Offensive line to feature 3 freshmen

COLUMBIA --- Clemson likely will start three freshmen along the offensive line against North Carolina State, the first time that's happened since the U.S. government drafted upperclassmen to serve in World War II.


It happened in 1943, when all of Clemson's juniors and seniors were drafted. This time, the cause is a motor scooter accident.

Starting tackle Chris Hairston hurt his knee in the minor crash and likely will miss the Tigers' Atlantic Coast Conference opener with the Wolfpack on Saturday. That means Landon Walker would join fellow redshirt freshmen Mason Cloy and David Smith in the starting lineup.

"This shows how you have to be ready to go at any time," Clemson running back C.J. Spiller said.

Cloy and Smith started last week's 45-17 win over The Citadel.

Cloy was at right guard, filling in for starter Barry Humphries, who was hurt in Clemson's 34-10 opening-week loss to Alabama. Smith came in at left guard, replacing a largely ineffective Jamarcus Grant.

Humphries had surgery last week. He'll be re-evaluated after six weeks to determine when or whether he'll return.

The 6-foot-6, 320-pound Hairston was injured when he went over a bump on his motorized scooter and bruised his knee, according to an account from Tigers offensive line coach Brad Scott.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said if Walker plays, it'll make offensive preparations that much more difficult at a time the Tigers are usually beefing up their attack instead of simplifying it.

"Offensive line is probably the toughest position to play," Bowden said. "With the defensive guys a foot and a half away, there's no margin for error."

At least Walker got in last week's game for 23 snaps. The Tigers of 65 years ago had no similar preparations before the United States drafted all the school's juniors and seniors. Clemson went 1-3 during that stretch, but Bowden is hoping for a little better luck this time.

Inserting freshmen into the offensive line won't help a group that featured four new starters from a year ago and was already earmarked as Clemson's biggest offensive question. Those fears looked well-founded after the Crimson Tide manhandled the Tigers, holding them to zero yards rushing.

Things were a little better last week as Spiller and James Davis combined for four touchdowns and 182 yards rushing.



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