Troy defensive end to test Clemson's new left tackle
CLEMSON -- If Dabo Swinney were coaching Troy in the season opener Saturday, he would place Troy defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi across from new starting left tackle Phillip Price.
The Clemson coach knows what is likely in store at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Massaquoi typically lines up across from the right tackle, but Clemson expects him to test Price on the left side.
For three seasons, Chris Hairston started at left tackle at Clemson and protected quarterbacks well. Former quarterback Kyle Parker made 27 consecutive starts at Clemson.
On Saturday, the Tigers will unveil an unknown, a former walk-on in Price. Price, a redshirt senior, converted from tight end two years ago and has played just 108 career snaps.
The 6-2, 250-pound Massaquoi led the Sun Belt Conference with 13 1/2 sacks last season. He's a speed rusher in the mold of former Clemson end Ricky Sapp, a player who will play in the NFL, according to Swinney. Massaquoi has been timed as fast as 4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
How well Price can handle an NFL-level speed rush will go a long way in determining what kind of protection plans Clemson will use this season.
Massaquoi, a senior, is rated as the No. 3 outside linebacker in the 2012 NFL draft class, according to NFLDraftscout.com.
"We'll have a plan for (Massaquoi), that's for sure," Swinney said. "He's a really good player."
To slow Massaquoi, Swinney said the team will consider keeping running backs and tight ends in to assist Price. But an offense is most effective when a left tackle can handle an edge rusher one-on-one, allowing offensive coordinator Chad Morris to flood the secondary with receivers.
Two years ago in Atlanta, Clemson used right tackle Corey Lambert alone to block Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan one-on-one in the game's first half. The result was Parker getting sacked three times. Clemson cannot afford another such performance, especially with only true freshmen backing up QB Tajh Boyd.
Freshman wide receiver Adam Humphries switched to No. 16 Thursday. He was wearing No. 13. Freshman quarterback Morgan Roberts will wear No. 15; he was formerly No. 16.
Running back Demont Buice (foot bruise) and defensive end Joe Gore (knee) are the only Clemson players on the injury report. Both players are out for Saturday's opener vs. Troy.