Clemson turns to former walk-on on OL

Clemson returns four starting offensive linemen this year, but the one replacement looms large as left tackle Chris Hairston had 23 career starts.

His replacement this spring? A former walk-on tight end.

Phillip Price, a fifth-year senior, came to Clemson as a tight end and has been on scholarship for three seasons, but he’s always been a role player. He wasn’t moved to the offensive line until last season, and enters this fall with a résumé that includes a total of 123 snaps over 29 games and one start.

“He was kind of a role guy for us, a short-yardage goal-line guy,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “We just felt like if he could pick up the weight, he could be a good tackle. He made the move last year, and really transitioned all last season and got some playing time and learned what to do.”

Price is up to 300 pounds but hasn’t lost his athleticism. Swinney said Price came into the spring with the mindset that he wasn’t going to let anybody beat him out, and he didn’t. Price earned the team’s most improved award this spring.

“Brandon Thomas is a guy that we had high expectations of, who’s backing him up right now, but he did not have as good a spring as we needed him to have," Swinney said. "He's a very talented young player but has not decided to be great yet. I'm very proud of Phillip and how he competed and really became a consistent player this spring. Hopefully that will carry over into the fall and he can fill that void that Chris Hairston left."