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October 15, 2008

Big changes for Clemson offensive line

CLEMSON, S.C. - One player returns. Another player has moved over.

Clemson has had to shakeup the offensive line throughout the season. It has endured numerous headaches having to dip into the far reaches of its depth chart - often having to play career reserves Bobby Hutchinson and Jamarcus Grant - to maintain a front.

It has been a mixed bag of results to say the least.

Now the Tigers (3-3, 1-2) hope to inject a punch into the interior rotation come Saturday when they play host to Georgia Tech (5-1, 2-1) at Death Valley.

First, Barry Humphries returned to full pads Tuesday afternoon and practiced. The redshirt junior sustained a slightly torn ACL, a torn meniscus and a torn MCL in the opener against Alabama.

"I really didn't know what to expect," Humphries said after practice. "Most of the time you hear about these injuries and you are done for the year. But I actually have a possibility. That's the news I've heard so far from the trainers."

Humphries struggled at times but also showed some fire, getting to pop a few players in the day's session.

"Some of the players I got beat," he admitted. "It got me upset, because normally I could get there, but because of this injury I can't do what I'm normally able to. It kind of got heated at practice. That's expected. I'm about 75 percent."

Offensive line coach Brad Scott said Humphries appeared hesitant in Tuesday's session.

"Part of it is being a little careful out there right now," Scott said. "He hasn't really cut it loose, but he has gone full speed. When I say full speed I mean hitting and going against some of the good guys. It's kind of up in the air."

Also still getting a look at right guard is Antoine McClain. Clemson's highest-ranked offensive line recruit this decade had been working exclusively at right tackle, but now the big man has moved a slot over.

"I was hearing rumors. But now whatever gets me on the field," the Alabama native said. "I haven't played guard since my first year of high school. It's a lot quicker inside."

Is it a move that could stick?

"Oh yeah, I could stay there at right guard. (I was told) I could rotate in on Saturday," noted the former four-star prospect. "The main thing is to keep attacking."

Scott said it's a whole new ball game for McClain at right guard.

"He's having some trouble with some of his new assignments," Scott said. "But I'm working him a little bit at guard."

Another addition this week will be the return to the three-point stance for the o-line, just one of many elements that has been modified since Dabo Swinney took over for Tommy Bowden.

"Coach Swinney will do a good job," McClain forecasted. "He's very religious. He gets on every one. He's a great dude."

Swinney said Tuesday the three-point point stance is a personal preference, one shared by Scott.

"A lot of times you want your tackles to disguise certain things, run and pass. Coach Scott feels strongly about being in a three-point stance," he said. "And I believe in him. So I think we're going to see how that goes this week."

Cory Lambert, a junior who began the season at right tackle before moving over to left tackle in Chris Hairston's absence, started at left guard against Wake Forest but sustained a foot injury in the opening series of that game.

Lambert is officially listed as doubtful for Georgia Tech, and wore a yellow jersey on Tuesday, though Scott is hoping to accelerate the lineman's recovery.

"I'm hoping that Lambert might now have a chance to get a little work tomorrow," Scott said Tuesday. "I need him in there right now."

Scott said redshirt freshman right guard Mason Cloy will likely play on Saturday. Redshirt freshman interior man Wilson Norris also could get into the mix.

"Norris probably fits into that lineup for me this weekend," said Scott. "If I have to, I'll try to put some bigger bodies in there."



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