By Heath Bradley.
In this installment of the post spring breakdowns of the Tigers we will focus on the offensive line. The offensive line is the biggest question mark for the Tigers as they prepare for the 2012 season.
Depth Chart- Left Tackle- 1st Team: Brandon Thomas 2nd Team: Isaiah Battle or Shaq Anthony
Right Tackle- 1st Team: Gifford Timothy, 2nd Team: Joe Gore
What We Know- Landon Walker and Phillip Price both signed free agent contracts following the 2012 NFL Draft. This leaves Chad Morris and Robbie Caldwell to replace both starting tackles from the 2011 season. Walker and Price started a combined 27 of 28 games at the tackle positions in 2011, with Price missing the NC State game due to injury. The coaching staff will look to replace Walker and Price with a mixture of experience and youth. Exiting the spring the starter at left tackle is redshirt junior Brandon Thomas. Thomas, from Spartanburg, South Carolina has appeared in 23 career games for the Tigers, including starting 10 games (mostly at guard) and playing in 913 snaps. Thomas played 777 snaps in 13 games in 2011 (10 starts) and recorded 39 knockdown blocks. He was the starting left guard for much of the season, a season that even included him catching a pass and scoring a touchdown. He caught a deflected pass in the victory over #11 Florida State for a 1-yard loss and recovered a Tajh Boyd fumble in the endzone for a touchdown versus Georgia Tech. He was the first Tiger offensive lineman to score a touchdown since 1966. Thomas’s back up will be Isaiah Battle (a true freshman early enrollee from Brooklyn, New York) or Shaq Anthony, a redshirt freshman from Williamston, South Carolina. Anthony is the son of former Tiger defensive lineman Vernie Anthony. Vernie Anthony lettered for the Tigers in 1981 and 1982.
Gifford Timothy is listed as the starter at right tackle coming out of spring practice. Timothy, a redshirt sophomore from Middletown, Deleware, has appeared in seven games for the Tigers, playing 45 career snaps. Timothy has also seen action on special teams on placekicks as a blocker. Timothy will be backed up by redshirt freshman Joe Gore. Gore, from Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina started his career as a defensive end before suffering a knee injury. Following his return from injury, Gore made the transition to offensive tackle in November of 2011.
What We Expect- Brandon Thomas is a veteran lineman with great footwork and work ethic and has been an asset to the Tigers at every position he has played in his career. Due to this, we at TheClemsonInsider.com expect him to be the starter at left tackle when the Tigers take on Auburn in the Georgia Dome, and for the duration of the season barring injury. Expect Isaiah Battle to get the majority of snaps as the second team left tackle. At 6 foot 7 inches and 265 pounds he has the frame of a potential All-American lineman. His playing time will depend on how quickly he absorbs the playbook. As he continues to learn and get stronger he will be a valuable asset to the Clemson offensive line. Expect Anthony to also get snaps at left tackle, especially if Battle struggles due to his maturity and knowledge of the offense. While Timothy does not have the experience of Brandon Thomas, a player who is starting his third year in the Clemson program. His strength and knowledge of the offense gives him an edge over Joe Gore exiting the spring. Expect Timothy to get the start in game one as well as the majority of the snaps at right tackle throughout the season.
Depth Chart- Left Guard- 1st Team: Kalon Davis, 2nd Team: David Beasley
Right Guard- 1st Team: Tyler Shatley, 2nd Team: Reid Webster
What We Know- The Tigers will have a new starter at each of the guard positions for the 2012 season. Brandon Thomas has made the move to left tackle from left guard and right guard Antoine McClain signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens following the 2012 NFL Draft. Kalon Davis returns as the Tigers most experienced interior lineman, having appeared in 12 games in his career, totaling 49 snaps. At the right guard position, newly converted offensive lineman Tyler Shatley is expected to start. Shatley, a redshirt junior, spent his first three seasons on campus as a defensive tackle, appearing in 26 games and playing in 444 snaps. As a defensive tackle he recorded 41 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. His job will now be to protect the passer and create holes for running backs, rather than sack the passer and close running holes. Expected to back up Davis at left guard is David Beasley. Beasley is a redshirt sophomore from Columbus, Georgia who has appeared in five games for the Tigers. He saw his most action versus NC State where he played nine snaps and graded out at 100%. Reid Webster the backup at right guard is a redshirt sophomore that hails from Woodstock, Georgia. He has appeared in six games in his career, logging 33 snaps. He provides a versatile element to the Clemson offensive line having worked at tackle, guard, and center at some point during his Clemson career.
What We Expect- The guard position plays a pivotal role in the running game and how well the new starters perform will have a direct impact on the Clemson running game. Tyler Shatley, after making the move to right guard from defensive tackle, had a great spring in making the transition and is expected to be a strong, physical force for the Tigers. Kalon Davis also had a very impressive spring practice, taking the majority of the snaps with the first team. Davis, who has worked to slim down to 335 pounds, has reshaped his body since arriving on campus and is now a powerful interior offensive lineman who translates his soccer background into good footwork on the gridiron. However, Shatley and Davis cannot take all the snaps at guard so it will be vital to see the improvement of Beasley and Webster throughout the summer and fall camp. The better Beasley and Webster become the stronger this offensive line will be in terms of depth.
Depth Chart- 1st Team: Dalton Freeman, 2nd Team: Ryan Norton
What We Know- Dalton Freeman returning for his senior season was big for the continuity of the Clemson offensive line. Freeman, a redshirt graduate student from Pelion, South Carolina has appeared in 40 games for the Tigers in his career, starting the last 36 consecutively. In 2011 Freeman was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation’s top collegiate center. Freeman was also named First-Team All-ACC and an Honorable Mention All-American. He set a school record for snaps in a season with 1, 044 and recorded 41 knockdown blocks in 2011. Ryan Norton, a redshirt freshman from Simpsonville, South Carolina is currently listed as the second team center on the depth chart.
What We Expect- Dalton Freeman is the man at center. He set a school record for snaps in 2011 and we expect to see that happen again in 2012. He provides leadership for a new offensive line as well as a calming factor for quarterback Tajh Boyd. Expect to see Ryan Norton take some snaps in late game situations as well as potentially play some time at guard if needed, a position that he is able to play with his size and strength. Early enrollee Jay Guillermo has a chance to avoid a redshirt and see time as the backup center if Norton is needed at guard. Guillermo, from Maryville, Tennessee was a top-10 center recruit in the nation in the class of 2012.