The line was so bad early on that Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier had to bench the stationary quarterback Black Mitchell, who was getting beaten to a pulp by defenses, and replace him the mobile Syvelle Newton, who could escape the pressure of the defense.
Times have definitely changed.
The South Carolina offensive line has grown and matured and become decent. Over the first six games of the season, Gamecock quarterbacks were sacked a total of 17 times for 113 yards.
After some reshuffling of players up front and their gained experience, the last five games have yielded just four sacks for 18 yards, and most of those games are with Mitchell back at quarterback.
"It appears that they've just gotten some continuity," Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said. "They've gained some confidence and just seem to be better."
The improvement of offensive line is something that hasn't slipped by Tigers star defensive end Gaines Adams.
"Really, I think it's just playing their season and playing their games," he said as to why the dramatic improvement. "As many games as you play, obviously you're going to get better. It's them buying into their coaches' system and just continuing to work hard and putting the time and effort into it made them get better.
"The line is blocking well right now from where they were at the beginning of the season. They've just gotten better with experience and time."
Many view one of the keys for a Clemson victory is that its defensive line must get pressure on Mitchell and/or Newton. If there isn't pressure, the Tigers could be in for a long day defensively.
"We've got to get some pressure on him," defensive line coach Chris Rumph said. "We can't let him sit back there and have all day."
J.D. ready to roll
After what appeared to be some sluggish performances the last couple of week, Clemson star tailback James Davis is ready to put on a show Saturday.
Davis admitted Tuesday that the big game he had against Georgia Tech took a lot out of him and that he never fully recovered.
"To be honest, I think I've been playing sluggish since the Virginia Tech game," he said. "I'm going to put this game on my shoulders and play as hard as I can just like I came out against Georgia Tech."
Being tired and having a stomach virus didn't help matters, but now that he's had a week off, Davis said he's rejuvenated and is back to his old self.
Clemson - Carolina Tuesday Notebook
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