Offense struggles as offensive line matches up freshman with starters

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Offensive coordinator Billy Napier met with the media following Saturday’s scrimmage in Death Valley to talk about his unit’s poor offensive showing, and he said the coaches knew going in that there were going to be some rough patches.

Several pre-snap penalties and three interceptions, along with the absence of starting quarterback Kyle Parker, led to a fairly miserable afternoon by the Tiger offense in the 80-play scrimmage, and Napier said he was very disappointed in how the unit responded.

"We'll be as average as anybody in America if we continue to do those things," Napier said. “It wasn't pretty. I'm very disappointed in the way we played, in particular with the penalties and the turnovers. But at the same time, Rome wasn't built in a day."

The loss of offensive lineman Wilson Norris to a knee injury earlier this week underscored the urgency of continuing to build depth along the offensive line, and Napier said that Saturday was an exercise in trying to get the younger players up to speed.

Instead of playing the entire first-team offensive line together, Napier said the idea was to get a veteran beside a younger player, with the hope being that the lines of communication would be opened and the younger player would gain valuable experience.

“I think it was critical to do what we had to do today in terms of mixing up the lineup up front,” Napier said.”We tried to mix and match first and second groups – a starter with a freshman, a starter with a freshman, on each side. It is critical that we develop depth up front. We did not think that it would perfect.

“It’s important to remember that if you have two freshmen beside each other, there is not a ton of communicating going on. So we put Chris Hairston beside Kalon Davis because that is a chance to help that kid come along. Same thing with [Tyler] Fowler and Landon [Walker]. We did this to encourage these guys to come along. For us to develop some depth up front, we have to make a commitment to get these guys where they need to be, and that is what spring practice is all about.”

Napier said that Boyd, who threw two interceptions on the day, is behind where Parker was at this time last year, and attributed that to the fact that Parker grew up in a football family and has had some pretty good coaching along the way. Napier then said to not forget that the Clemson defense causes a lot of problems as well.

“I think our defense is pretty good," Napier said. "But I do think Tajh made some mistakes today. It was pretty evident to me watching it out there that he made a few bad reads. But every rep he gets is a learning experience.”

Napier said that days like Saturday have to happen in order to get the team ready for the fall.

“It was ugly at times, but today is a step in the right direction,” he said. “This is what we had to get done today. We have to develop some depth in that second group and that was what we committed to today. We are disappointed in the performance, obviously, and would like to see a little bit more success, but at the same time, we don’t play tomorrow.”

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