Brandon Thomas working through offensive line uncertainty

Clemson's Brandon Thomas, right, and David Smith sit together on the bench in the fourth quarter of the Tigers' 37-13 loss to N.C. State.

Clemson's Brandon Thomas, right, and David Smith sit together on the bench in the fourth quarter of the Tigers' 37-13 loss to N.C. State.

— Recently, Brandon Thomas’ football life has been dominated by uncertainty.

Is he playing left guard? Or left tackle? Is he starting? Or sitting?

Saturday was just another night at the office.

After senior left tackle Phillip Price was yanked from the game because coaches thought he hadn’t regained enough mobility following a knee sprain, the sophomore jumped into the lineup and finished the 34-13 loss at left tackle.

He was improved, a week after an ugly effort at N.C. State in his first career start at left tackle; Thomas had started the previous seven games at left guard.

Uncertainty, he says, is the only certainty.

“(Coaches) told me, throughout the week they said they wanted to throw (Price) in there and see if he could go,” Thomas said. “ They said, ‘We don’t know where we’re going to put you.’ Might be at guard, might be at left tackle, so just prepare throughout the week as both. I think I was ready. I prepared pretty good.”

Thomas says he has practiced both positions the last two weeks; he’s currently listed as the co-starter at left guard with senior David Smith, who started the past two games there. Price said this week that he hopes to play in Saturday’s ACC title game against Virginia Tech, but the ultimate decision will again rest with coaches, who’ll judge his mobility.

Clemson has allowed 11 sacks in the last two games, and Thomas thinks one major culprit is communication, or lack thereof.

“It’s everything,’ he said. “Us talking to each other on the line, us looking at the formation, how we’re set up, how deep the linebackers are set up. The two of us, the left guard and left tackle, might be thinking different things. We have to communicate.”

Branch a Hendricks Award finalist: Clemson senior defensive end Andre Branch was named Wednesday as a finalist for the Hendricks Award, given to the nation’s top defensive end. The award, which honors former Oakland Raiders defensive end Ted Hendricks, was won a year ago by Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, now with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Branch has 10.5 sacks, best in the ACC; he also has 16 tackles for loss, which leads Clemson, as well as 72 tackles, second on the Tigers’ defense behind junior safety Rashard Hall, who has 73. The other finalists are Marshall’s Vinny Curry, Oklahoma’s Frank Alexander, Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus, Southern Cal’s Nick Perry and LSU’s Sam Montgomery, a Greenwood native.

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