Coming into 2005, the offensive line was being touted as the best offensive line under Tommy Bowden’s reign at Clemson. The offensive line did not disappoint.
Tackles Barry Richardson and Marion Dukes were solid all season. Richardson was coming off a freshman All-American campaign. He struggled in the spring, but he worked hard during the summer, and he was ready to go at the start of fall camp. Richardson improved his pass protection, along with Dukes, as they held up well against some of the nations top edge rushers. Richardson has positioned himself to a pre-season All-American candidate in 2006. Dukes continues to give great effort and is improving each year at the tackle position. Dukes is still naturally a guard, but he will finish his Clemson career at tackle.
A concern at tackle is the lack of depth. Richardson and Dukes were counted on to play almost every single snap in 2005. There was a huge drop off down to Tim DeBeer and Chris Capote. Freshmen Corey Lambert and Quentez Ruffin were redshirted, and DeBeer and Capote never proved capable of playing significant snaps.
The guard play was expected to be one of the biggest strengths on the team. The guards were led by Nathan Bennett and Roman Fry. Bennett started the season playing the best football of his career. On Clemson’s final drive against Texas A&M, the Tigers were able to pull Bennett, and allow Bennett and Richardson to pave the way for running back James Davis. Fry was out of the shuffle at the beginning of the season, because he spent time at center during the fall camp.
Fry is probably the most versatile lineman at Clemson. He has played all five positions on the offensive line now. He regained his starting role at guard midway through the season, the Tigers running game responded with a 100-yard rusher in five of the final six games.
Reserves Brandon Pilgrim and Chip Myrick were solid all season. Pilgrim started the season for the Tigers before being replaced by Fry. Myrick was the lone senior on the offensive line. Chris McDuffie was moved to guard back in August. McDuffie is actually one of the best run blockers Clemson has, but he has to develop in his pass blocking to see more snaps.
Dustin Fry finally received his shot at center. Fry had waited patiently behind Tommy Sharpe. A big improvement was made in the quarterback-center exchanges. The Tigers did not lose a fumble on a quarterback-center exchange in 2005. What Fry lacks in athleticism, he made up for with effort.
Overall, this was the best offensive line Coach Bowden has had at Clemson. The good news is all five starters return in 2006.