Young offensive linemen putting extra practices to good use


by - Senior Writer -
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CLEMSON – Next year’s offensive line is taking shape now.

The extra practices allowed the Clemson football team as a result of playing in a bowl game are beneficial for the young players on the offensive line who, as a result of graduation – will be counted on to carry the load next season.

I spoke at length with Clemson center Dalton FreemanDalton Freeman
RS Jr. Offensive Line
#55 6-5, 285
Pelion, SC

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Tuesday afternoon in the WestZone, and he said he feels like the older players – now that they have a chance to actually interact with the younger players – are taking them under their wing and preparing them for life next season.

Freeman is just a junior, but graduates this Thursday and has submitted his paperwork for the NFL draft. He told me that he will do what is best for his personal situation, and if he hears that being drafted in the second or third round of the draft is a possibility, he would have to seriously consider foregoing his senior season.

If he returns, he will team with Brandon ThomasBrandon Thomas
RS So. Offensive Line
#63 6-3, 300
Spartanburg, SC

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to form the core of next season’s line – starters Landon WalkerLandon Walker
Gr. Offensive Tackle
#72 6-6, 305
North Wilkesboro, NC

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, Antoine McClainAntoine McClain
Sr. Offensive Guard
#74 6-6, 335
Anniston, AL

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and Phillip PricePhillip Price
RS Sr. Offensive Tackle
#79 6-5, 315
Dillon, SC

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are graduating, as are valuable backups in David SmithDavid Smith
RS Sr. Offensive Tackle
#73 6-5, 310
Greenville, SC

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and Mason CloyMason Cloy
RS Sr. Offensive Line
#62 6-3, 310
Columbia, SC

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.

Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell is using these extra practices to get a gauge on who needs to work on what before spring practice starts. He has to find two new tackles – assuming Brandon Thomas plays left guard – and freshman Joe GoreJoe Gore
Fr. Defensive End
#73 6-6, 260
Lake Waccamaw, NC

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and Isaiah Battle each have the talent to make a move. Also at tackle are rising sophomore Gifford TimothyGifford Timothy
RS Fr. Offensive Tackle
#70 6-6, 315
Middletown, DE

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, redshirt freshman Shaq AnthonyShaq Anthony
Fr. Offensive Line
#76 6-4, 275
Williamston, SC

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and Reid WebsterReid Webster
RS Fr. Offensive Tackle
#77 6-4, 295
Woodstock, GA

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, a freshman who saw some snaps this season as a backup to Walker.

Everybody that I have talked to – including Freeman - absolutely raves about the potential of Ryan NortonRyan Norton
Fr. Offensive Line
#58 6-3, 265
Mauldin, SC

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, who is redshirting this season. Freeman thinks Norton is going to be a star, and he could jump up and grab one of the guard spots this spring. Also vying for playing time on the interior are Kalon DavisKalon Davis
RS Fr. Offensive Line
#67 6-5, 335
Chester, SC

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, David BeasleyDavid Beasley
RS Fr. Offensive Guard
#68 6-4, 315
Columbus, GA

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and Spencer RegionSpencer Region
Fr. Offensive Guard
#78 6-4, 370
Cullman, AL

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. Freshmen Jay Guillermo and Patrick DeStefano are enrolling in January and will also take part in spring practice.

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said the young players have to understand the urgency of these December practices.

“They’ve gotten a lot of reps this year in practice,” Morris said. “These guys have got to come on. They’ve got to use these 15 days, plus the practices we had two weeks ago for the championship and they have to take it like another spring ball. You’re almost going to get two full springs out of them. They’ve got to understand the importance of them coming on and being developed and get their technique right. It’s something that’s a huge concern. We’ve got to get these guys going.”

He said he would be hard-pressed to name any of the players who would be ready to step in right now if needed.

“You’ve got to hope that Kalon [Davis] would come on,” he said. “Kalon’s got to be more physical. There are several others. It’s hard to mention all of them right now, and which ones. Right now, I couldn’t really tell you. If I started mentioning names, they might think they’re starters or something and not work. I can promise you something. I will not be their best friend. It ain’t happening. That’s an area that we’re addressing with these young guys. They’ve got to know, right now, the importance. They’ve got to use these 15 practices, plus spring ball, to get ready to go.”


Freeman said this week that the freshmen are in constant learning mode at this point.

"A lot of guys haven't sat through our position meetings before,” Freeman said. “They've been with [strength] coach [Joey] Batson in Power Hour. But it's their time now. The young guys, they're learning this month how to play [in scrimmage situations) and how to break down film. That's what this month is all about.”

Freeman said the veterans have taken several of the younger players under their wing during bowl practice, and are endeavoring to teach them how to practice the right way while also trying to prepare themselves for an athletic West Virginia defense that they will face in the Orange Bowl.

"We're going to do what got us this far. That's the great thing about having a whole month to prepare," he said. "People don't understand how much work goes into a program. This month gives us a chance to do a lot of things, from studying and preparing to getting healthy and recovered. We're really taking advantage of practices and meetings."


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