Tyrone Crowder might be the most unappreciated player on the Clemson football team. The two-year starter has been good enough to earn All-ACC accolades in both seasons, but his name is seldom mentioned when the Tigers’ offensive line is brought up.
The 6-foot-2, 330-pound guard decided to return to Clemson for his senior year when he could have gone to the NFL, according to head coach Dabo Swinney. With Crowder back, the offensive line is stable on both sides as left tackle Mitch Hyatt, left guard Taylor Hearn and right tackle Sean Pollard, who started the last seven games, all return in 2017.
Tyrone Crowder: After being named to the All-ACC preseason team in July, Crowder followed with a great junior season which earned him First-Team All-ACC honors. He started every game on an offensive line that allowed just 13 sacks in the regular season and 20 for the year. He recorded over 800 snaps in 15 games. In 2015, Crowder has 16 knockdowns while starting in 12 of the 13 games he played in. He was named to the All-ACC Third-Team after that season. Clemson averaged 223 yards per game on the ground in 2015 and gave up a low 14 sacks.
John Simpson: No one expected Simpson (6-4, 290) to play as a true freshman, but he played in 10 games last year as a reserve guard, including in the national championship game against Alabama. Caldwell was really impressed with Simpson’s ability to come right in and contribute because he said it’s harder for a guard to jump right into action as compared to a tackle because there is a lot more to do inside than there is outside.
Maverick Morris: The 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive lineman is the Tigers’ utility player up front. The redshirt senior was a reserve guard and tackle last season as he played in all 15 games, while registering more than 300 snaps. He has started three games in his career. In 2015 he recorded 429 snaps over 15 games, while registering eight knockdown blocks.
Zach Giella: Giella (6-5, 300) moved inside and learned the guard and center positions. The redshirt sophomore will not only compete for playing time at center, but he will also compete at right and left guard. He is an athletic lineman who can move well. Caldwell likes the way he has progressed in his first two years and thinks he can really help with the depth this season. He played in just five games last season and recorded 32 snaps.
Noah Green: Caldwell likes the potential of Green (6-5 290), but they can’t seem to get him on the field due to injuries or other issues with his abdomen. The coaches hope the redshirt sophomore will be able to get on the field more in 2017 as they think he can become a good player for them up front and maybe a future starter.
Gage Cervenka: Though he still has a ways to go, Caldwell likes the progress the former defensive tackle made in his first year on the offensive line. He said Cervenka was a breath of fresh air. He gives the O-line some athleticism being a former defensive lineman that could run. Caldwell said the 6-foot-3, 305-pound redshirt sophomore has had a great transition, but there is still a lot he has to learn. He is still learning to listen for the snap count to know when to come off the line. He is used to watching the ball and going when the ball moves. But Caldwell believes Cervenka is going to be really good for the Tigers in the future.
—Above photo: Clemson guard Tyrone Crowder (55) blocks against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium on New Year’s Eve. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
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