CLEMSON— Clemson's starting offensive linemen probably won't get many — if any — breathers Saturday against Alabama.
Coach Tommy Bowden said the comfort level with the backups isn't particularly high at the moment. "We won't play a lot of guys right now, unless we get injuries. There will be a minimal rotation right now."
The starting line consists of left tackle Chris Hairston, left guard Jamarcus Grant, center Thomas Austin, right guard Barry Humphries and right tackle Cory Lambert.
Austin and Humphries combined for 19 starts last season as redshirt sophomores, but the other three have totaled just two starts. Lambert and Grant, both redshirt juniors, have seldom played in close games the past two years.
But the second-team line has zero experience, and Bowden says there's a lot of separation between the two groups thus far.
"We need a lot of work in that area," he said.
Redshirt freshman guard Mason Cloy is the reserve with the best chance at playing time. He returned to practice Monday after missing time last week with a sprained knee, and Bowden said he should be ready to go Saturday in Atlanta.
Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning seems to think there's something fishy about the cars purportedly being driven by two of Alabama's hotshot freshmen.
Koenning was asked a question after Monday's practice about his recruiting ties in south Alabama. He responded by recounting an alleged encounter with Crimson Tide receivers Julio Jones and B.J. Scott, both of whom are from Koenning's recruiting territory.
"I actually ran into Julio in the spring recruiting," Koenning said. "I said hello to him. I said, 'Well, I guess I'll be seeing you at the end of August.' And then he got out and got in his Escalade and drove off. That's serious.
"And then I went over and watched (B.J.) Scott at Vigor High School at the track over there. ... He went and got in his Escalade out at track practice and drove off. So I'm familiar with those two guys."
Koenning said he's mostly happy with what he's seen thus far from his linebackers, a group that lost its top four players from last season.
"As a group, the talent is definitely there," he said. "I think they've got a want-to. I still think there's some thinking that's going on. You would hope by this time that they could relax and just play. But I guess that's just the nature of that inexperience factor."
Redshirt freshman Brandon Maye is expected to start ahead of freshman Stanley Hunter in the middle. Fourth-year junior Kavell Conner is ahead of junior Jeremy Campbell on the weak side, and sophomore Scotty Cooper has the edge on DeAndre McDaniel on the other end.
No announcement yet on the status of McDaniel, a sophomore who has agreed to pre-trial intervention to resolve his June 21 arrest for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.
"Coach Bowden is kind of waiting on the powers that be, I guess," Koenning said.
This and that
Freshman tailback Jamie Harper was upgraded to a green jersey but remains questionable for Saturday's game ... Defensive end Kevin Alexander (infection) returned to practice and has the starting edge over Da'Quan Bowers ... Bowden Jimmy Maners and Dawson Zimmerman are still battling for the top punting job.