Having started close to 30 games and played 1,870 snaps during his career to this point, Clemson senior right guard Tyrone Crowder knows exactly what to expect when he lines up on Saturdays in the fall.
It’s typically a fierce battle of toughness and physicality in the trenches at the college level, especially in games like the one third-ranked Clemson will play this Saturday against No. 13 Auburn and its staunch defensive line.
“Just from the snap of the ball, it probably lasts for about six to eight seconds of just pure intensity, guys just banging each other,” Crowder said. “It’s a lot of movement. People kind of don’t really see it, but there’s big guys moving at a high speed and things happen so fast. But it gets really grinding down there in the trenches.”
Both Clemson’s offensive line and Auburn’s defensive front showed what they are capable of in Week 1 blowouts of Kent State and Georgia Southern, respectively.
The ACC’s Tigers rushed for 353 yards and six touchdowns while not allowing a sack. The SEC’s Tigers, meanwhile, accounted for 12 tackles for loss, six sacks and five quarterback hurries while yielding just 70 yards on 47 rushing attempts.
“They’re physical up front,” Crowder said. “They have some really tough guys. … They come off the ball pretty well and they’re really good with their hands. I’m ready to see how they’re going to perform this year.”
Clemson’s offensive line is one of the strengths of its attack. The unit is one of the most experienced in the country with Crowder, left tackle Mitch Hyatt, left guard Taylor Hearn, center Justin Falcinelli and right tackle Tremayne Anchrum combining for 77 career starts entering the game. It’s also deep, and the younger reserves were able to gain some experience Saturday as 14 different offensive linemen played in the contest.
On the flip side, Auburn’s defensive line lost All-American defensive ends Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams to the NFL after last season. However, the group Auburn returns is arguably more deep and talented than that of a year ago.
Sophomore defensive end Marlon Davidson started all 13 of his team’s games and made the SEC All-Freshman team in 2016. The Tigers have a former Under Armour All-American coming off the other edge in junior Jeff Holland, while Dontavius Russell started every game at defensive tackle as a redshirt sophomore last season and sophomore defensive tackle Derrick Brown is a former five-star prospect that Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott recruited.
“Just from watching those guys on tape versus Georgia Southern, you can tell that they’re more comfortable in (defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s) system, they’re flying around,” Elliott said. “They were challenged schematically with what Georgia Southern does. The guys looked like they were in tune. The communication, you could see it on film. … And then some of the guys that may not have played a bunch last year have had a spring, they’ve had an offseason to prepare, and they got some game action last week.
“So defensively, especially on that defensive line, it’s probably one of the deepest defensive lines that we’ve gone against in a while.”
For hog mollies like Crowder, these are the type of games they relish and the reason they play the sport.
Not only will it be a physical clash at the line of scrimmage, but it’s also a top-15 matchup in primetime with conference pride on the line.
“It always is fun when you’re playing an SEC team,” Crowder said. “Those guys feel like they should have won last year, but it is what it is. We’re going to be ready when it’s time to play this Saturday.”