Spring Breakdown: Offensive Line


by - Senior Writer -
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Thomas Austin will help coach the offensive line this season

Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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says he likes competition and frequently likes to mention that “iron sharpens iron.” If that’s indeed the case, he should love his offensive line battles this spring.

The Tigers lose three key starters off of the 2014 offensive line in Kalon DavisKalon Davis
RS Sr. Offensive Guard
#67 6-5, 340
Chester, SC

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, David BeasleyDavid Beasley
RS Sr. Offensive Guard
#68 6-4, 323
Columbus, GA

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and Reid WebsterReid Webster
RS Sr. Offensive Tackle
#77 6-3, 300
Woodstock, GA

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and will have to replace that experience with a mix of young but talented players and veterans looking to make the leap to the next level.

Taking part of what we used for our projected starters story earlier this week, we take a look at the positions and the battles that could take place.

The good news is that the Tigers have experience and talent at the left tackle spot with Isaiah BattleIsaiah Battle
Jr. Offensive Tackle
#79 6-7, 285
Brooklyn, NY

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. Battle simply needs to overcome his inconsistency and – for one season – not battle the coaches at every turn. Battle has the talent to earn a high-round draft pick in the NFL, and had decent numbers last season - he had 18 knockdowns in 824 snaps over 12 games (11 starts). The coaches love Battle’s athleticism, and he was downfield blocking on a lot of the jet sweep plays to Artavis ScottArtavis Scott
Fr. Wide Receiver
#3 5-11, 190
Oldsmar, FL

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late in the season.

One of the four freshman could get into the mix here – Mitch Hyatt. Hyatt played left tackle all through high school and was a first-team All-American by MaxPreps.com, Parade and USA Today as a senior. He was also rated as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the nation by ESPN. Hyatt’s technique is as good as you could ask for coming out of high school, but he came to Clemson weighing 270 pounds. He needs to get stronger and add a little more weight to his frame, but when he does he is going to be a major factor.

The left guard spot appears to be between Eric Mac LainEric Mac Lain
RS Jr. Offensive Tackle
#78 6-4, 306
Hope Mills, NC

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and Ryan NortonRyan Norton
RS Jr. Offensive Line
#58 6-3, 292
Simpsonville, SC

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. This is another battle that will bear watching this spring. Mac Lain is a converted tight end who is listed at 305 pounds and getting stronger. He played 245 snaps over 13 games (one start) and had two knockdowns in 62 snaps against Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Norton was the Tigers’ starting center for most of 2014, but the coaches were unhappy with his effort and started Jay GuillermoJay Guillermo
RS So. Center
#57 6-3, 314
Maryville, TN

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. Norton can play either guard or tackle, and if Guillermo takes over at center Norton could wind up playing one of the guard spots.

The center spot will provide another healthy dose of competition between Ryan Norton and Jay Guillermo. Norton has seen significant action at both center and offensive guard and has 49 knockdowns in 1,855 snaps over 38 games (24 starts) in his career. Guillermo is considered by many to be more physical at the point of attack and logged 207 snaps in 2014. A foot injury caused him to miss the middle part of the season. This will be another battle to watch this spring, and the starter here might not be determined until just before the start of the season. A lot could also depend on if Norton has to move to guard.

Tyrone CrowderTyrone Crowder
RS Fr. Offensive Guard
#55 6-2, 322
Marston, NC

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has been groomed for the right guard spot, and you have believe the coaches will give Crowder every chance to earn the starting job. Crowder looks the part of a big, intimidating lineman. He is a powerful run blocker who is still learning to pass block. He had five knockdowns in 203 snaps over six games (one start) and had two knockdowns in 34 snaps against Oklahoma in the bowl game.

Over at right tackle, is this the time that Joe GoreJoe Gore
RS Jr. Offensive Tackle
#73 6-5, 283
Lake Waccamaw, NC

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plays up to his potential? Gore was lauded by the coaches during fall camp last year and it appeared he had turned the corner. However, Gore struggled against Georgia and Kalon Davis was moved to the right tackle spot early in the season. Gore still managed to log 237 snaps in three starts, and another spring should give him the time he needs to complete the transition from defense. He has the size (6-5, 290) and the athleticism to be an outstanding right tackle. Maverick MorrisMaverick Morris
RS Fr. Offensive Line
#69 6-4, 291
Broxton, GA

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played some tackle last season, with two knockdowns in 59 snaps over four games. Morris has added weight and muscle and while I don’t expect him to contend for a starting spot this season, he could be a very capable backup.

That brings us to the redshirts and the freshmen, and there are a bunch to go along with Hyatt, who we have already mentioned. Hyatt could get into the conversation at that right tackle spot, but so could Jake Fruhmorgen. From a size and technique standpoint, Fruhmorgen might actually be the one player most ready to play out of the freshmen.

Fruhmorgen was rated as the No. 7 offensive tackle in the nation by ESPN, and he played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and played center and guard in that game to show off his versatility. However, with his size (6-5, 285) he is better suited to tackle.

Justin FalcinelliJustin Falcinelli
Fr. Offensive Tackle
#50 6-5, 300
Middleton, MD

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redshirted last season and has the size (6-3, 305) to jump into the conversation at one of the tackle spots. The coaches raved about Falcinelli and Taylor HearnTaylor Hearn
Fr. Offensive Line
#51 6-3, 305
Williston, SC

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all last season, and Hearn is another redshirt freshman who will get an extended look this spring. Hearn (6-5, 325) is another big one who could play more than one spot along the line. We will know fairly early in camp where he will land.

Another true freshman is Noah Green, who is best suited at guard but could also get a look at center. Add in Zach Giella – another one who can play guard but played tackle in high school – will also get his share of reps.


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