Spring Report Card: Offensive Line

by - Correspondent -

Clemson returns five starters on the offensive line in 2006. The Tigers are looking to see their recruiting efforts of the last couple of years pay off in 2006. This group has the continuity and the depth to be the best offensive line Tommy Bowden has had.

This spring the group looked to continue to make strides. The tackle positions are anchored by Barry Richardson and Marion Dukes. Richardson has a chance to be an All-American candidate in 2006. Richardson may still just be scratching the surface of his potential. The concern with Richardson would be his weight. If Richardson keeps his weight down, he is one of the best left tackles in college football, but last season his weight was an issue and it hurt his play.

Dukes is still more of a natural guard, but he has developed into an effective tackle. Dukes will not be a candidate for any postseason awards, but he is a solid and dependable. The biggest concern on the offensive line is depth at tackle.

Redshirt freshman Cory Lambert is ready to play. Lambert is the most talented backup, and he could see action at both tackle spots. He is still raw, but he showed this spring that he could ready to go come August. Tim Debeer is the other backup tackle. Debeer has struggled with injuries his entire career, and he has had issues with penalties during games, which was also an issue this spring. Offensive line coach Brad Scott really likes Debeer, and he will use him this fall. The surprise at tackle may have been Chris Capote.

Capote was almost on his way out after last spring. He decided to bear it out, and after a scary car crash prior to the bowl game, Capote has shown improvement. He had his best workouts this spring. If he can add depth, it would only strengthen this offensive line. Richardson and Dukes cannot play 50+ plays a game.

The guards are in great shape. Nathan Bennett and Roman Fry are the starters. Bennett and Fry are leaders on the line. Bennett is not scared to get in anyone’s face, as he had on field battles with Anthony Waters in the spring. They are pushed by Brandon Pilgrim and Chris McDuffie. Pilgrim has been a starter at times, and there is no drop off when he is in the game. McDuffie is as good of a run blocker as anyone, but he struggled picking up the pass protections. The man to watch is redshirt freshman Thomas Austin.

Austin is the most talented of the redshirt freshman offensive lineman. He will be on Pilgrim and McDuffie’s heels all season, as he showed this spring. No one is going to work harder than Austin, and Coach Scott will have a hard time keeping him out of the rotation.

At center, Dustin Fry returns to anchor the line. Fry is a proven leader, and he can be counted upon. He may not be the most athletic center, but he gets the job done. Bobby Hutchinson held redshirt freshman Barry Humphries due to Humphries injuring his ankle. If Humphries stays healthy in the fall, he will overtake Hutchinson.

Overall, this group met expectations for the spring. They were overmatched by the defensive line for the most part. Gaines Adams is as talented as they come, but you would like to see him slowed down to a point, where Coach Bowden can have him in there during practice.

Grade: B-

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