CLEMSON -- The bookends on the offensive line have changed sides, as has a backup.
The leading candidate for a starting guard spot has been sidelined longer than anticipated with a lingering injury, to which the extent of the damage seems anyone's guess.
Position coach Brad Scott is seeing leadership from a player who had previously failed to display that quality, and the unit looked best Tuesday with a guard many seemed to have written off for landing a starting gig.
For a group targeted by coach Tommy Bowden as the pivotal variable to the team's successes this year, the offensive line's apparent state of flux just five practices into the preseason has done little to appease any concerns.
"We're working on it," Scott deadpanned.
First the bad news. Redshirt freshman David Smith, considered the leading candidate for the starting left guard job, remains sidelined with a dislocated toe that threatens to hinder his development in the weeks leading to the Aug. 30 opener against Alabama.
Smith suffered the injury during a voluntary summer workout three weeks ago, at which time the injury was diagnosed to heal in four to six weeks.
Clemson coaches thought Smith would be ready for August camp, but according to a school release, he is not expected to return until at least next week.
"I don't think it will be much longer, but he needs the work, though," Bowden said.
Smith and inexperienced junior Jamarcus Grant were the primary contenders for the left guard spot, and Smith figured to need this month's practices to catch on to the complex offense that overwhelmed him during the spring.
"All I can tell you is he's getting further and further behind," Scott said.
In other developments:
n Chris Hairston and Cory Lambert, the starting right and left tackles, respectively, on Clemson's preseason depth chart, have switched sides and will remain there barring injury, Scott said.
The move was somewhat expected, as Hairston has been billed as the Tigers' most promising lineman because of his footwork and technique.
Lambert, meanwhile, drew Scott's praise for displaying a vocal leadership Tuesday that had not previously been exposed.
"I think he feels like it's his time," Scott said.
n Also, redshirt freshman Landon Walker has shifted to left tackle to back up Hairston.
That leaves the second-string spot behind Lambert to 6-foot-6, 320-pound freshman Antoine McClain, all but ensuring McClain will avoid a redshirt.
n Scott said the line had its most impressive moments in Tuesday's practice when junior Barry Humphries was at right guard.
Humphries is battling redshirt freshman Mason Cloy for the starting job, although it remains to be seen with Smith's injury whether one of the two will train at left guard as well.