The goal each year for Clemson’s offensive line never changes: find the best five.
Some years, that’s easier than others. This appears to be one of those years.
Clemson has a pretty good idea who will start when the Tigers open the season on Labor Day night at Duke. Starting center Will Putnam returns. So does right tackle Blake Miller. Both guards – Walker Parks and Marcus Tate – are coming off surgeries so they won’t be participating in the spring, but head coach Dabo Swinney knows what he has there. And Mitchell Mayes filled in admirably when both of those players missed time last season at guard.
“It’s a veteran group, that’s for sure,” Swinney said. “We only lost one guy. That’s a good group back, but wish Parks and Tate were out there. We’re very confident in who they are.
“I think in the end this will be will be a blessing for us to really develop a very good group and and get to a point that we probably hadn’t made it to a couple of years.”
The Tigers also have three early enrollees – Ian Reed, Harris Sewell and Zack Owens – to work into the mix, but they’ll be challenged by a deep room.
Here’s what Swinney said about the plan to bring along the returning players this spring:
“Really like where he’s at. We think he’s a really special player. I mean it’s hard to start as a true freshman and you know he certainly wasn’t perfect, but he made a lot of strides and so excited about where he’s at.”
On left tackle
“Over at left tackle Tristan (Leigh) will get his opportunity. Marcus Tate gives us a lot of flexibility because Marcus Tate can play left tackle. When we get through the summer and get into camp and we really figure out who the best five are. And then who’s the the sixth guy, the seventh guy? Marcus is a guy that gives you a lot of flexibility because obviously he can play guard but he can play left tackle and play right tackle so who is that guy?”
On guard without Parks, Tate
“Obviously got Putnam in there and he’s in a good spot. And then Mitchell Mays, I think took a big he took a big step forward finishing those what he started last four games for us and really did a nice job.
So you’ll see him in there and then probably today probably a combination of Trenton Howard and Ryan Linthicum (at guard). That’s kind of where we are and just guys that can really execute functionally as a football player. So you’ll see Linthicum and Howard kinda working guard and center. Then you’re going to see a lot of Dietrich (Pennington), you know kind of where he’s at. He’s going to get his opportunity with that first group at guard as well.”
On redshirt freshman Collin Sadler
“We’ll probably start him as the second left tackle. We’ll probably go out there with Tristan first, Sadler second, working left tackle. But Sadler is a guy that we really think can play anywhere. We’re real excited about him and and like I said, he probably would not have redshirted last year had he not got hurt. He’ll probably work with the second group left tackle just we gotta, we gotta get everybody going and but he’ll be a guy that’ll cross train and I think when it’s all said and done we’ll be able to play wherever and so again.
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