CLEMSON — One of the few benefits Clemson was to derive from blasting The Citadel was the in-game training for a slew of green offensive linemen.
The Tigers may need to cash in the experience’s short-term value, too.
Sophomore left tackle Chris Hairston was involved in a motorized scooter accident Saturday night, leaving his availability for this week’s ACC opener against North Carolina State in question.
Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret said Hairston, a 6-foot-6, 320-pounder from Winston-Salem, N.C., went down while turning a corner.
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His injuries are not believed serious, and team doctors will evaluate Hairston today, Bourret said.
An accident report was not filed with Clemson’s police department, a department dispatcher said.
Tigers coach Tommy Bowden spoke with reporters Sunday afternoon before Hairston’s accident had been confirmed.
During Sunday’s teleconference, Bowden noted the importance of Saturday’s 45-17 drubbing of The Citadel in developing offensive line depth.
Redshirt freshmen guards Mason Cloy (Spring Valley) and David Smith made their first career starts.
Hairston’s backup, redshirt freshman Landon Walker, was inserted midway through the second quarter on Clemson’s fifth series and played most of the rest of the way with the starting unit. Freshman Antoine McClain, despite being yanked after his first career snap, played extensively in the third quarter.
“They got a lot of work, which is kind of what we need,” Bowden said.
“We were where we need to be to play The Citadel, but not where we need to be for weeks after that. We’re not where we need to be to play in the conference, but we’re closer than we were last week.”
That assessment also applied to the defensive front, where Bowden said he underestimated the impact of senior tackle Rashaad Jackson’s absence.
Clemson has managed one sack in two games — by freshman strong-side end Da’Quan Bowers in the third quarter against The Citadel.
After failing to record a tackle-for-loss against Alabama until the fourth quarter, the Tigers recorded one in the first half Saturday — again by a freshman, Brandon Thompson, in his first game.
“I didn’t quite know how much we’d miss (Jackson),” Bowden said. “He’s a little quicker than the other guys we have in there. ... We need to get more production out of the guys that have been here.”
While calling out the linebackers, ends and tackles together for playing with poor fundamental technique, Bowden specifically suggested the team must get more production from the interior linemen who have at least some experience under their belt.
Senior nose tackle Dorell Scott, a reputed run-stuffer, has eight tackles, none for loss. Sophomores Jarvis Jenkins and Miguel Chavis — splitting time at tackle because of injuries to Jackson and junior Jamie Cumbie (broken wrist, out for season) — have three combined tackles and no quarterback pressures.
Jackson, expected to share time as the starter, is out until at least mid-season with a torn quadriceps.
N.C. State’s offensive line features a pair of starters who were defensive linemen a year ago, including the center, so the timing of Bowden’s call to arms may not be without coincidence.
Clemson routed the Wolfpack 42-20 last season amid similar scrutiny of both lines.
Which, in turn, feeds into Bowden’s belief that the hangover from the season-opening 24-point loss to Alabama figures to continue subsiding if the Tigers keep winning.
“That will take care of itself over the course of time,” Bowden said. “The further away you get from a loss like that, the less (players) remember it.”