"Let Them Doubt Us"

CLEMSON - Truthfully, not many people around the country seem to be doubting Clemson football entering the 2008 season ... unless it concerns the offensive line.

Replacing four of five starters will be no easy task, especially with as many as two redshirt freshmen possibly taking over first team positions.

Still, at some point, all of the negative publicity concerning Clemson's young line has to reach a peak of some sort, doesn't it?

So far it hasn't, as proven by recent articles on ESPN and other national sports sites with writers suggesting Clemson has it all with the exception of ... you guessed it- the offensive line.

Indeed, it appears the perception that surrounds Clemson football won't change until the Tigers' offense "proves itself" in the first game of the year against Alabama.

"Let them doubt us," says junior tight end Michael Palmer. "We had a great day today- the offensive line did. Coach Scott said it was our best inside drill we've had since the start of camp. They are really coming along. They've been doing a phenomenal job everyday bringing their hard hat ready to work. And it's showing."

Helping Clemson's young line this year, of course, will be the tight ends.

Offensive coordinator Rob Spence has never been afraid to use as many as three tight ends in the game at one time, and it goes without saying that can help a young offensive line get its feet underneath it if need be.

Call it an insurance policy of sorts.

"We've got Chris [Hairston] and Cory [Lambert] as the tackles and they've stepped up big time. Cory's been a leader out here and has been doing really well and we knew coming in that Chris was doing well. We are out there to help them.

"I've been playing for three years where those guys have only been there really a year, so if they get confused with anything, we can help, but those guys have stepped up."

One area of the team that isn't viewed as a weakness coming into the season is the tight ends.

While there may not be players the caliber of Jacoby Ford, C.J. Spiller and James Davis, there is plenty of experience and a smattering of talent as well.

"I've put on a lot of weight in the offseason- about 10 to 12 pounds of muscle and I can tell that's done a lot of good for me," said Palmer. "[Brian] Linthicum is probably the No. 2 guy right now but we have different personnel sets with [Chad] Diehl and Akeem [Robinson]. Durrell is getting in there with the two's a lot.

"Everybody is doing really well. The tight ends are definitely a lot deeper this year than any other year I've been here in three years."

Last year, Clemson's tight ends caught 25 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns, including 13 receptions by Palmer.

Is there a chance he and the rest of the tight ends could become more involved in the passing game this season?

Well, that depends. Do you throw 50 passes in the direction of Clemson's tight ends this season or take those attempts and direct them at speedy wide outs and running backs?

Truthfully, it's a good problem to have.

"Every time Cullen throws to us or Willy throws to us in practice we make the catch and we show them they can trust us," said Palmer. "At the same time, there are some pretty good players ahead of us on the totem pole. We understand that.

"I mean, we want touchdowns, we want balls [thrown to us]. We work hard just like every guy out here. We work just as hard as them. But we've got a bunch of first and second-round draft picks on our team."

At the end of the day, Palmer and the rest of the tight ends have to be viewed as the unsung heroes on the team. Even if they only combine to catch 20 or 30 passes this season and they don't dominate the headlines, they are involved in the kind of "dirty work" that helps win championships.

"We work hard like everybody else and our quarterbacks have trust in us," Palmer said. "We want the ball but we are part of the team and we are going to do whatever is asked of us to help us win games."

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