Battle at Center Taking Shape

CLEMSON – The offensive line was a constant issue for the Clemson football team during the entire 2004 season, which is why its development during spring practice is so important. And that has developed a battle for the starting spot at one offensive line position. <br>

Dustin Fry, labeled as the starter at center, and Roman Fry, tagged as the backup, are in the midst of fierce fight for the starting spot.

"We've got good competition there," Tigers offensive line coach Brad Scott said. "Roman Fry is a very good athlete and he's playing well, but Dustin has really stepped his game up the last couple of days, too. What I've got is two centers that I think that neither one of them has reached their potential yet. And they don't know this offense completely yet. But they've shown that they're going to be capable of doing that. Roman is right on Dustin's heels and that's keeping Dustin practicing pretty hard too."

But as a whole, it seems the offensive line is learning the offense and techniques pretty well.

"The offensive line is doing an outstanding job of picking up assignments and learning how to pay the temp that we want to play at," said offensive coordinator Rob Spence. "I think they're coming along nicely now." Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden has done nothing but speak highly of everyone on the line.

"They've all been steady performers," he said. "Chip Myrick had his best day yesterday. It's doing pretty good. Brandon Pilgrim had his best day yesterday. Chris Capote and Bobby Hutchinson are doing really good. Bobby's playing guard and Chris is playing tackle. Those guys have kind of been off the radar and they've really jumped on the radar."

Bowden also said that if Dustin Fry holds onto the starting spot, Roman Fry could be moved around yet again.

"Roman is doing well as second-team center and we could move him to guard," he said. "If Clint LaTrey can make some progress, we might move Roman to guard. Roman struggled a little bit (shotgun) snapping yesterday and that's always a concern. But I've been real pleased with the offensive line."

Basketball player turned football player Olu Babalola went through practice No. 3 with little to no work. And it appears eminent that the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder will be tested on offense next week.

"What I'll probably do is make a decision after scrimmaging Saturday," Bowden said. "I'm probably going to look at him on offense to see if he can catch. If he can catch at all, he probably needs to go over there and see if we can work on some jump balls and things like that where he can be a factor. We just need to find out if he can catch.

"Defense right now is the easiest place to get him on the field from an assignment standpoint. We're doing some things on offense where it would have been hard to get him lined up and get anything done. We'll probably take another look at him on the other side on Monday."

Bowden said the goals from the coaching staff's standpoint with Saturday's scrimmage is to find the best 11 players on each side of the ball, as well as finding some leaders. … Bowden said third-string tailback Kyle Browning continues to show improvement and has been impressive thus far. However, Bowden added that Reggie Merriweather is still the starter, with Duane Coleman tabbed as the backup. …

Bowden said, "I think today was our best practice. It was spirited and we had some good collisions and good hitting. We're finally starting to get some good collisions defensively by more than one guy." He later cited Nick Watkins and David Dunham as having a good day of practice, but said that Tramaine Billie has been the biggest defensive standout through spring. …

Offensively, Bowden once again named La'Donte Harris as being a standout in practice. He also said Cole Downer, "is making a real push at tight end." Top Stories