Power Line 2010

by - Senior Writer -
Offensive coordinator Billy Napier has said that he would like to have eight or nine solid players on the line heading into the season. (Photos: fotoman)

CLEMSON – Right tackle Landon Walker is a big fan of his teammates on the defensive line, but he said on Saturday that he is sick and tired of seeing them.

In Walker’s opinion, Clemson’s 2010 offensive line is ready to line up, strap on the helmet, spot the ball, and go hit somebody else.

“I think we are more ready than we’ve ever been,” Walker said following Clemson’s practice in Death Valley on Saturday. “I am sick of banging against our own guys. I know that playing against those guys makes us better, but I’m ready to get out there in the open field, and do our cuts and do work. They kind of won’t let us do some things against our own defense, and I definitely don’t want to hurt our guys, but I am ready to get out there and cut it loose.”

Offensive coordinator Billy Napier has said that he would like to have eight or nine solid players on the line heading into the season, and he says that this group is getting close with starters Walker (LT), Antoine McClain (RG), Dalton Freeman (C), David Smith (RG) and Chris Hairston (RT) joined by valuable reserve and former starter Mason Cloy. Add in Philip Price, Brandon Thomas and freshman Kalon Davis, and Napier said the pieces are close to being in place.

“I think we’ve got enough now,” Napier said. “I think the decisions now are what positions do people play. Cloy is kind of that putty guy who can play center and guard, and Price is the third tackle. I think we need to continue to develop Thomas in a dual role, so he can play inside and spell some of the guys inside. That would be good for us.

“Kalon is kind on the bubble right now on whether he redshirts or he plays this season. I think he can play, and that it is in his best interest to play. That group has a good attitude right now, and I am pleased with the overall approach they are taking. I will hang my hat on them every day of the week.”

Danny Pearman, who coaches the tackles, said that he has been pleased with the work the unit has put in so far but isn’t ready to call them dominant quite yet.

“I would say that I am cautiously optimistic,” Pearman said. “They have worked extremely hard these last three weeks, and hopefully we have developed depth. We have people pressing for playing time. But this group has a good synergy about them, and they care about each other.

“Right now, we have seven or eight guys that we feel really comfortable with, but that’s not to say that we won’t have nine or 10 a week from now. The goal is to develop so much depth that everybody can play on Saturday, and what they have to do is gain trust from their teammates that they can execute and go out and do their job. Hopefully, we can grow to where we can develop two offensive lines, but we’re not there yet.”

The Tigers put up extremely balanced offensive numbers a year ago, rushing for over 2300 yards and passing for over 2600 yards, and Walker said he foresees even better numbers in 2010 because the line has a year’s experience.

“We have starting experience across the line, and we have the potential to be great this year and put up some really good numbers,” Walker said. “Most definitely, last year we started getting better and had a kind of breakout year. We were all still young and got better halfway through and it showed. But we are not done reaching our potential, and this year we have to make more strides so we are better in the middle of the season, like we did last year.”

The 2006 offensive line, with players such as Nathan Bennett, Roman Fry and Dustin Fry was a dominant rushing group that had a reputation as being a bit nasty, and Walker said he thinks this group can match them on that point – with a little extra.

“I think we have the potential to be as nasty and dirty as that line,” he said. “They were nasty and they got after people. But there are things we bring to the table, like technique. And we have a lot of smart guys on the line, too. Throw nasty and dirty on top of that and that is a deadly combination as far as I am concerned.”

Walker then added that he thinks the depth that Napier wants is almost there.

“Philip Price has come along a lot,” he said. “He is going to be one of those tackles, the third guy that comes in on the third or fourth series and gives guys a break. Brandon can come in early and support us.

As far as Kalon, that is Coach Scott’s decision on whether he is ready or not, but I think he can. And Matt Sanders is getting better every day.”

Center Dalton Freeman said he has listened to all of the “experts” who expect the Clemson offense to take a step backward in 2010 without C.J. Spiller, and he said he has a message for them.

“I think this offense is going to be fun to watch,” he said. “Everybody is going to get a good taste of it Sept. 4th. I am excited about what we can do as an offensive line and as an offense. I think we have a really solid group, and I feel good about all of the guys we have.”

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