Hairston tells it like it is

Chris Hairston informed the media at Sunday's ACC Kickoff that everyone's entitled to their own opinion.

For those who believe the Clemson offensive line isn't tough enough, that's where he draws a line in the sand.

The fifth-year senior left tackle is very matter of fact when questioned about the toughness of the Tigers' offensive front.

"Toughness is not going to be a question on the offensive line this season," he said. "I don't even understand why it's in the back of people's minds. We're going to be able to run the ball this year as soon as we decide to and really pound it between the tackles."

In 2009, Clemson finished third in the ACC with 170 yards rushing. The Tigers finished second in the conference with 1.4 sacks allowed per game.

Both were considerable improvements from 2008 when Clemson averaged 111.5 yards rushing and 2.5 sacks.

Heading into 2010, Hairston is one of six returning offensive linemen with starting experience at Clemson.

"This line has really taken a step in the toughness department," he said. "Years ago I felt like the offensive line was lacking toughness. We really put our mind to dispelling that whole notion that we're not tough guys and we can block an elite level, run stopping defense."

Even with all of the production gone from 2009—namely C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford and Michael Palmer—Hairston's confident in the heir apparent ground duo of Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper.

"With the work they've put in, they're more than ready to fill that gap…we've got guys with the talent, the want to and the ability to really do all that and more and really help us take that next step to a championship-level team," Hairston said. "It's nothing that you can speculate on right now. All we can do is show you this season."

It helps that everyone now knows No. 11 is going to be back under center helping to disprove the doubters.

Hairston marveled at the improvement of third-year sophomore quarterback Kyle Parker, who announced last week that he would return to Clemson for a second football season.

"Last year, as much as he grew and as much as he helped this team become a championship-level team, you can really see the special things he has in him," Hairston said. "Out on the practice field when you see him make incredible throws, incredible reads and how much he prepares every week, it really shows how great of a quarterback he can be and he's working to be."

A little more at ease, knowing who the quarterback is going to be against North Texas on Sept. 4 (and at Auburn two weeks later), Hairston looks forward to Parker's return to Clemson.

"Having that stability is a great thing. It helps provide cohesion, not wondering who's going to be under center," Hairston said.

Parker's going to need to time to throw if he's going to build on his successful freshman season.

The old cliché holds true. It all starts up front.

"I feel like this year we'll have to show everybody that really feels like we're not the tough, nasty guys we need to be to really be successful," Hairston said.

"Everybody has their opinion. They're entitled to it. We're going to do everything we can to make sure they know who we are." Top Stories