CLEMSON -- After a much-maligned performance last season, the offensive line's most important critic, Clemson line coach Brad Scott, offered a positive review of the unit's 2009 premiere.
Against a Middle Tennessee defense showing four different packages, multiple fronts and plenty of stunting and twisting, Scott was pleased with how his offensive line recognized and communicated.
The Tigers allowed two quarterback hits, one sack, and were penalized just twice. Though it is difficult to decipher whether the Tigers will be stouter at the point of attack using a Sun Belt team as a gauge, Clemson did gain 202 rushing yards on 47 carries.
There were just three missed assignments by the interior linemen, according to Scott. He was especially pleased with the play of sophomores Mason Cloy (center) and Antoine McClain (right guard).
Scott said there were six opportunities where Cloy had to make quick calls with pressure coming, and he succeeded on every account, getting the line in position to pick up firing linebackers.
"Mason did a great job," Scott said. "We had a bunch of guys grade out as winners."
McClain graded out well, too, and appeared much more comfortable in his second year as a starter.
"We are much further along in technique," Scott said, "in accuracy of movement, I like to say. (McClain's) missed assignments were just cut down tremendously."
The pessimist would note against an undersized Middle Tennessee front, Clemson settled for a short field goal in the first half after failing to punch the ball in on consecutive goal-line runs.
Left tackle Chris Hairston said it was partly attributed to the Tigers adjusting to an unorthodox scheme.
"I don't think it was guys giving up," Hairston said of the goal-line work. "We just have gotta get an attitude where we have to make this play."
Hairston, Corey Lambert and Landon Walker each played approximately 45 snaps, according to tackles/tight ends coach Danny Pearman. Pearman indicated both Walker and Lambert would play Thursday. The second-team line played most of the fourth quarter.
Calling on Costner
Kicker Richard Jackson said he borrowed from Kevin Costner's character in "For Love of the Game" while preparing himself for Saturday's opener.
To ease nerves and block out the 80,000, Jackson alluded to the "clearing the mechanism" practice Costner, a fictional major league pitcher, used to steady himself in the film.
"I was just aiming at a point and trying to block out the rest," Jackson said. "That's kind of what I do: take the same steps and pick out a spot I want to look at."
Jackson admitted to having serious pre-game nerves, and was pleased Clemson's opening drive only lasted about 10 seconds -- thanks to C.J. Spiller's 96-yard touchdown return -- so he didn't have to think too long about kicking the extra point.
Jackson made 3 of 5 field goals and might have a chance to create considerable separation from Spencer Benton should he perform well at Atlanta on Thursday.
After a one-catch, one-drop performance Saturday, Xavier Dye said Monday that Brandon Clear received more reps with the first-team offense Sunday night. ... Spiller practiced Monday after sitting out the second half against Middle Tennessee after feeling a pull in his hamstring and jamming his toe.
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