Opposing defenses beware: Mitch Hyatt is getting better

by - Senior Writer -
Hyatt was big part of Clemson's offensive success against Alabama
Hyatt was big part of Clemson's offensive success against Alabama

CLEMSON – Mitch Hyatt did what many thought was impossible last season, starting from day one as the left tackle on a championship-caliber team and never looking back as he earned accolade upon accolade.

The scary part? He’s only going to get better.

Hyatt enrolled at Clemson last January and spent spring practice behind then-starter Isaiah Battle, but Battle’s time at Clemson ended in June and Hyatt was thrust into the starting role. Hyatt didn’t blink, becoming the first true freshman to start his first game on the offensive line since James Farr in 1980. He also became the first true freshman to start the opener since 1944 (Phil Prince), and he wound up starting all 15 games and logging the most snaps in Clemson history by a freshman offensive lineman (1,049).

Along the way, Hyatt earned First-team freshman All-America honors by Sporting News and USA Today, and he did it while learning on the job.

Hyatt spoke to the media following Monday’s practice, and he said the difference between now and this time last year is noticeable.

“I've seen a big difference between this spring and last spring and having that one year,” Hyatt said. “It's just the speed of the game - I've been going and doing the live team stuff, and it's a lot slower for me, and I can comprehend everything, and I can work on my technique. I don't have to work on learning the plays or anything like that. It's been a big difference for me."

Hyatt said he has a certain level of comfort with the playbook and now can focus on becoming a better player and leader.

“I am trying to get to that point right now. I am still trying to establish myself as a lead by example kind of guy. Hopefully, by the end of spring I can accomplish that,” he said. “I would say the consistency in my sets and in one-on-one situations be more consistent with it as far as pads go and driving guys off the ball. As far as the pass goes, just to be able to be consistent against the guys I am going against and keep them off Deshaun.”

Hyatt is also taking his study of the game to another level, especially after Boston College and N.C. State’s gave him the most trouble last season.

“Some of the things I've learned is being quicker in my sets and learning who I am going against. Knowing what kind of rusher he is - is he more technical or if he's a quick-twitch guy off the edge,” he said. “It's how you view the defense. You can see where a linebacker is leaning or if a defensive end is leaning, which means he might come inside, or he looks like might be able to go outside. You have to be able to adapt to that. Going against Coach Venables' defense gives us a lot of experience in that.”

The offensive line lost two starters from last season – left guard Eric Mac Lain and right tackle Joe Gore, but the younger players on the offensive line have developed a unique chemistry.

“Right now, we all have some kind of experience. We came in last spring, and we've been through it all together,” Hyatt said. “We are all friends, and we hang out together, and we have relationships off the field as well as on the field. It's been a fun spring so far.”

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