CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -Clemson coach Tommy Bowden says he's glad he did it, and he'd do it again. And as it happens, he has. Numerous times.
Among the things Bowden took criticism for after a 34-10 loss to Alabama was allowing freshman Jamie Harper get Clemson's first carry ahead of James Davis or C.J. Spiller.
Harper fumbled to set up a field goal for the Crimson Tide.
Letting Harper get the season's first rush was a promise Bowden made during recruiting, Bowden said. Harper signed with Clemson in February.
Bowden said he made similar promises to former Tigers star Justin Miller, along with Davis and Spiller.
Bowden figures if Harper stays for three seasons, he could be involved in about 3,000 offensive plays. Trading one or two snaps early on for several seasons of a potential star player is worth it.
``As I told C.J. and James, 'This is it. You all know the story. You were all recruited under the same pretense. You all cheer for him for two plays and go play the game,''' Bowden said. ``That's pretty much what happened.''
Clemson generated little out of its ballyhooed running game Saturday night, held to a net of zero yards on the ground. Davis had 13 yards, Spiller 7.
Bowden says players like Harper earn such perks because of their high-school performance. Having them on your college team can make a huge difference to your program, Bowden said.
``Justin Miller and James Davis and C.J. are all pretty good players and probably made a lot of money for Clemson,'' Bowden said.
JOHNSON DILEMMA: Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson, a pass-rushing specialist for most of his first three seasons, has a chance to be a full-time starter this season.
But it's going to cost him some time on special teams.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said Michael Johnson ``got gassed'' in the team's 41-14 opening victory against Jacksonville State, so the coaching staff is re-evaluating the senior's role on special teams.
``He won't be on all the special teams he was on the other night,'' the head coach said. ``Michael is the type of guy who wants to play every day, and he loves special teams and he's really good at it. But in years past, he was a third-down pass rush guy and he was playing 20 snaps on defense.
``We can't expect him to play 40 snaps on special teams and give us 55 snaps on defense. It's not going to work. We've got to find a way for him to help us some on special teams, but he can't be on all of them.''
The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Johnson had three forced fumbles and four sacks last season, including two sacks against Virginia Tech. The Yellow Jackets will need his big-play skills Saturday at Boston College.
Johnson said he's focused on preparing himself better so he won't have more problems with cramps associated with dehydration. He said one of his motivations is to still participate on as many special teams plays as possible.
``I just feel like I can help the team out there. It has just always been my idea to get your best 11 athletes on the field as much as possible to give yourself a chance to compete against the other team's athletes.''
CHIPPING AWAY: Chip Brinkman's overnight success story at Wake Forest was four years in the making.
The senior receiver is the latest to embody coach Jim Grobe's philosophy of patiently growing into his role instead of being rushed onto the field. After sitting out in 2004, barely playing in '05 and '06 and taking on a supporting role to do-everything wideout Kenny Moore last year, Brinkman has emerged as one of Riley Skinner's go-to receivers.
Brinkman had the first two touchdown catches of his career during last week's 41-13 romp at Baylor. He finished with three catches for 29 yards.
``I was patient, I guess, to say the least,'' Brinkman said.
He said his buddies back home in Ohio ribbed him about his big day.
```You got the monkey off your back,''' he said they told him, ```You've got the touchdown and now you know what it feels like. Now it's time for you to go repeat and do the same thing, week in and week out.'''
SPRING BOARD: With one outside linebacker spot open in the offseason, Denzell Burrell stepped up his game, and won an award as one of the Cavaliers' most improved players after spring practice.
Little did he know how quickly that improvement would pay off.
Senior Aaron Clark edged Burrell for the starting position in the season opener against Southern California, but was lost to a season-ending knee injury in the third quarter. Now it's Burrell's turn.
``I'd much rather be splitting reps and seeing him out there as well,'' the 6-4, 230-pound junior said. ``I need to step up now.''
Burrell said he and Clark are essentially ``the same player,'' although Clark is more imposing at 6-5, 250 pounds and Burrell is faster.
``Denzell's always had a strong want-to,'' coach Al Groh said.
Now, he's also grasping the intricacies of the Cavaliers' 3-4 defensive scheme better, and that's made all the difference.
``Denzell's been on the rise since the offseason,'' said Clint Sintim, Virginia's other starting outside linebacker. ``You can see the dedication.''
He said the same holds true for freshman Cam Johnson, who was elevated to the second unit as Burrell's backup, Sintim said.
``I'm sure he'll be a good player when the time comes,'' he said.
AP reporters Joedy McCreary in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Charles Odum in Atlanta; and Larry O'Dell in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.

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