NOTEBOOK: Injury Alters OL

CLEMSON – The offensive line entered spring practice as the biggest question mark on the entire Clemson football team. But in an odd sort of way, an injury that took place to a starting lineman Monday night may actually help the Tigers in the long run.

Starting center Thomas Austin went down with a hamstring injury Monday and at this point it's unclear as to how severe the injury is.

Offensive line coach Brad Scott said everyone is hoping that Austin, a rising junior, didn't pop it and that it's only a strain or pull.

With Austin down for an undetermined amount of time, a couple of questions concerning the offensive line will likely come closer to getting answered.

Rising redshirt freshman Mason Cloy is the beneficiary of Austin's absence.

He was already getting the majority of the snaps at first-team right guard because Scott wanted to see how Cloy would do at that position, even though he's listed as a backup center. Junior incumbent Barry Humphries and rising redshirt freshman Wilson Norris split the rest of the plays at right guard.

But with Austin out, Scott has moved Humphries back to center and left Cloy at guard, meaning he will be getting even more snaps at that position.

"Rather than move Cloy up (to center), which I probably would have done in the season, I didn't want that to cost Cloy some practice days at guard so I can make a determination (about the depth chart there)," Scott said. "So, I just moved Humphries over."

By doing so, Cloy is getting ample time at guard, which will only help the Tigers in the long run, especially if Austin or Humphries or whoever the starting left guard is goes down with an injury. Right now the starting left guard belongs to redshirt freshman David Smith.

Or there's the possibility that Cloy could beat out Humphries at the position, which would allow Scott the flexibility of interchanging Austin, Cloy, Humphries and Smith. All four can play guard, with three of them able to play center.

Bobby Hutchinson is the second team guard behind Cloy right now because Wilson Norris went down with a sprained knee, though he is expected back Wednesday.

"I've got two down right now," Scott said. "Hamstrings usually do (linger). Hopefully he didn't pop it. … I'm just trying to piece me a little group together."

RISE OF BOWERS: Da'Quan Bowers got some reps in at first-team defensive end during Saturday's scrimmage, but that wasn't the first time he's seen time with the starters.

The very gifted freshman has been getting plenty of playing time with the first-team defense and that's not expected to change anytime soon, though he admits he's got a long ways to go before he's where he needs to be.

"Right now I'm splitting time with the ones and twos and I'm hoping to work my way up to the ones fulltime," he said. "Those guys out there are just as strong as me, if not stronger, and just as fast as me, if not faster. I'm just trying to bring what I have and I think I match up with them pretty well.

"I think I'm doing OK, but I've still got a lot to learn. The coaches are doing a great job of putting me in position to learn and getting me some good reps."

Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning likes what he sees, but he's not ready to anoint Bowers a star, let alone the starter.

"We don't expect a lot out of him, but I think he has done some really good things and he's tough to block at times," Koenning said. "But there are plenty of things that he still needs to learn and you don't want him to become frustrated.

"But we're trying to get him exposed to as many different things during the spring and we've got in way more stuff than we would ordinarily have for a game. But it's kind of harder on him now than it ordinarily would be."

QUICK HITS: It's well known that Kyle Parker, who enrolled in January after signing a scholarship to play quarterback for Clemson, has been playing mostly baseball this spring.

But that's a good thing, because he's hitting a robust .360 with six home runs in 24 games and is doing all he can to help the Tigers on the diamond.

Parker missing most spring isn't that big of deal because he's going to redshirt this season, anyway. But what about next year when it is second in line behind Willy Korn?

"I'll be on the football field next spring," he said.

But when asked what he would do if named a full-time starter, he just kind of smiled and said he'd cross that bridge when he came to it.

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