After spending much of the first two weeks of practice beat up, Clemson’s offensive line is finally healthy. The benefits were evident in Saturday’s scrimmage. The Tigers rushed for 209 yards on 51 attempts. Clemson senior quarterback Charlie Whitehurst is noticing his offensive line come together as a unit.
“It seems they are starting to come together. You never see those guys all getting whipped. If you do give up a sack, it is kind of one guy. I think we are real close. We gotta long ways to go, but we are on the right track. We kind of pounded them at the end, and that’s a good sign,” said Whitehurst.
A couple of positives coming from the injuries are none were serious, and it allowed some depth a chance to develop.
“I have eight guys right now that I have confidence in that can go out there and play and execute. Those eight have to be able play 10 positions, so that is where I get a little cross-training going. The good thing is the kids that will make up the rest of that 10 have ability and potential just don’t have experience yet. Chris McDuffie is gonna help us, but he is still learning. He got all of the work with the twos. He shows a lot of strength, and there are some things he does quite well in the running game. Pass protection is an area we need to continue to work. Cory Lambert has had a real good week this week. Everyday you just see the youngster improve. I think he has the ability to be a really good player on down the road,” said offensive line coach Brad Scott on Saturday.
One area where Coach Scott has some flexibility is the second string center. Left guard Roman Fry has worked heavily at center as well. Ideally, Coach Scott would be able to redshirt true freshman Barry Humphries, but on Saturday, he still needed to review the film from the scrimmage.
“Barry Humphries is still running with the twos at center. I wanted to look at he and Bobby Hutchinson today. They got equal reps, and I will kind of wait and see how they grade out on film. Roman ran with the ones at center and guard today. I even played him at left tackle with twos, when Tim Debeer took to the heat. Roman is kind of competing with Brandon Pilgrim for the left guard position, but he is also my number two center, if something happened to Dustin Fry,” said Scott.
Maybe the deepest position on the team is at offensive guard. Fry, Pilgrim, Chip Myrick, Nathan Bennett, and McDuffie have a heated competition on going.
“I don’t know who my starting two guards are. I have four guys competing. They got pretty close to equal reps today, then I will grade the film. That is a great situation to be in. Those top four guards, I have confidence in them,” said Scott.
It appears it will be difficult to redshirt Lambert at this point, but Humphries’ 2005 season is yet to be decided.
“They have done very well. What I want to be sure of is I don’t want to waste a year, because they are going to be good players for us. That’s why I redshirted Brandon Pilgrim last year, because I knew he was going to be a good player for us,” said Coach Scott.
Heading into August there was some concern sophomore left tackle Barry Richardson was headed for a sophomore slump. However, Richardson really dedicated himself in the off-season and left a good impression on his position coach.
“I am really proud of Barry. I saw the commitment he made in the off-season, when he lost 30 pounds. He knows his weakness in pass protection as far as technique, and he works at it everyday. He goes against two outstanding players everyday in practice with speed off the edges in Charles Bennett and Gaines Adams. We are not going to see any speed stronger or faster than those two,” said Scott.
The offensive line will be put to the test this year very early against Texas A&M with the Aggies big and powerful defensive front.