Notebook: Is Stuckey Ready?

CLEMSON – The backup players are constantly reminded that they could instantly become starters should a first-team player go down, which is exactly what happened for Chris McDuffie Saturday night.

In a flash, the redshirt junior, went from being groomed as a starter next season to being the starting left guard for the remainder of this year when Roman Fry went down with a torn ACL.

McDuffie will get his first-ever start Thursday night at Virginia Tech.

"I feel like I need to step up, but it's going to be hard because Roman was a good player," McDuffie said. "But I need to help the team out."

Offensive line coach Brad Scott said he and the rest of the coaching staff constantly preach to the second-teamers that anything can happen at anytime and that they have to practice as though they are the starters and not somebody else.

"I think it's our job as coaches to always have your second-team players read to play as starters," offensive line coach Brad Scott said. "That's easy to say, but it's hard to do because the young man has to make a commitment."

Going full tilt in practice has been a problem in the past for McDuffie, but Scott has already seen an immediate change.

"It seems like I was always on Chris to work a little harder in practice – not that he loafs, but I kept telling him he's got to play faster and faster and faster," Scott said. "Boy, he played fast Saturday. I was very proud of the job Chris McDuffie did.

"The first play that we ran was a power play to his side and he had a tremendous block on the nose guard and his confidence grew right then. He just played a really strong game for us.

"I think his approach is going to be different over the next four ballgames, because he not only doesn't want to let down those other four starters. They've accepted him and I saw a little pep in his step in practice that I haven't always seen."

It wasn't that long ago that McDuffie was playing as a defensive tackle. In 2004, he registered 12 tackles, including one for a loss against Miami, in 128 plays.

But all that changed when new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning arrived in January of 2005.

"I came here playing defense, but I had problems with my weight and wasn't preparing myself as the coaches wanted me to, so I thought it'd be a better change to go to offense," McDuffie said. "I got up to 335 and I can't really move around on defense and run to the ball in Coach Vic's operations."

So, when it was suggested he move to offense, both McDuffie, who now weighs 330, and Scott were just fine with that.

"I feel like that's my strength," McDuffie said. "I was kind of happy because I felt like they put me in a position to where I could help the team out. That's what it's about – winning championships."

Scott knew right away that McDuffie had the potential to one day be a starter.

"I knew immediately that he could help us offensively when we got him in two-a-days last year," Scott said. "Because he was a pretty good athlete, sometimes he'd have success, but it wasn't always fundamentally sound with the way he went about it. Of course, I wasn't about to let him get with that.

"He thinks I ride him a little bit, but after Saturday's game, I think he's glad we stayed on him about the little things, because fundamentally, I thought he was pretty good."

Stuckey update
While it looks promising, there's still not a guarantee that wide receiver Chansi Stuckey will play Thursday night at Virginia Tech.

Stuckey said he ran at full speed in practice Monday night and even made some cuts. But the cold weather is making it painful to do.

"The weather has a lot to do with it," he said. "The cold kind of gets into it and makes it sore. I've got a little swelling around it today and it kind of aggravates it a little, too."

With temperatures expected to dip into the 30s, with some rain in the forecast for Thursday night, Stuckey's not completely positive he'll be able to do much against the Hokies.

"There's a little bit of doubt whether I'll play or not," he said. "Hopefully it'll be full go."

Quick Hits
Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said tight end Thomas Hunter didn't practice Monday and that he is doubtful for Thursday night, even though his official status is listed as questionable. …

Bowden also said there's no chance of Cullen Harper or Tribble Reese challenging Proctor for playing time.

"There's not any competition right now," Bowden said. "I wish there were, but there's not." Top Stories