Monday Morning QB

CLEMSON - Watching how Brad Scott rotates his offensive linemen in Saturday's opener vs. Alabama will be just one of the storylines in Atlanta.

Word out of practice is that the Tigers' offensive line coach has found a comfort level with his first five - center Thomas Austin, guards Barry Humphries and JaMarcus Grant, and tackles Cory Lambert and Chris Hairston.

It's the group behind them - guys like Antione McClain, Landon Walker, Mason Cloy, Wilson Norris and David Smith - that seems to be a concern.

Not that there's a lack of talent. More a lack of aggression which has partnered with their inexperience.

Injuries have played a role, too. Cloy, the No. 3 guard, sprained his knee in the third stadium scrimmage and has been limping around the past few days. And Smith's dislocated toe caused him to miss the first nine days of practice, putting him well behind in his quest for a starting position.

What does this mean for Alabama?

Probably an unusually heavy number of snaps for the starting five. Talking with some of the folks who have been around on a daily basis, it wouldn't be shocking to see that group get upwards of 90 percent of the offensive plays against the Crimson Tide.

Then, with two I-AA (yes, I still call them that) teams scheduled the next three weeks, Scott would have an easier time getting the second unit better acclimated to, as Tommy Bowden likes to say, live bullets.

David Smith's dislocated toe caused him to miss the first nine days of practice, putting him well behind in his quest for a starting position.
Because make no mistake. Nick Saban will throw everything he's got in his defensive playbook at the Clemson front five on Aug. 30. Every blitz, every stunt, every different look - you name it. If it were possible to physically bring the kitchen sink onto the Georgia Dome turf and throw it at the Tigers, Saban would do it.

To that end, expect Bowden, Scott and offensive coordinator Rob Spence to scale back the number of protections that will be called in the opener. Both Bowden and Scott have said as much on my talk show within the past month.

If there are 14 different types of protection/blocking schemes in the playbook, they'll likely use only seven or eight of them. Keep the calls and assignments as basic as possible, then expand what they do in the next few weeks.

It's a sound strategy that will give the offensive line a chance to be successful, without necessarily causing Spence to be ultra-conservative in his play-calling (I know what many of you are thinking. Humor me here, okay?).

Seriously, though. Spence has more weapons at his disposal than any Clemson offensive coordinator has had in years. And I firmly believe he intends to use them.

All he needs is the offensive line to hold it's own against Alabama.

Easier said than done, perhaps. But then if the game was easy, everybody could play it.

Or coach it.

Dan Scott is host of the sports talk show Cruise Control on the flagship station for Clemson sports 104.9 FM The Drive weekdays from 9 AM to 12 PM. You can send Dan a story idea or ask Dan a question for his new mailbag feature coming up on at Top Stories