CLEMSON — Is Ricky Sapp that good, or are Clemson's offensive tackles that bad?
Coach Tommy Bowden is eager to know, and he's sure hoping it's closer to the former than the latter.
One thing is certain: Sapp, a junior "bandit" end from Bamberg, has been dominating preseason practice thus far.
"I don't know if I'm concerned, because he might be pretty good," Bowden said after Thursday's practice. "I just don't know. I'll have to see Ricky do it versus other teams."
On this team, offensive tackles Chris Hairston and Cory Lambert haven't put up much resistance. Sapp has drawn some criticism from coaches in the past for uneven effort, but not so much now. He's turned his motor up to the extreme as he prepares for what could be his final season in a Clemson uniform.
The 6-4, 242-pound Sapp is known as a pass-rushing maestro, and that's why the NFL folks will be paying close attention this year.
Sapp had 52 tackles and five sacks last season, and those numbers should get a big boost if he keeps this up when play begins for real.
Bowden is looking for someone, anyone, to help Sapp stalk quarterbacks.
"The problem is, he's the only guy doing that," he said. "I wish we had somebody else who could rush the passer like him. I (might) just let him sit out some and see if we can develop another pass rusher other than Ricky."
More opportunities for tight ends?
When Rob Spence took over as Clemson's offensive coordinator before the 2005 seasons, he said tight ends should account for 15 to 20 percent of the offense in his system.
That expectation hasn't been realized thus far; tight ends have averaged 5.6 percent of the offense the past three years, hauling in 20.3 catches per season.
Spence said those numbers have been dictated by personnel groupings, "and it depends on the type of player that they are and where they can be positioned in the offense." He also said he's trying to get the best speed onto the field, depending on the situation.
Spence said he's not sure if tight ends will have more opportunities in the future.
"I'd like to think they're involved in what we do," he said. "They tie the pass game into the run game. I'd think they would touch the ball as much as the reads and the progressions in the offense would allow them to touch the ball."
This and that
Bowden said Mark Buchholz has essentially secured the top job at kicker … Sophomore tight end Brian Linthicum is up to 255 pounds, 30 more pounds than he weighed a year ago … Defensive tackle Dorell Scott tweaked an ankle Thursday but is expected to be OK … The Tigers will practice again today and scrimmage Saturday at Memorial Stadium.