Grandpa ready to lead younger teammates

by - Senior Writer -

Grandpa may be getting up there in college football years, but I’m guessing he still has a lot left in the tank.

Heck, he doesn’t even have any flecks of gray in his beard.

Grandpa is Clemson center Dalton FreemanDalton Freeman
RS Sr. Offensive Line
#55 6-5, 285
Pelion, SC

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, the most experienced and inarguably most important part of Clemson’s offensive line in 2012, a steady hand for a younger group that is not only having to replace three starters but will be counting on a former defensive lineman to start at right guard.

Freeman - who hails from Pelion, S.C. – took over as a starter early in the 2009 and hasn’t looked back, amassing 143 knockdown blocks in 2,042 snaps over his career, a span of 36 starts and 40 total games.

Old man, indeed.

“I feel like I’ve been here about 10 years,” Freeman told the media at last week’s ACC Kickoff in Greensboro. “I’m the old man on campus.”

Freeman said he understands that many of the younger players will be looking to him for leadership, and he hopes that the offensive line can develop some depth during fall camp.

“It’s hard to think about me coming in five years ago, being the baby, and now I’m the grandpa on the team,” he said. “The guys respect me, and I respect them. We all have the same goal. We all want to be champions. We’re all buying into the fact that I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and we’re excited about all trying to move forward and be on the same page. I’m looking forward to taking a step back and moving into more of a leadership role.”

Freeman was named as to the Preseason All-ACC Team – along with teammates Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS Jr. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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, Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
So. Wide Receiver
#2 6-1, 200
Fort Myers, FL

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and Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Sr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 190
Moncks Corner, SC

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– at the Kickoff, and has already been named to the watch lists for the Rimington, Outland and Lombardi Trophies, setting the stage for a senior season that almost didn’t happen.

Freeman admitted that he thought seriously about bolting for the NFL a year early. Freeman was projected as a fourth round pick, and his decision was in doubt until running back Andre Ellington announced his intention to return.

“I really felt like it was going to be in my best interest to come back,” Freeman said. “Coming into this year, I knew I had an opportunity to be the number one or number two [center]. I knew I was a senior, I wanted to come back, I wanted to lead. I believe we could have a special year. Sitting with Andre Ellington, when he decided to come back, it all fell in place.”

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris and head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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have both said that this year’s line has the potential to be better than the 2011 version, but Freeman said he will wait until the games start before making that kind of decision.

“We have the talent, have the potential, the experience isn’t quite there,” he said. “You can have all the talent in the world but if you don’t have that experience, and that cohesiveness of being able to go out
And play under the lights, you’re not going to be very successful. We’re excited about it. They [the younger players] know it’s wide open right now. We had starters coming out of the spring, but we haven’t played a down in camp.”

If the old man can help the line to gel, he said there will be no stopping the Tiger offense.

“I think it can be the most explosive offense in the country,” he said. “I am not sure we have enough balls to throw to all of our receivers.”

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