CLEMSON -- Perhaps the Clemson offensive staff's greatest concern of the spring was detailed on an 8 1/2 by 11-inch sheet of paper Brad Scott unfolded this week.
What the Tigers' offensive line coach revealed was not Kyle Parker's playing status for the fall or Tajh Boyd's statistical projections, rather the offensive line rotation for Wednesday's practice.
The chart revealed the continued practice of mixing first- and second-team offensive linemen, which is intended to accelerate the development of second-team players.
Offensive coordinator Billy Napier said earlier this spring one of the greatest performance gaps on the team existed between the first- and second-team offensive lines.
The lack of depth was exposed in the first two scrimmages when the second-team defensive front outclassed the second-team offensive line.
The Clemson staff believes progress has been made through the spring, progress that will be tested today when the team divides its two lines for the spring game at 4 p.m. today at Death Valley.
"That's all we have been talking about," Scott said of the staff's discussion on offensive line depth. "That is why we are playing the second team with the first team. (Chris) Hairston hasn't played as many reps as (second-team tackle) Brandon Thomas has played this spring. (First-team right tackle) Landon (Walker) hasn't played as many reps as (second-team right tackle) Phillip Price has played."
Scott said there is always a considerable dropoff from first-team performance to second-team performance. Scott said he's never been comfortable with 10 linemen, and just hopes to have seven he trusts.
Still, a team can drop off from starter to a trusted replacement player, or a starter to an inexperienced player and offensive regression. Clemson reserves Thomas, Price and guard Kalon Davis have never played a snap. The most experienced player on the second team, Wilson Norris, is likely gone for the season with a torn ACL.
The Tigers' second team includes two players in Price and Ben Ramsey who are former walk-ons.
A lack of quality, experienced depth can derail a season, no matter how talented the skill players are on the periphery: see the 2008 Clemson season, a campaign that included a rash of offensive line injuries.
"It's not a concern as much as it is a question that has to be answered," Napier said. "We have the answers, we know what to do … The next step is to keep rocking and rolling, not smelling themselves after (Wednesday's quality offensive showing). Get focused and go to next play and the next day."
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he has six players he trusts along the offensive front -- starters Hairston, David Smith, Dalton Freeman, Antoine McClain and Walker. Swinney says the first-team unit is much further ahead this spring compared to last.
Swinney also praised Thomas' work as the second-team left tackle this spring, and he likes what he has seen of Price at a right tackle, a former tight end who is still learning the position.
The search for progress -- and answers -- continues today.
"The summer will be critical," Napier said. "Some of our younger players, this is their first significant spring practice. We need to see a huge improvement."