ACC: Cory Lambert

O-line history indicates Clemson will have winning season

February, 11, 2009
2/11/09
11:16
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Forget about the new offensive coordinator, the new defensive coordinator, the new quarterback, and the fact that James Davis, Aaron Kelly and Michael Hamlin are gone.

The offensive line is back.

Clemson has all five starters returning, and if you believe in numbers, then the odds are in favor of the Tigers having a winning season again. 

Longtime sports information director Tim Bourret is always good for a nifty stat. Check this one out: 

Since 1963 in seasons when Clemson has had to replace four starters in the offensive line, the Tigers have won 54 percent of their games. That includes last year when Clemson had to replace four starters and finished 7-6 (53.9 percent). This year Clemson has all five starters back. Since 1963, Clemson has won 76 percent of its games in seasons it had all five offensive line starters back.

So, there you have it. Clemson is en route to a nine-win season thanks to Chris Hairston, Thomas Austin, Mason Cloy, Landon Walker and Cory Lambert. Barry Humphries and David Smith also have starting experience.

OK, so it's not that easy, but if Clemson's offense is going to improve this fall, it's going to have to start up front, regardless of who is calling the plays. Having everyone back will certainly help.

A few more injury reports

October, 17, 2008
10/17/08
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON

Jamie Cumbie, DT, broken wrist, out
Rashaad Jackson, DT, knee, out
C.J. Spiller, RB, hamstring, out
David Smith, OT, sprained ankle, out
Cory Lambert, OT, foot, questionable
Barry Humphries, OG, knee, questionable
Cullen Harper, QB, shoulder, Probable
Tyler Grisham, WR, ankle, probable
Mason Cloy, OG, Knee, Probable

Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper said after practice that he does need surgery on his left (nonthrowing) shoulder. He said that he has not decided when he will have the surgery. He will be available to play against Georgia Tech on Saturday.

MARYLAND

Out for Season:
Kevin Dorsey (foot)
Dominique Herald (knee)
Paul Lariviere (knee)
Ben Pooler (knee)
Richard Taylor (knee)
Joe Vellano (shoulder)

Out:
Louis Berman (leg)
Tyler Bowen (leg)
Matt Furstenburg (leg)
Stephen Hargett (leg)
Adrian Moten (arm)
Stephen St. John (arm)

Doubtful
Jordan Steffy (hand)

VIRGINIA

Out
Aaron Clark (knee)
Max Milien (foot)
Keith Payne (hand)
Yannick Reyering (knee) -- This one will be noticable in the kicking game.
Bill Schautz (ankle)
Joe Torchia (shoulder)

Doubtful
Landon Bradley (ankle)

Questionable
Mikell Simpson (neck)

Probable
Maurice Covington (ankle)
Kevin Crawford (shoulder)
Andrew Devlin (shoulder)
Austin Pasztor (ankle)
Zach Parr (leg)
Crutcher Reiss (ankle)
Zak Stair (knee)

Halftime report: Wake Forest 3, Clemson 0

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
9:22
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- You know those invisible fences that halt snarling, slobbering dogs right in their tracks, just when you think your left leg stands no chance?

That's what Wake Forest's offense has looked like it's been running into in the first half against Clemson. The Demon Deacons have come barreling downfield only to be stopped just shy of the end zone.

It's probably hurting injured kicker Sam Swank to watch from the sideline more than it would to go out there and boot it. His backup, Shane Popham, has missed 2 of 3 field goal attempts, but the first one was because of a botched snap.

The most impressive aspect of this game so far has been the Demon Deacons' defense. Clemson hasn't mustered one third-down conversion yet and has just 67 yards of total offense. Wake's veteran defensive line is creating major problems for Clemson's young, inexperienced line, and James Davis and C.J. Spiller are going nowhere.

Both Spiller and left guard Cory Lambert are out for the rest of the game with injuries. If Wake Forest can't take advantage of that, it's in trouble.

The best playmaker, arguably, on the field right now is Riley Skinner. He's making plays with his feet, he's completed 9 of 13 passes. Heck, he even lined up at wideout and almost caught a touchdown.

Almost.

The Demon Deacons have been getting clever with their offensive playbook, as they've lined several different players up to take the snap. It's something they've been working on all week at practice, and it seemed like they continued to practice it in the first quarter before Jordan Williams attempted the touchdown pass to Skinner.

Clemson's creativity -- the fake punt -- didn't go over so well. The direct snap to safety Michael Hamlin resulted in 0 yards.

Clemson injury update

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
8:02
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Clemson starting left guard Cory Lambert has a sprained ankle and his return is questionable.

Clemson getting closer to its ideal O-line

October, 6, 2008
10/06/08
4:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's close, but not quite. The Tigers will get Chris Hairston back at left tackle for the Wake Forest game, and that will move Cory Lambert from tackle to left guard. It will be Clemson's fifth different starting lineup for the bedraggled unit in six games. They're still missing injured guards Barry Humphries and David Smith, who should both be back Nov. 1.

