Destination Charlotte

CLEMSON - It's been nearly nine months since Chris Hairston left the ACC Championship in Tampa, Fla., disappointed in the result.

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CUTigersTV: Chris Hairston

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Clemson's starting left tackle balked at the idea of not giving the Tigers a chance to return to the ACC Championship. Hairston refused to send papers into the NFL Draft Advisory Board for his projected draft stock.

His site was already set on Charlotte, N.C.—the site this year's championship game.

And he wasn't the only one.

"We've got a team that's hungry this year. We came so close last year. We've got a lot of guys who know what it takes to get to the game—the ACC Championship," Hairston said. "We've got guys that understand it's going to take a little bit more. This team's going to be hungry and understand that."

He believes there can be an improvement from 2009 to 2010. Continuity up front plays a huge part.

"We've got a lot of guys that have taken a lot of snaps together and had a lot of camps together," he said. "It's all coming together for this season. Guys are ready to play good football on the offensive line. I think we can be dominant in the ground game. If we protect Kyle [Parker]—let him sit back there—let him do what he does."

Starting to the right of Hairston will likely be David Smith. Mason Cloy is listed as the co-starter with Smith at left guard and will get his share of snaps beside Hairston.

The versatility of the left guards provides flexibility up and down the Tigers' offensive line.

"Cloy can play anywhere inside, really just pick out a hat. He can play left guard, center or right guard," Hairston said. "He can play all three."

Smith has experience at either tackle position to go along with his skill as a left guard.

"It gives our younger guys more a little more time to grow into what they can become," Hairston said. "It takes a little pressure of Brandon Thomas, knowing that we've got a guy like David that can come out [to left tackle] and help us out."

There's lots of continuity, too. Right guard Antoine McLain started every game last season and has played in all 27 games during his career. To his right at tackle, Landon Walker has started 22 of the 26 games he's played in during his career.

But their push for Charlotte is on pause for three non-conference games. The first is Saturday afternoon against North Texas.

"They do a lot of stunting and moving, but that's nothing we don't see from team to team. They do a lot of it. They have a lot of looks where they get a safety down, get eight in the box," Hairston said. "Their defensive coaches do a lot of things to get their players in the right place to make plays. It won't change a lot for us.

"We'll just have that challenge of everybody knowing their assignments and doing the right things so we can open things up for our backs."

After months of workouts, meetings and practices he's ready to get back to game day.

"I'm real ready…I know this team is. We've been here all summer, all camp working hard. It's just time to play football," Hairston said. Top Stories