By Hale McGranahan.
Eric Mac Lain didn’t want it to happen this way.
The redshirt junior will make his first career start when Clemson plays Georgia State on Military Appreciation Day. Mac Lain will fill in at left guard in place of David Beasley, who suffered Patellar tendon inflammation (knee) last Saturday against Georgia Tech.
Earlier this week, Mac Lain told reporters that he’s looking forward to the opportunity to join the starting five along the Tigers’ offensive front.
“That’s, really, the only way that I’m taking it, as an opportunity,” he said. “Unfortunate that it came by David getting hurt, (but) the mentality that we’ve really had this year is next man up, and that’s what we’re going to keep doing on the offensive line.”
His emotions are a little mixed.
“It’s always a conflicting thing when somebody gets hurt on the offensive line…we’re such a tight-knit group,” Mac Lain said. “That thing with beard gang, we take it seriously. Just a band of brothers. When somebody gets hurt, it’s going to hurt you personally, but it’s just next man up, and it’s a business mindset.”
That mindset has been all too common around Clemson this season, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. A number of potential starters and two-deep guys on the depth chart have missed a significant amount of time: Deshaun Watson, Zac Brooks, Tyshon Dye, Adam Choice, Charone Peake, Jordan Leggett and Jay Guillermo.
“That’s college football,” Mac Lain said. “It’s a very violent game. It’s a full speed, full contact game. You’re going to have that. It’s just unfortunate, this year, we’ve kind of caught that injury bug.”
Once again, the injury bug has forced Watson out of the starting quarterback spot and moved Cole Stoudt back into it. On Tuesday, Dabo Swinney named Stoudt the starter, but there was no word on which quarterback would get the nod against Georgia State when Mac Lain sat down with reporters on Monday.
“We’re going to protect him to the best of our ability. We hope that he’s going to make the best decisions, the best passes that he can and it doesn’t matter if it’s 4, 18 or 12, we’re going to protect him and he’s going to do his job,” Mac Lain said.
For Mac Lain, who’s father is a member of the Air Force, starting on Military Appreciation Day is going to be pretty special, but that won’t change his approach.
“It’s going to be overwhelming with emotion and passion, but we’ve been preparing like I’m going to start every week,” Mac Lain said, “So it’s not going to be too much different.”