Post spring report: right guard

CLEMSON — Though the Clemson Tigers seem set on the left side of the offensive line with All-ACC caliber players in Thomas Austin at left guard and Chris Hairston at left tackle, the same cannot be said for the right side where so many question marks still remain.

For instance, the battle to see who will be the starting right tackle seems to be very much up in the air between redshirt sophomore Landon Walker and redshirt senior Cory Lambert. Though it appears Antoine McClain has locked down the starting spot at right guard, he is still a guy who played tackle his whole life until last season, plus he is just 18-years old and is just about to start his second year in college.

"That's the difference between young linemen and old linemen," Clemson offensive guards and centers coach Brad Scott said. "The older guys have seen it before. It all happens on the move. Most of these movements and changing occur during the snap count. Everything that is happening is happening at the last second. That's by design by the defense for confusion and for presenting different movements in changing their fronts and looks.

"The older players have a little bit more experience in processing it."

Though McClain has seen some of those things before as has his backup, David Smith, the question is have they seen enough of it in their experiences from last year and the reps they got in the spring to make a difference come this fall?

Antoine McClain (6-foot-5, 305 pounds, sophomore, Anniston, Ala.)
About: Played in all 13 games last season, while seeing 149 snaps as a true freshman. Had a season-high four knockdowns in 10 snaps against Florida State. Had a season-high grade of 72 in 25 snaps against Duke. Played 12 snaps against South Carolina and graded 70 percent with three knockdown blocks.

The positives: McClain is another big body and is a strong and physical player who is finally learning how to play. The coaches were happy with his improvement this spring. He is one-year older. He has seen a lot of things since last year when he was thrown into action. He lost about 20 pounds. He is playing a lot quicker, but the biggest thing is he is playing with confidence. He is relaxed a whole lot more and is having some fun out there.

The negatives: He was very confused most of the time last year. He was a first year player and that is very difficult, especially for a player who was 17. He still has some things to work on, especially with his pass blocking. His feet work still needs to improve, which is why he was moved inside. He isn't there yet, but he is a big kid that has a lot of talent and ability. He is very coachable. The coaching staff is pleased with the way he has progressed.

David Smith (6-foot-5, 290 pounds, redshirt sophomore, Greenville, S.C.)
About: He had an injury plagued 2008. Missed most of the preseason with a broken big toe and then injured his ankle against S. C. State after starting three consecutive games. Never recovered from there and played very limited the last part of the season. Graded 72 percent against S.C. State and had seven knockdown blocks before injuring his ankle after 24 snaps.

The positives: Smith is finally getting back to where he was before being injured against South Carolina. He has proven a couple of things. He played much better the last half of the spring. He was moved to the right side to fill in for Wilson Norris in the spring's first scrimmage and in doing so probably found a home. He did a lot better after that. He has always been on the left side because he is a pretty athletic guy and the Clemson coaches thought the left guard spot would be a better position for him, but he is a little bit more comfortable at right guard.

The negatives: He needs to continue to work and improve. He is a rep guy. He has to get a lot of reps. Second, he cannot miss practices. He can't get hurt like he did and miss seven days of camp. It took the coaches three or four games to get him ready last year and then he got hurt against S.C. State and missed about four or five weeks and never really came back. He is not an old enough player yet. He is still learning and is still trying to process things.

Barry Humphries (6-foot-2, 300 pounds, redshirt senior, Belton, S.C.)
The positives: Humphries has paid his dues. He is a guy that Scott has complete confidence in. He can play center or guard, but Scott will leave him at guard. Scott will let him come into camp and compete against Austin and Antoine McClain. If he doesn't win the job, then he is the next furthest along and will have significant playing time at guard. Humphries can play center, but he does a little bit better at guard. He is the strongest player on the team. Excellent pass blocker once he gets his hands on his guy. He can lock them down pretty good. He is the third guard overall and can play either right guard or left guard.

The negatives: His durability. How much damage did last year's injuries really have on his knee? Can he comeback from surgery and be just an effective? Also, he isn't the biggest guy and sometimes his size has been an issue against quality defensive tackles. Roster says he is 6-foot-2, but he seems to be closer to 6-foot. Top Stories