Tigers need OL to step up versus Noles

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Clemson’s offensive line is rebuilt, with three new starters and several other players who have gained invaluable experience over the season’s first three weeks.

Center Dalton FreemanDalton Freeman
Gr. Center
#55 6-5, 265
Pelion, SC

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said the future is bright at the position – long a Clemson weakness – because line coach Robbie CaldwellRobbie Caldwell
Assistant Coach / Offensive Line
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is finally recruiting his players and implementing his system. In all, eight different players have played at least 98 snaps this season.

For many of the players on the offensive line, however, the future is now. If Clemson has a shot at knocking off Florida St. Saturday night in Tallahassee, the offensive line will have to open holes for Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Sr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 195
Moncks Corner, SC

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and protect Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS Jr. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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, a tall task considering that Florida St. boasts what is arguably the nation’s deepest and most-talented defensive line.

"That's the matchup that we've got to be productive in," Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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said this week. "If they dominate our offensive line, it's going to be a long night. They're going to win some battles, but we've got to win more than they do on the line of scrimmage, and then our quarterback has got to make plays.

"He's got to extend some drives with his legs. There will be some times where it ain't going to be pretty and he's going to have to scramble. So far this season he's made some really big plays for us in that regard, and he's going to have to play great in every area Saturday night against this defense, because I mean, this is a big, big challenge that we're facing."

Florida St is missing all-everything defensive end Brandon Jenkins, but still have plenty of playmakers to take up the slack. Left end Bjoern Werner, is the nation’s sack leader with 6 ½ sacks, while right end Cornellius Carradine checks in with 3 ½ sacks. Backups Giorgio Newberry and Mario Edwards aren’t exactly slouches, and that doesn’t even include tackles Everett Dawkins, Timmy Jernigan, Anthony McCloud and Eddie Goldman.

Left tackle Brandon ThomasBrandon Thomas
RS Jr. Offensive Line
#63 6-3, 305
Spartanburg, SC

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said earlier this week that the Noles resemble Auburn at the defensive end spots, but what separates the two are the tackles. Thomas said Florida St. is deeper, faster, bigger and more talented than what Auburn had to offer.

Freeman agrees.

“They’re probably the best I’ve seen on film since I’ve been here,” Freeman said. “Their defense, as a whole, is probably the best defense I’ve seen on film. Their defensive line, in particular, has a lot of depth. There’s really not a lot of drop off. Normally, there’s a pretty significant change between the starter and the guy they bring in when he gets tired,” Freeman said. “But they rotate in about eight or nine guys and they’re all pretty equal.”

The good news is that Swinney and Caldwell expect to have all five starters back this Saturday – the group hasn’t play together since the next-to-last snap against Auburn – and several younger players have gained valuable experience in the interim.

"We know a little more about our guys now," Swinney said. "Shaq [Anthony] hadn't played in a game then. He's still not a finished product, but he's played and he can play. It's the same thing with Kalon DavisKalon Davis
RS So. Offensive Guard
#67 6-5, 330
Chester, SC

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and Ryan NortonRyan Norton
RS Fr. Offensive Line
#58 6-3, 270
Mauldin, SC

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. Kalon's played a lot the last two weeks, and Ryan's played both guard and center. It's only three games, but we're in a different situation than we were in for the Auburn game."
Swinney said the group will be challenged.

“We'll do whatever it takes," he said. "We have not been challenged like these guys are going to challenge us. We're gonna find out a little bit more about our team on Saturday."

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