Mix and Match

CLEMSON – The No. 15 Clemson Tigers are preparing as though starting outside senior linebackers Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie will not participate against No. 22 Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve.

However, it's not an easy situation for Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning as there are tons of different things that could happen to his linebacking corps.

All three starters, which includes Cortney Vincent, might not play, which would leave true freshman Scottie Cooper as the starter at Sam, junior Antonio Clay at Mike and likely redshirt sophomore Kavell Connor at Will.

But the big question is what happens if Vincent can play and Watkins doesn't? Would Clay be the starter at Will?

As of now, Clay is getting repetitions with the second team at both positions.

"It's kind of fun working at the Mike and the Will positions and just never knowing which one you're going to play, but knowing you could play both of them, and the Sam if possible," said Clay, who began last season at Will, before being moved to Sam after injuries to other linebackers forced him to do so.

"I'm just trying to keep working and see what's going on and will work out."

With final word surrounding Watkins and Billie and their eligibility not coming down until Wednesday, there are so many different options facing Koenning and the Tigers that it's very difficult for them to prepare for Auburn.

As a result, Koenning is playing a lot of different personnel in practice that normally wouldn't get reps.

Conner, Clay and Josh Miller have been practicing at Will, while Vincent and Clay have been running at Mike. Cooper and Jeremy Campbell are at Sam.

Koenning likes the talent he has, but says they're inexperienced and that the coaches have been waiting for them to step forward and make a splash.

"Every time (Conner) has gotten in the game he's productive," Koenning said. "If you took his play and productivity this year, it would really stand out. We expect he'll have a good game and play good.

"Josh has practice really well and Scotty Cooper is back healthy now and I think that there was a point before Scottie got hurt that he was actually playing as well or better than Tremaine was. And Jeremy Campbell has just got to step up and play like we've always thought he could play.

"They ought to be able to do it. They've just got to dag-gum turn the key on and turn the car on and go. It's time to shift it in gear and go."

QUICK HITS: The team practiced Monday in full pads and did some live drills. They Tigers will do short yardage situations Tuesday, head coach Tommy Bowden said. … Right tackle Christian Capote didn't practice again on Monday. The status of the three, plus any others that are borderline, will be known on Wednesday, which is the final day to post grades. …

Bowden said Vincent will continue to practice all week at the very least. … Former Clemson great and NFL All-Pro defensive lineman Michael Dean Perry was on hand at practice and addressed the defensive linemen of the Tigers. …

When asked about the opening at West Virginia, Bowden said, "It's a good job. It's my alma mater and I think there's always a natural draw back to it." Bowden said he spoke to Rich Rodriguez, who was introduced as the new Michigan coach Monday, about 10 days ago.

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