Question #6: Does Offensive Line Breakout In 2005?
The offensive line has been the whipping boy of Clemson’s woes on offense the last few seasons. Many believe this will be the year that the recent recruiting efforts pay off, and the offensive line becomes a strength. The Tigers have six players that return with starting experience. Barry Richardson, Roman Fry, Dustin Fry, Chip Myrick, Nathan Bennett, and Marion Dukes all have started at least one game. The biggest concern last season was the tackle position.
Walk-on Jesse Pickens started the opener, but it was a matter of time before 6-7 350 pound Barry Richardson assumed the starting role at left tackle. Richardson surprised the staff in fall camp, as he was expected to redshirt last season. Richardson proceeded to earn freshman All-American honors in what should have been his senior year in high school. The accolades earned last season quickly turned to criticism in the spring. Richardson was called out for his lack of focus and was reminded he had not “arrived”. Richardson has lost between 15-20 pounds during the summer, but once again it will be important he makes his conditioning runs at the start of practice. Tim Debeer will backup Richardson. Debeer is reliable, but he has struggled with injuries throughout his career at Clemson.
Dukes will be solid and dependable at right tackle. The question at right tackle does not lie with Dukes. The question is who will play behind Dukes. This is a door of opportunity for a true freshman to step in. Christian Capote is listed as the current backup, but we expect he will be quickly overtaken by Zach Green, who was converted over from tight end in the spring. Green will be challenged by Quentez Ruffin and Cory Lambert. Ruffin is physically ahead of Lambert, but Lambert may be ahead from a conditioning standpoint. The two freshman are talented, but ideally both would redshirt with Green locking up the #2 spot. Our current forecast is Ruffin will beat out Lambert.
The interior line is where Clemson is strong. R. Fry can play anywhere on the offensive line, but he will see most of his action at guard. The Tigers have a solid rotation of Fry, Bennett, Myrick, and Brandon Pilgrim to use at guard. Bennett is one of the most productive lineman, who goes to the whistle and sometimes after. Myrick was setback by mono last fall, but he should return to have big season in 2005.
This should be the year where the offensive line steps into the forefront. Dustin Fry has patiently waited his turn, and he is an immediate upgrade at center in my opinion. Having a 333 pound center with the strength of Fry will open more interior running lanes. Roman Fry is the first option to backup Dustin Fry, but Bobby Hutchinson and true freshman Barry Humphries will try to work their way into the rotation.
This group will be playing their third season together with the exception of Richardson. The continuity along the offensive front should help. The last couple of seasons, fans have watched this group of linemen go through a series of growing pains, while playing freshmen and sophomores. The result now is an experienced and talented group of veterans looking to breakout in 2005.