CHARLOTTE -- Among the players Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said have most improved during bowl practice are a pair of young offensive linemen in Brandon Thomas and Phillip Price.
Going somewhat under the radar is the impending departure of senior left tackle Chris Hairston, who has been a dependable blindside protector the last three seasons. Swinney said Thomas and Price will begin competing for the starting left tackle spot next spring.
Swinney said Thomas is more flexible than Price, meaning if Price emerges at tackle then Thomas could play guard. Thomas arrived at campus as a four-star recruit in 2009. Price converted from tight end to tackle last season. For the bowl game, Price is listed as the second-team left tackle, Thomas is the second-team left guard.
"He is a guy I hope can do both," Swinney said of Thomas. "A lot is going to depend on Price and how he handles himself this spring, what kind of step he can take in his development. I hope Brandon can be more like David Smith and play left tackle but have that option of moving to left guard. Ideally, we'd like to keep the (four returning offensive linemen) set the way they are right now. I'm confident Brandon can be a left tackle, but he may stay at guard. Price will have a lot to say."
At the Charlotte Bobcats game Wednesday night, several Clemson and South Florida players took part in a basketball skills competition at halftime. The team of DeAndre Hopkins, DeAndre McDaniel and Andre Branch defeated the South Florida group.
Hopkins was the most impressive participant, showing why Brad Brownell wanted him on his Clemson basketball roster.
In the skills competition, Hopkins dunked, made several precise passes, and made the only free throw he attempted. It was a brief glimpse, but the former all-state basketball player looked like a natural.
"He's going to be good," McDaniel said.
Hopkins is expected to debut on the basketball court in Clemson's ACC opener on Jan. 8 against Miami.
USF quarterback question
South Florida coach Skip Holtz said Thursday he had not yet made a decision on a starting quarterback, but said both B.J. Daniels and Bobby Eveld will play.
Points at a premium
At a dinner this week a bowl official joked one goal today was for the teams to combine to score 100 points. Just reaching the 40-point threshold might be pushing it for two teams ranking in the bottom half of the FBS in offense but possessing top-25 defenses.
"That kind of lends itself to being a defensive battle," Swinney said, "but you never know."