Midterm Report: Offensive Line
Big things were expected from the Clemson offensive line in 2005. It was a group that returned three starters. The offensive linemen were excited to get to work under offensive coordinator Rob Spence. This year the coaching staff has stood by their promise to be more dedicated to the running game.
At tackle, Barry Richardson has been inconsistent through the first five games. Richardson biggest problem is he is taking too many plays off, and he is not in the shape he should be. When Richardson is on, he is as good as any left tackle in the ACC, but offensive line coach Brad Scott is still waiting for him to reach his potential. Marion Dukes, while still playing out of position, has outplayed Richardson. Dukes did a very good job slowing down all world defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. Both tackles have been asked to play a lot of snaps, and Tim Debeer and Chris Capote will need to be ready in the second half.
The play of the guards has been highlighted by Nathan Bennett. Last season, it is fair to say Bennett lacked the attitude to be successful. This season he may be the clear leader of this football team. Bennett is the most outspoken player on the team, and his play has matched his words. Chip Myrick has had a steady workman like performance. Brandon Pilgrim has shown he benefited from the redshirt year. Pilgrim was a starter the first two games, but he has been beat up a little bit. Roman Fry is starting to get back in the mix at left guard. Fry has been very unselfish. He continues to work at guard and center. He was the clear starter at left guard coming into camp, but it is clear he is the second best center on the team. A player to watch for in the second half is Chris McDuffie. McDuffie may be the best run blocker already, but he needs to improve his pass blocking before he will see his snaps increase. McDuffie opened up some nice running lanes in the Tigers lone touchdown drive against Boston College.
Dustin Fry’s time has finally come. Fry has performed admirably through the first five games. The Tigers have not had snap issues with Fry at center, a problem that did plague the Tigers the last two years. Fry’s size and strength has been a key to the Tigers’ success running in between the tackles. (Roman) Fry is improving at second string center, but he must work on his snaps. His blocking warrants more playing time, but he continues to have issues getting the snap back to the quarterback.
Grade: B minus