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Quietly the offensive line has become Clemson’s strength

Over the last several years, Clemson has had one of the more dominant offenses in college football. Names like Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman, Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett became household names to college football fans.

While they got all the headlines, guys up front like Jay Guillermo, Mitch Hyatt, Taylor Hearn, Sean Pollard, Eric Mac Lain, Maverick Morris and Tyrone Crowder quietly did their jobs and have become one of the top offensive lines in the country. In each of the last two years, Clemson has led the ACC with the fewest sacks allowed, while the running game produced more than 2,700 yards for Gallman and 1,700 yards for Watson.

Mac Lain, who graduated in 2015, and Guillermo have since moved on. However, Guillermo is the lone offensive lineman—first and second team—not returning from last year’s team.

“I feel like this is definitely Clemson’s best offensive line, but whether or not people believe it or not, it doesn’t matter to me,” said Crowder, who has been an All-ACC performer the last two years at right tackle. “Our job is just to be the very best that we can be and just grind this offseason and get ready for the season.”

With Guillermo graduated, Crowder and Hyatt, also a two-time All-ACC performer, are trying to take over his role as a leader. That’s not an easy task given how laid back and vocal Guillermo was with everyone.

“Obviously Jay, he was a very vocal guy, very friendly guy,” Crowder said. “For me I kind of lead by example, but I’m trying to step up to that role as being a more vocal leader, and I’m trying to transition just to be a complete player. But I think (center) Justin Falcinelli, I really like what I’m seeing this off-season. He’s competing – he’s showing that he belongs there.

“Just having been there before, just it brings a lot of experience, and we know what to expect. We have other guys like Mitch Hyatt, Taylor Hearn, and we just keep on going, and we take these younger guys under our wings.”

Though the Tigers’ offensive line seems to be in good shape, the rest of the offense has some holes to feel. It starts at quarterback where junior Kelly Bryant and freshmen Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson are battling it out to replace Watson. At running back C.J. Fuller, Adam Choice and Tavien Feaster will try to pick up where Gallman left off.

Williams was one of the best in the country at wide receiver and now Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud will have to be more consistent performers there, while Milan Richard tries to do the same at tight end where he follows an All-American in Jordan Leggett.

“I mean, obviously it’s hard to replace a guy like Deshaun, but we’ve got a group of core players who want to prove themselves and that this is why they came here, to be that guy,” Crowder said. “Everybody has their own different roles, but we recruit the best in the country, and we’ve got players out there, and I’m just looking forward to seeing what they can do.”

 

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