in, but we like to go a little slower."

Duke owns the ACC's third-best passing offense with 263.6 yards per game, followed by Clemson's 243.5. The difference lies in execution and strategy.

Bowden's offense hinges on timing and precision passing. The Blue Devils tend to stretch defenses downfield with deep passes. Their lack of a competent rushing games dictates more frequent long tosses.

Consequently, Duke completes just 47 percent of its passes (157 of 331) while Clemson is successful on 62 percent (171 of 275). Bowden's creation emulates the West Coast offensive style of short passing to complement his ground attack.

Franks often uses dual tight end sets to protect his quarterback while Bowden's signal callers must make lightning-quick decisions before being drilled by defenders.

"He likes a few more blockers," Bowden said. "We do more checking at the line. We look (to throw) more horizontal, he looks more vertical."

Reach Jimmy DeButts at (706) 823-3221.