Clemson should also get linebacker Stanley Hunter (sprained ankle) back, but will still be missing starting defensive tackle Rashaad Jackson (knee).

Clemson's Grant wants to be the answer

August, 15, 2008
8/15/08
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

When Clemson left guard Jamarcus Grant began watching film of Alabama on his own time this summer, he said one overriding thought crept into his head: "Not be a failure."

On an offensive line that has to replace four starters, Grant is the biggest question mark because he has the least experience, but those within the program have said he's had one of the most productive camps.

"I think I'm ready now," said Grant, a redshirt junior who played less than 100 snaps last year. "I'm mature. I've been here three years. I guess three years ago I really didn't feel like things depended on me. Now I feel like I'm being depended on."

There's no question he is.

How Clemson's offensive line fares this season will have much to do with how far the Tigers can go. It's not like Tommy Bowden is filling the holes with players who don't have any experience. Center Thomas Austin is the leader of the group and started 12 of 13 games last season. Right guard Barry Humphries started seven games, including five at center and two at right guard. Left tackle Chris Hairston started in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn at right tackle. Right Tackle Cory Lambert has just one start.

"I'm the only one up there with the least amount of experience," Grant said, "but just playing with those guys, we've been playing together for four years now, so I feel like I'm right there with them."

He's going to have to be. Coach Tommy Bowden has said the offensive line is his No. 1 concern heading into the season opener. This summer, though, has helped answer some questions on the line -- Grant being one of them.

"We're a unit," Grant said. "The players stand behind each other, they push each other. The coaches are letting us know that if you mess up, it's OK. We're going to go watch tape. We're going to get it right. We're going to come back, and we're going to practice, we're going to practice, we're going to practice."

Clemson's o-line won't 'lay an egg'

August, 12, 2008
8/12/08
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Everywhere Clemson associate head coach and offensive line coach Brad Scott goes around this small town, he's asked about his offensive line. Church. Restaurants. The grocery store.

"I hear it everywhere I go," he said with a laugh. "My wife asks the same question. I said that's not fair, don't you dare ask me that question."

He knows, though, that his group is the biggest question mark the Tigers have heading into a season bursting with expectations.

"We've got the bull's-eye on our backs," Scott said.

There's something about this group, though, he likes. They're friends. They live together, eat together. What they're lacking right now is continuity and starting experience. Scott is trying to make decisions as quickly as he can so he can keep five guys together for the remainder of camp and they develop that trust factor.

So far, here's what he's looking at:

  • Center Thomas Austin is the lone returning starter. He's mature. He's married. And he's making sure the younger players keep their focus.
  • Right guard Barry Humphries started seven games, including five at center and two at right guard. ("But he's got 700 snaps" Scott said, "so I would call him a veteran player.")
  • Left tackle Chris Hairston started in the Chick-fil-A Bowl game against Auburn at right tackle, and logged about 250 snaps in 2007.
  • Right Tackle Cory Lambert played about 150 snaps last season and 26 straight games over the past two seasons, but has just one start.
  • Left guard Jamarcus Grant has played less than 100 snaps.

"He's been the biggest question coming in, but has had one of our best camps," Scott said. "These guys understand they've got to produce. They're working extremely hard. There's a nice chemistry to this group. We are a little unproven but I love their work ethic. If that has anything to do with them having success, then I think we're going to be OK, but it's like a bag of tea. You don't know what you're going to get until you put it in hot water."

There's no doubt the temperature will rise in the season opener against Alabama. Nick Saban is bound to throw multiple defenses at this young group, and while the Tigers have film to study, the question is what Saban is working on this summer that isn't on film, and how quickly Clemson's younger players can adjust to things they haven't seen.

"You've got guys like Barry Humphries and Jamarcus Grant and Cory and Chris who have been in the program for several years and know the terminology," Austin said. "Watching it and practicing it is completely different from doing it full-speed live. Taking that head knowledge and applying it is what we're working on, and building that cohesion that is so vital for an offensive line."

The coaches have done preliminary work on Alabama, but the players are still working on installing offenses and fundamentals. The last 10 practices will be used to game plan for the season opener in the Georgia Dome.

"I don't think it's a group that's going to go out there and lay an egg," Scott said.

Especially with all of the playmakers around them.

"These backs are capable of making some guys miss," Scott said. "Certainly this is the best scenario to have, no doubt about it."

All they need, running back C.J. Spiller said, is a split second.

"That's all we ask of those guys," he said. "A split second I think will get it done."

This will be the second year in a row Clemson will have to replace four starters on the offensive line. The difference was last year, there were fifth-year seniors taking over. Now there is an infusion of youth.

