CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -You don't have to tell Clemson coach Tommy Bowden about South Carolina State's players. After all, Bowden tried to get a bunch of them to join the Tigers.
``Those are guys we're very familiar with, very talented,'' Bowden said.
The 23rd-ranked Tigers (2-1) play their first game against South Carolina State (2-1), a Football Championship Subdivision team picked to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs' roster is filled with players who have Clemson connections:
-Defensive end Xavier Littleberry transferred from Clemson.
-Defensive back Philip Morris and linebacker Julius Wilkerson signed with the Tigers but then went elsewhere.
-Tailbacks Will Ford and Travil Jamison and quarterback Malcolm Long were recruited by Clemson.
ually got the guys they wanted,'' said South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough, long accustomed to words of praise from Bowl Subdivision coaches that often precede matchups with teams out of the former Division I-AA ranks.
Still, the Tigers aren't taking chances in their slow build-back from a season opening loss to Alabama.
Clemson took its first steps to recovery two weeks ago with a 45-17 win over The Citadel. The Tigers returned to the rankings - the 34-10 loss to the Crimson Tide knocked them out after being No. 9 in the preseason - by defeating North Carolina State 27-9 to open the Atlantic Coast Conference season.
Bowden upped preparations this week, demanding more hitting at practice to toughen up his Tigers for the serious stretch of ACC games after they face South Carolina State.
Clemson tight ends coach, Billy Napier, was a former staffer with the Bulldogs and detailed to Tiger players how talented these opponents would be.
Then again, a lot of Clemson players and coaches are already familiar with South Carolina State's personnel.
Tiger safety Michael Hamlin gets to play against his brothers, South Carolina State defensive backs Markee and Marquais Hamlin.
Clemson linebacker coach David Blackwell gets to scheme against his older brother, Joe, the run game coordinator for South Carolina State.
line coach, Brad Scott, was the head coach at South Carolina. Pough remained on the Gamecock staff with Scott's successor, Lou Holtz, until coming to his alma mater after the 2002 season.
Still more connections: South Carolina State's Long won ``Mr. Football'' as a senior at Gaffney High in 2006, beating out Clemson backup Willy Korn, who was attempting but failed to lead Byrnes High to a fifth consecutive state championship.
``There's a lot of cross references with people from these two schools,'' SC State's Joe Blackwell said.
Clemson has not lost a game to an FCS team since the NCAA split Division I in 1978. Only four times in the 21 matchups have the Tigers beaten the lower division club by fewer than 20 points.
For South Carolina State, it may be the wrong time to step up in competition.
The ACC-title favorite Tigers know there's one last chance to crank up a so-so attack before a long, critical stretch of league games, starting next Saturday against Maryland.
That's why Bowden turned up the intensity at practice. ``If they get hurt, they get hurt,'' he said uncharacteristically this week.
Clemson's rushing attack, featuring James Davis and C.J. Spiller, has yet to click. Spiller has accounted for six of the team's 10 TDs, but the Tigers rank ninth in the ACC in rushing.
traight week. Bowden figures the more action the unit sees, the quicker it will begin to meld.
Clemson's defense also had issues in the first two games. It got pushed around by Alabama, giving up 419 yards, then allowed even more to The Citadel, 427, a week later.
However, the Tigers held North Carolina State to a field goal on offense.
The group figures to get a boost from the return of defensive end Ricky Sapp, out since early in the Alabama game with a knee injury.

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