QB, OL Early Focus of Spring Practice

CLEMSON – With the start of spring football just around the bend for Clemson, there are some questions surrounding the offense, particularly at quarterback and on the line.

Tigers head coach Tommy Bowden addressed some of those unknowns today.

Bowden said he hopes the spring will resolve the pecking order at quarterback and that the team can find a center. But he also admitted that it could very well take until late August for the questions to be answered.

Cullen Harper enters spring as the first-team quarterback, with Tribble Reese second, Michael Wade third and Willy Korn fourth. Expect those positions to change by the end of spring.

"This, by far, in my 10 years as a head coach, would be the most open and inexperienced group of guys competing for a job (at quarterback)," Bowden said. "Thank goodness we have some pretty good offensive skill guys surrounding them."

Bowden went on to say that spring practice may do nothing more than muddy the situation at quarterback if one or two players don't separate themselves from the pack.

"You're going to have to give these guys plenty of opportunity with the first-team offensive line (to properly evaluate them)," he said. "I think that's important that we do that so when we come back in August, (we know) who gets the limited amount of reps.

As for the line, Bowden said that the big question is whether or not they have to move right guard Thomas Austin, who many believe will be an All-American candidate by the time his Clemson career comes to a close, to center.

"Center is a critical position right now," Bowden said. "Of all the positions, that's where we feel the most uncomfortable going into spring."

The other major battle for playing time comes on special teams where Richard Jackson will compete with Jimmy Maners for the punting duties and with soccer player Mark Buccholz for the placekicking duties.

Notes: Bowden said he spoke with linebacker Antonio Clay earlier this week and that as of now, he expects Clay to return to school for the first session of summer school. … Bowden said he will announce some coaching duty changes next week. … Several first-team skill position players aren't expected to participate in many contact drills because of lack of depth, Bowden said.

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