"They're coming along very good," Spiller said. "They're doing way better than what people expect them to do. They're going up against a great defensive line, and that will only make them better every day. And I like the chemistry that they have up there.

"They believe in each other, they make the right calls. They're not letting the outside pressure get to them. With Thomas Austin anchoring the o-line, he's making sure those guys stay focused and don't worry about what people say about them. They'll be ready by the time games start."

ACC position rankings: Offensive lines

July, 16, 2008
7/16/08
5:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here they are, the unheralded linemen. The guys who do the dirty work and make their teammates look good. Check out who's got the best:

1. Maryland -- The Terps have just one starting job open here and five of the top six linemen are seniors. The experience younger players like Bruce Campbell and Paul Pinegar gained last year at the misfortune of injured teammates should pay dividends this season. The Terps' depth is why they're ahead of the Hokies.

2. Virginia Tech -- Four starters are back, including Ed Wang, who moved from right to left tackle; left guard Nick Marshman, who at 6-foot-5, 357-pounds was the largest man on the roster but dropped 25 pounds in the offseason; center Ryan Shuman, who missed the spring because of offseason knee surgery; and right guard Sergio Render, who has already caught the eye of NFL scouts. Wang's backup, Greg Nosal, is a redshirt freshman moving from tight end. Marshman's reserve is Hivera Green, who hasn't played.

3. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels have struggled in the past, but with four starters returning and the second season under Butch Davis, it should see improvement. Senior tackle Garrett Reynolds and junior tackle Kyle Jolly -- who missed the spring with an injured left foot -- lead a group that has 67 total starts.

4. Wake Forest -- This group should be better than people think, despite having to replace center Steve Justice. Barrett McMillin has starting experience at right guard, and left tackle Joe Birdsong and right tackle Jeff Griffin both split time at one of the tackle spots last season. Left guard Russell Nenon didn't start but picked up a lot of playing time toward the end of the season. Center is a question mark. Because he was stuck behind Justice, center Trey Bailey has the most catching up to do.

5. Boston College -- There are still two spots up for grabs. Sophomore Anthony Castonzo, who holds the distinction of becoming the school's first offensive lineman in a decade to start as a true freshman, moved from right to left tackle to replace Gosder Cherilus. Matt Tennant is back at center along with returning staritng guard Clif Ramsey. Former defensive lineman Thomas Claiborne moved to right guard this spring.

6. NC State -- Moving defensive linemen Ted Larsen to center and John Bedics to left guard will only help this football team, but neither of them has taken a snap on offense yet in a college game. Jake Vermiglio, a hulking tackle who played well against Chris Long as a freshman last year, moved to guard behind Bedics (which shows Tom O'Brien's confidence in that move). Andy Barbee, a redshirt junior, was a longtime backup at center. Depth is a question mark, but the Wolfpack has three returning starters in right tackle Meares Green (who played at guard, center AND tackle last year), right guard Curtis Crouch, and Julian Williams, who is in his second full year starting at left tackle.

7. Miami -- The Hurricanes are looking for a starting center but have two starters back in Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood. They've got experience in Orlando Franklin, Joel Figueroa (a key reserve) and Chris Rutledge (split time as a starter).

8. Virginia -- The loss of Branden Albert and two other starters left a gaping hole. The best thing the Cavaliers have going for them is senior Eugene Monroe, who might be the best offensive lineman in the ACC. He didn't allow a sack last year at left tackle. There's also experience at right tackle, where Will Barker has 25 career starts.

9. Georgia Tech -- The good news is that left tackle Andrew Gardner came back instead of heading for the NFL. The bad news is the cohesiveness of this unit is mostly gone because Gardner is the lone full-time returning starter. Cord Howard missed the spring because of foot surgery, but he and Dan Voss, who started the final seven games of last season at left guard, at least have starting experience.

10. Clemson -- Finally. A flaw. Tommy Bowden had to replace four starters, and named all but the two guard spots. Still, Cory Lambert has never started a game at left tackle and three of the four players competing to be guards are redshirt freshmen. Freshman Antoine McClain, who was ranked the No. 6 offensive tackle prospect [Insider] in the country by ESPN.com, could help.

11. Duke -- The Blue Devils have three starters back, including both tackles -- Fred Roland and Cameron Goldberg -- and guard Rob Schirmann. The reason they're not last? They've got one more body with experience than the 'Noles.

12. Florida State -- For the first time in school history, there's not one junior or senior on the line. That doesn't mean there's not talent, but much of it is unproven. What the Seminoles do have is sophomores Ryan McMahon and Rodney Hudson. McMahon was the only freshman or sophomore in the FBS to take every offensive snap for his team at center. Redshirt freshman Antwane Greenlee, a bulky 302-pound tackle who was very highly recruited, still hasn't played. A true freshman will most likely start somewhere, but first the coaches have to find the best one they have.

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