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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden didn't want to elaborate last week as his team prepared for its first conference game against NC State, but he had a few plays ready to help compensate for three freshmen starters on the offensive line. Bowden came ready with reverses, bubble screens, tunnel screens, play-action passes, three-step drops and added another protection that was easier than man protection.
"We did have some things going into the game, but we really didn't need them," Bowden said.
The Tigers' line, which included freshmen Mason Cloy, David Smith and Landon Walker, got a true test from NC State's defense and came out on top, 29-7. Quarterback Cullen Harper wasn't sacked and was rarely pressured. It was an impressive performance, considering NC State was leading the ACC with eight sacks in two games.
Cloy started at right guard in place of an injured Barry Humphries, who is out at least 4-6 weeks with a knee injury. Walker started in place of left tackle Chris Hairston, who bruised his knee in a motor scooter accident, and David Smith, a redshirt freshman, started at left guard. Hairston is questionable for this week, but will probably return for the Maryland game.
The young players have one more breather on their schedule against South Carolina State before getting into the heart of league play.
"Now I feel pretty good," Bowden said. "I believe [the Wolfpack] were leading the ACC in sacks and maybe tackles for losses going into the game so that was a concern and coming out of the game with no sacks ... I'm real pleased with the performance of those guys, not only in their pass protection with no sacks, but their run blocking. Three freshmen, that's a whole bunch of guys."