Elliott likes competition on the offensive line
Elliott likes the punch his offensive line has shown

Elliott likes competition on the offensive line

by - Staff Writer -

CLEMSON – The expectations for Deshaun Watson and Clemson’s offense are through the roof in 2016, but before the Tigers can show what they’re capable of, they must fill two voids along the offensive line.

Clemson lost starting left guard Eric Mac Lain and right tackle Joe Gore off of last season’s team – two of only three starters not returning – and are now looking to several younger players to fill the void.

Through three practices, second-year offensive coordinator Tony Elliott has liked what he’s seen.

“We've had a few good practices - a lot of energy and a lot of tempo,” Elliott told the media after Friday’s practice. “It looks like it's going to be another team that's fun to coach. Good chemistry so far. Obviously, we've got some things to clean up here in day three of installation. We've had a couple of busts, but we'll get into film tomorrow and come out tomorrow with another tough, physical practice. Overall, I just like the chemistry.”

One of the main focuses of spring practice will be finding starters at left guard, right tackle and shoring up the right guard position, and Elliott said redshirt sophomore Taylor Hearn has stepped right in at left guard.

“He (Hearn) started at left guard for us. He's rotating. Robbie (Caldwell) is doing a good job of rotating those guys everywhere because what we've learned in the past is we've got to cross-train,” Elliott said. “He'll start at left guard, but you may see him in there at right tackle, a little bit of left tackle, just making sure we've got depth at all of our positions.”

However, replacing Eric Mac Lain isn’t as simple as finding an able body.

“Losing Mac Lain from a player standpoint and a leadership standpoint is going to be tough to do,” Elliott said. “We feel very confident that Hearn can step in there right away. We just put the pads on today, so we'll get in and evaluate the film. We've got 15 practices in the spring to get that lineup, but I'm excited about what Hearn brings. He's got a little bit more size to him, but it's hard to replace Mac Lain.”

At right tackle Jake Fruhmorgen has stepped right in and picked up where he left off last year.

“So far, so good. He's looked good,” Elliott said of the redshirt freshman. “Two days in shorts, it's hard to tell because you only have two days of installation, and then you go day three, and you put the pads on, and then you've got three days of installation in. So far, so good. Those guys are a fun group. We saw the changing of the mentality last year, and it's carrying forward. The young guys infused that change of mentality on the offensive line. I'm really excited about his athleticism and we'll look at the film.”

As for right guard, Elliott said it’s a two-man battle.

“We've still got a battle there between Maverick (Morris) and Tyrone (Crowder),” he said. “They're both pushing. Robbie is doing a good job of giving them opportunities and making it competitive. We would like to have competitive depth at every position like we do at right guard where you won't know which one until you get to the games.”

However, it’s been two newcomers who have really caught his attention.

“Both of the tackles move well. Sean Pollard and Tremayne Anchrum move well,” Elliott said of the two early enrollees. “They're very competitive, and you can tell they come from very good high school programs and were very well coached, very fundamentally sound. I'm anxious to see what the film looks like.”

Other notes

Running backs update

“They're all competing. C.J. Fuller is kind of picking up where he left off. The biggest thing with him is just the maturity of doing the right thing every day in everything that you do. I think we all know what he's capable of. It's good to see Tyshon Dye. He's moving around well. His confidence is up. Adam Choice - getting him back to where he's confident. I think as a runner, there's no question that he has confident there, but transitioning from quarterback to back and blitz pickup and those things. I'm seeing a lot more confidence.”

Tucker Israel

“Tucker has really changed his body. He's back looking good and throwing the ball well. We'll get in there and see with live bullets coming at him and see how it looks. I didn't see anything that I didn't like today.”

Ray-Ray McCloud injury update

“He's pushing. That was a severe injury. He's pushing every day and competing. He's still wearing the brace just to protect himself out there at practice. I haven't seen anything that's slowing him down, but we have to be mindful that it's going to take a little bit of time until he's back to healthy.”

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