Thursday, May 15, 2014 4:32 PM
Bring on the Hogs
by David Hood
Senior Writer

If you are a true student of the game of football, and you now your stuff, then you love offensive linemen.

Fans show up for Fan Day at Clemson’s Death Valley, and the longest lines are for the glory boys – the quarterbacks and running backs and wide receivers, the defensive ends and the linebackers. Who wants their picture taken with an offensive lineman other than their family? Not many.

On game days, little kids throw the football in the parking lots that surround the stadium, wearing the jerseys of their heroes, every one of them wanting to grow up and be the star quarterback who throws the game winning touchdown pass or makes the great run to win the game.

How many 11-year olds say they want to grow and be a right tackle?

If you watched Alabama’s run to the title in 2012, what you saw was a dominant offensive line that ran roughshod over Notre Dame in the National Championship. If you watched Auburn’s rise to glory last season and gave all the credit to Gus Malzahn – you’re mistaken. Auburn’s run was fueled by some nasty boys in the trenches.

Between 1953 and 1957, Bud Wilkinson's Oklahoma squads won 47 straight games and he won three titles as head coach of the Sooners. Gomer Jones, his offensive line coach at Oklahoma, described the offensive line as “unsung heroes.”

“Linemen are literally the unsung heroes of the game,” Jones said. “Their situation is analogous to the infantry in warfare. They do the hard, bitter fighting for victory. As the generals reap the headlines in war, the backs reap the headlines in football. Yet in their hearts, the generals and backs know that victory and the accolades came to them through the work of the foot soldiers and linemen.”

Clemson fans knew 2008 might be a little rough when Alabama demoralized the Tigers’ offensive line in the opener, and they have been looking for dominant play from that group for years. The good news for long-suffering offensive line fans – if there are any out there – is that help is on the way.

Late Wednesday, the Clemson coaching staff continued to put together one of 2015’s most impressive offensive line classes by adding ESPN 300 tackle Zach Giella. With Giella, the Tigers now have commitments from four ESPN 300 OTs, led by five-star Mitch Hyatt.

With the addition of Giella, Clemson now moves into fifth place in ESPN’s 2015 Class Rankings, trailing only Alabama, Penn St., Auburn and Texas A&M. Unlike previous years, however, this year’s class isn’t bolstered by wide receivers and quarterbacks – those coveted offensive linemen lead the way. ESPN says that three of Clemson’s top commits are offensive linemen – Hyatt, Jake Fruhmorgen and Noah Green. The fourth? Big defensive tackle Sterling Johnson, who also gave his verbal this week. The top four commits are linemen? I can deal with that.

Here is what ESPN has to say about Clemson’s class:

Who they have: Clemson began the 2015 class with offensive line a huge position of need, and the Tigers have scored in a big way. Leading the way on the offensive front is No. 7 and five-star tackle Mitch Hyatt. Hyatt is joined by ESPN 300 prospects No. 83 Jake Fruhmorgen , No. 197 Noah Green and No. 299 Zach Giella. Possession receiver and No. 247 Shadell Bell is another key pledge, as wide receiver is another position of need. The Tigers' two-quarterback class consists of four-starâ??s Kelly Bryant and Tucker Israel. Impressive athletes on defense include outside linebacker Chad Smith and three-time state wrestling champion Gage Cervenka. No. 102 Sterling Johnson is a second defensive tackle in the class.

Who they want: The Tigers are still in the hunt for No. 10 Tim Settle, No. 11 George Campbell, No. 22 Shy Tuttle, No. 90 Jalen Dalton and a number of others.

Biggest win: Easy call here, No. 7 Mitch Hyatt. While Hyatt had family ties to Clemson and was considered a lean for well over a year, closing the deal on Feb. 5 was a huge win for the Tigers that got the 2015 class jumpstarted. Couple with the fact that Hyatt is the highest ranked offensive lineman to commit or sign with Clemson in the 10 years ESPN has been ranking players, and this was easily the biggest win thus far.

Must get: No. 22 Shy Tuttle. Not only is Tuttle within 200-miles of the Clemson campus, but he is also the nephew of former Clemson standout Perry Tuttle. Tuttle is also a top defensive tackle prospect, which is a position of need in the class.

Clemson’s 2015 recruiting success continues, and leading the way are the “unsung heroes” of the offensive line. Maybe in a few years young Clemson fans will be running around the Clemson tailgates wearing Mitch Hyatt and Noah Green jerseys, wanting to knock the other kids to the ground and keeping track of pancake blocks instead of touchdowns.

Bring on the hogs.

David Hood can be reached at davidhood@tigernet.com