By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
If you look at what Auburn did this past season with its running game, then you will get an idea of what the future of the Clemson offense will look like now that Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins have left for the NFL.
Though offensive coordinator Chad Morris wants to be a little more balanced offensively than Auburn is in Gus Malzahn’s offense, the scheme at which he runs is designated to be dominant and proficient in the running game. Auburn led the country in rushing at 328.3 yards per game.
Yes, Tre Mason is a dynamic running back, but keep in mind he rushed for 1,002 yards in 12 games in 2012, but yet rushed for 1,816 yards this year. What was the difference? The scheme of course.
It’s true that a good playcaller adjusts to his personnel and has his system fit around his personnel, not the other way around. When Cam Newton was at Auburn and Malzahn was the offensive coordinator, Malzahn built the offense around Newton and his skill set. He as a coach adjusted to the player. But at the same time he recruited Mason and that offensive line to Auburn as he tried to bring in the pieces that would ultimately fit to the way he wants to run his offense.
Chad Morris, who learned this offense from Malzahn when both were high school coaches in Texas and Arkansas, has done the same at Clemson. The last three years he has fit his offense around quarterback Tajh Boyd and his dynamic set of skill players such has Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins. Andre Ellington and Dwayne Allen. But now, in year four under his watch, Morris finally has all the pieces in place to run his version of the offense in the intent in which it is meant to be run.
With Chad Kelly and Deshaun Watson in camp, he has two quarterbacks that can run the football faster and probably more effectively than Boyd, who was more of a drop back passer with more of a gunslinger mentality.
Also in camp will be big and strong running backs in Tyshon Dye and Wayne Gallman, those set more in the mold of a Tre Mason than a Ellington or C.J. Spiller. They can carry a heavier load and can take the repetitive pounding that it takes to run the football over and over and over again.
The final piece of the puzzle is where the strength of the Clemson offensive line is. The Tigers will be stronger up front especially in between the tackles. With guys like Kalon Davis and David Beasley back at the guard positions, along with Ryan Norton at center, Clemson will be a year older, wiser and stronger up the middle.
With quarterbacks like Kelly and Watson and running backs like Dye and Gallman, this is where you attack the defense and keep hitting those spots with tempo until you wear them down. That’s what Clemson is going to try and do this year.
Here are the candidates at the center and guard positions on the offensive line as the Tigers head into spring practice.
- Ryan Norton, 6-3, 280, Jr. – Was the starter in all 13 games this past season at center, which is where he will begin the spring as well. Norton, who can also play guard, will be the anchor of the offensive line for the next couple of years. He totaled more than 30 knockdowns this past season. In his first career start against Georgia, he was named Offensive Lineman of the Week by the ACC.
- Jay Guillermo, 6-3, 315, So. – Guillermo, a redshirt sophomore in 2014, will more than likely be Norton’s backup at center, but will also compete for playing time at right and left guard. He was Norton’s backup the entire season at center in 2013. He played in eight games this past year.
- David Beasley, 6-4, 320, Sr. – Should go into spring drills as the projected starter at left guard, where he started most of the last two seasons. He has 41 career knockdowns in more than 1,200 snaps. He has started 20 games in his career.
- Kalon Davis, 6-5, 340, Sr. – Davis is a powerful guard who has shared time as the starter with Beasley at left guard the last two seasons. He will more than likely come into the spring as the projected starter at right guard to replace the departed Tyler Shatley. Davis is very athletic, evidence by his ability to play soccer when he was in high school. He has seven career starts under his belt and more than 700 snaps in 36 games. He has recorded 21 knockdown blocks in his career.
- Reid Webster, 6-3, 300, Sr. – Webster has played at tackle, guard and center during his Clemson career. He has played in 28 games and has recorded more than 200 snaps. He recorded four knockdown blocks while playing in all 13 games in 2013. He should contend for playing time at either guard position and will be the third-string center behind Norton and Guillermo.
- Tyrone Crowder, 6-2, 345, Fr. – Redshirted last season, but the coaches were extremely high on his ability in camp last summer. The coaches would like for him to drop a few more pounds, but they really like his power. He needs to have more endurance which they hope he improved on during his redshirt season. He was rated as the No. 19 offensive lineman in the nation by Athlon coming out of high school. He will compete for playing time at both guard positions when spring drills open up in about five weeks.
- Jerome Maybank, 6-4, 320, Jr. – He has served as a reserve guard in each of the last two seasons, but has seen limited playing time. He will compete as a backup at both guard positions in the spring.
- Spencer Region, 6-4, 350, Jr. – Region has had to deal with weight issues and injuries which has hampered his progress the first three years on campus. The coaches think the redshirt junior can compete for playing time at both guard positions. He is very powerful and has the right attitude to play the guard position, but his endurance is an issue, especially playing in a high-tempo offense like Clemson’s. Last year, hip surgery hampered his progress and caused him to miss fall camp. He played in only one game in 2013.