Lack of Depth on Line Exposed by Injuries


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - Were you to ask Tommy Bowden the two areas his Clemson football
team could overcome injury problems, his likely answer would be wide receiver
and running back.


Conversely, the one position he can least afford an injury problem is the
offensive line.


This week, he's experiencing both.


Wide receiver Derrick Hamilton (lower leg tendon) and running back Bernard
Rambert (foot tendon) each sat out practice again Wednesday, while guard
Cedric Johnson attempted to work out over the final 30 minutes or so. All
three players are virtual locks to miss Saturday's home opener with Louisiana
Tech, though nobody is ready to say as such.


"Doubtful. I think that's legally what you say," Bowden said.


The injuries have brought to the forefront both the strength and weakness of
Bowden's early recruiting classes.


When a Hamilton goes down, Bowden has Tony Elliott or Jackie Robinson to work
in that position. Perhaps even Airese Currie, if need be. If it's Robinson
taking over, there's a J.J. McKelvey moving into his spot.


Then you have the versatile Jeff Scott, not the quickest of receivers but one
who can play any of the four spots in Bowden's offense. Lurking in the
background is true freshman Kelvin Grant, whom Bowden desperately wants to
redshirt but might force his way into playing time.


"He's worked the whole preseason at X, so you don't want to move him to Z
right now," Bowden said of Grant. "One thing you get from a young guy anyway
is missed assignments, so if you flip them over it's completely different."


The depth at receiver is matched by that at running back.


No Bernard Rambert? No problem. Here's Yusef Kelly. Or perhaps speedster Tye
Hill. Or the underrated and versatile Chad Jasmin. Take your pick.


But when a Cedric Johnson goes down on the offensive line, suddenly Bowden's
backup choices are Nick Black - who recently has experienced mysterious
weight loss despite testing that shows no apparent problems - redshirt
freshman Mark Jetton or true freshman Nathan Bennett.


None of the three have been severely tested under fire, though Black
obviously has more on-field experience than the other two. But his health
problems are a huge concern to the coaching staff, and he'll be closely
watched.


NOTES


- Cornerback Toure Francis has his MRI moved back to Wednesday night, so the
results won't be official until today. But the exam is expected to confirm
the thought that Francis suffered a season-ending torn ACL.


- Senior punter Wynn Kopp "still holds a slight edge" in the race for his
starting position, Bowden said. Youngsters Cole Chason and Stephen Furr have
yet to show the consistency to force Kopp out of the lineup.


- Bowden said he believes the inaccurate snaps from center to quarterback
will be corrected this week.


"At least they weren't going 15 yards back over his head," Bowden said. "They
were low, to this side or this side, but at least we were able to field them
all. First game, in that environment and on national television, I thought
(Jermyn Chester and Tommy Sharpe) did pretty good."

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