CLEMSON -- Offensive lineman Mason Cloy is playing like he wants to be a starter again.

After losing a starting spot due in part to a broken leg he suffered in the Music City Bowl, forcing him to miss spring practice, Cloy took full advantage of his start in Clemson's loss to Miami, earning the team's lineman of the week honor.

Is Cloy playing with an edge in his return to the starting lineup?

"I think he still considers himself a starter," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "I think he definitely has an edge. He's a competitor. He's a fourth-year guy. Sometimes you lose a starter and everyone is worried and this and that, and I think he felt like, 'Shoot, I can play, too. Let's not just jump of a ledge just yet.' "

Cloy will get another start at left guard Saturday at North Carolina in place of David Smith, who is out with a high ankle sprain. Smith could play, but Swinney wants him to return at 100 percent against Maryland.

"We're going to say he's available," Swinney said. "But our plan is to hold him."

Hovercraft

Swinney on wheather he's hovered over the defense more this week. The unit ranks 85th nationally in total yards.

"I hover every week," Swinney said. "I move around pretty good. I was with the defense Monday morning at 6:30 (a.m.) at their meeting. I try to get as much back and forth during practice as I can to make sure I'm in tune with what is going on."

Hopkins OK

Swinney said freshman receiver DeAndre Hopkins fully participated in Thursday's practice after "tweaking" his groin Wednesday. Hopkins, who leads the wideouts with six catches, has been elevated to starting status this week in hopes of injecting life into Clemson's passing attack.

Luckily, Willard doesn't pitch

Swinney said Clemson linebacker Tig Willard has a torn ulnar collateral ligament. If he were a left-handed pitcher, that would be a problem, requiring Tommy John surgery. But Willard does not need surgery, according to Swinney. He's playing with a brace Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele describes as a "bionic arm."

Peake gets honor

Clemson commitment Charone Peake, one of the top two receivers in the 2011 class, according to ESPN, has been invited to participate in the elite U.S. Army All-American game. While Clemson's receivers have struggled this fall, there is plenty of promise at the position in the future with Peake, fellow recruit Martavis Bryant, Hopkins and Bryce McNeal.