Offensive Line Main Focus as Tigers Open Spring Practice


by - Correspondent -
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<font class=caption>Ron West will have to replace three veterans on the line.</font>
Ron West will have to replace three veterans on the line.

CLEMSON - Of the many areas of concern facing Clemson's football team when
spring practice opens Saturday, chief among them will be interior of the
offensive line.


During his first three seasons on the job, head coach Tommy Bowden had the
luxury of watching center Kyle Young and guards Will Merritt and T.J. Watkins
anchor the line. Now, with all three lost to graduation, filling those voids
will be priority No. 1 when workouts begin at the Jervey practice facility.


"We've got exterior guys back with (tackles Derrick) Brantley and (Gary)
Byrd, and even William Henry and Nate Gillespie," Bowden said Tuesday. "We
feel good about those four guys at tackle. (The) interior is where we've got
to do some experimenting - Cedric Johnson at center, Jermyn Chester at guard,
Nick Black at guard, Greg Walker at guard, Chip Myrick in there...


"We've got some bodies. It's kind of like a team within a team. We've got to
develop some continuity...I like our mix of people in there. It's just
finding the right five, backed up by the right five."


Offensive line coach Ron West said the five players leading the depth chart
heading into Saturday's opening practice are Johnson (center), Black (guard)
and Brantley (tackle) on the right side, with Chester (guard) and Byrd
(tackle) on the left.


Myrick, a redshirt freshman, will open at backup center, with Henry (left)
and Gillespie (right) opening at No. 2 tackles. West said Walker's
disappointing postseason conditioning has him at No. 2 right guard at the
moment, though "I expect him to challenge for that spot."


Backing up Chester at left guard is freshman Mark Jetton, who just Tuesday
was moved to the position from tight end.


"It's always tough replacing three veterans," West said. "But the good thing
is these kids have been in the system, and they've seen the other guys work
and perform. I can't wait for practice to start so we can see how these guys
do."


Other positions to watch when practice opens Saturday include:


- Quarterback, where Bowden said the spot is "Willie Simmons' job to lose."
The junior will be backed up by redshirt freshman Charlie Whitehurst;


- Wide receiver, where Kevin Youngblood returns to full-scale workouts after
missing all of 2001 with a broken leg, and where rising sophomore Roscoe
Crosby will participate only in a limited capacity as he prepares for a
summer of minor league baseball in the Kansas City Royals organization. The
depth chart will be minus two players - Joe Don Reames and Marvis Jenkins -
both of whom decided not to return to the team;


- Safety, where the Tigers will be without Marcus Houskin for good, though no
formal announcement has yet been made. Houskin suffered a broken neck in the
second week of 2001 and will not receive medical clearance to return to
action. Expect senior Altroy Bodrick to open camp at safety, though he will
not participate in full contact drills this spring. Bodrick, a senior, is
recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last August.


- Running back, where Bernard Rambert is firmly entrenched as the starter.
Young backups like Keith Kelly, Kyle Browning and Tye Hill to get good, long
looks as the spring commences;

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