Scott pleased with four starters back going into spring practice

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Clemson offensive line coach Brad Scott finds himself in the enviable position of having four returning starters from last year’s group that helped lead Clemson to a record number of points and a 9-5 record, having “only” to replace guard Thomas Austin.

A smiling Scott met with the media on Thursday to discuss the line situation heading into spring practice, and said the Tigers’ offensive line is in better shape now that any time since the 2006, senior-laden group that featured Dustin Fry, Roman Fry and Nathan Bennett.

"Well, the good news is, there's only one hole," Scott told the media. "And that's the first time that's happened in a while. We're happy first we've got four starters back in that group. You’ve got a guy like Mason Cloy who has been a starter in our program, so that’s five experienced guys with David Smith as another option. The best shape we’ve been in the last three years, anyway.”

Scott said that Clemson coaches have been breaking down the film from a season ago, and watching tape of the 2009 offensive line was much easier than watching the struggles of the 2008 group.

"It's so much more comfortable watching our cut-ups this year than the year before," Scott said. "We taught the same techniques. We're coaching the same plays. There's nothing changed, except the players are a year older."

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said at the end of last season that he was pleased with the way the Clemson offensive line could take over a game in the fourth quarter, and Scott said he would love to see the Tigers get even better in 2010.

"We want to get more physical,” he said. “We want to be able to take a game over. We want to be a more dominant football team. You always want to do that."

Left guard Mason Cloy suffered a broken ankle in the ACC Championship Game, and with Cloy not available to take part in spring drills, Scott said he would work on building depth in the front group during March and April.

David Smith, a redshirt junior who opened a lot of eyes with his aggressive play last season at right tackle, will move back inside during the spring and take over Cloy’s spot. Smith will also provide an experienced backup to left tackle Chris Hairston, and Scott said to not count out Smith for a starting position once September rolls around.

"He's a powerful athlete," Scott said of Smith. "He might win a starting job; he's not a backup. We're putting him in there to get our best five out there. We'll see what kind of spring he has. But I'm very pleased with the way he progressed from the middle of the year on. The plan is to work him with the ones.”

Matt Sanders, a redshirt sophomore, will also begin to see more time at guard and center according to Scott, while redshirt freshman Brandon Thomas will see time at second team left tackle. Scott said that if starting center Dalton Freeman isn’t in the game, that Sanders will probably be in at the center spot.

Kalon Davis, a mid-year enrollee, could also challenge for a spot provided he keeps his weight down. Davis checked in at 370 pounds, and Scott said that Davis, a hard worker, is now down into the “high 350’s.” However, Scott said that Davis doesn’t quit when it’s time to work.

"He gets on that treadmill and doesn't quit,” Scott said. “We've had freshmen that weren't near as big as him that would take themselves out of a drill or fall out to the side or whatever. This kid has something about him. He pushes and he goes through. He'll never be a lean 320. This is a big man. This guy is going to play in that 340 range, I can assure you, and will look pretty good in a uniform at 340 pounds. He is another guy we will put into the mix a little bit.”

Redshirt junior Phillip Price will backup starting right tackle Landon Walker, while redshirt Junior Wilson Norris will see time at guard.

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