By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris will admit this, he was proud of his offensive line in this past Saturday’s 26-19 win over Auburn, but… “I’m not ready to name them the ‘Seven Blocks of Granite’ or ‘The Four Horsemen’ yet.”
But with that being said, there is no doubt Clemson’s offensive line, which featured three new starters on Saturday, earned the respect of the rest of the football team. Auburn seemed to have no answer for the 14th-ranked Tigers rushing attack as Clemson ripped off 320 yards on 52 carries. For those of you who are trying to do the math, that’s 6.2 yards per attempt.
“I think they have earned some respect throughout the country,” Morris said Monday.
There has to be respect considering Auburn’s defensive line was considered one the better lines in the SEC this year. It seemed whenever Clemson needed a yard or two to pick up a first down, they got it. On fourth-and-one from the Auburn 21 midway through the third quarter, running back Andre Ellington went straight up the gut for three yards, while center Dalton Freeman and left guard David Beasley cleared a wide open path.
The most amazing part of all of this is the fact all five starters played all but one of the 87 official snaps. Clemson did not substitute a single player until Gifford Timothy went down with an injury on the next to last offensive play of the night.
That’s saying something about the physical condition the offensive line is in considering the tempo in which Clemson plays on offense.
“We played five guys and we felt like that was the way it was going to be,” Morris said. “We were going to play the five guys we felt comfortable with going in. We wanted to see how they would respond, and I was very pleased with the way they responded.
“They were aggressive, and they were physical.”
Beasley, who is 6-foot-4 and weighs 315 pounds, told Morris at the 6:30 a.m. meeting this morning that he doesn’t ever remember playing 92 snaps before in a game.
“But he was good on play ninety as he was on play two,” Morris said. “That was impressive to see how he played. He was definitely a guy that’s gained a lot of confidence and has a lot of respect.”
It was no surprise that Freeman, a Remington Award Candidate, graded the highest on the offensive line. Morris said Freeman was hands down the best player up front and played his most physical game since the offensive coordinator has been here.
Morris was also high on right guard Tyler Shatley, left tackle Brandon Thomas and right tackle Gif Timothy, though he said they all still have plenty of room to grow.
“We are still challenging those guys up front,” Morris said. “There is still going to be some competition, which is what we have found now. We have a little bit of depth now. We have five guys we feel confident with and we have some guys behind them.
“Kalon Davis is a guy that had a really good work week last week, and now that David Beasley is playing at the level he played at, there is going to be some heated competition throughout practice and I love every bit of it. Ryan Norton is another guy that has to continue to come along, and Shaq Anthony is another we thought for a while was going to be the starter.”
Morris says his overall assessment of the offensive line was very good when he reviewed the tape.
“Anytime you can rush the football for three hundred plus yards, they have done something right and have played some type of physical football,” he said. “We had more knockdown (blocks) since I have been here so there is that physical (toughness) and that mentality.
“I was proud of them. I’m proud of them because I was the first one to challenge them and challenge them in a way that they don’t like me, and I really don’t care. But we challenged them in a way to where they are going to have to respond. In order for us to get to where we need to be and for this program offensively has to be week in and week out, and to achieve the goals we need to have for this team, we have to be able to run the football.”
And that’s what they did against Auburn. They plan to do the same against Ball State this coming Saturday in Death Valley. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m.