When it comes to old-school football coaches, no one is more old-schooled than Robbie Caldwell. Clemson’s Country Gentleman, who happens to coach the Tigers’ offensive line, is not one to brag about his players until after the season.
However, that was not the case earlier this week when Caldwell sat down with the media to discuss the 2017 offensive line.
“I don’t ever talk much about it until after the season, but I do think, and my deal is, we got an opportunity to be good,” Caldwell said. “Obviously we have everybody back that has some playing experience.”
The defending national champions return four starters on an offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in the ACC during the 12-game regular season. All-ACC left tackle Mitch Hyatt (6-5, 300) is back along with two-time All-ACC right guard Tyrone Crowder (6-2, 340).
Alongside Hyatt is left guard Taylor Hearn (6-5, 325), who started all 15 games last year, while at right tackle Sean Pollard (6-5, 315) is back. He started the last seven games in 2016 after Jake Fruhmorgen left the team after seven games.
Clemson also returns Tremayne Anchrum (6-2, 300) as a reserve tackle, John Simpson (6-4, 315) as a reserve guard and graduated senior Maverick Morris (6-4, 305), who can play guard and tackle.
However, there is one area of concern for the Tigers and that comes at the center position. Two-time First-Team All-ACC center Jay Guillermo has graduated, turning the position over to fourth year junior Justin Falcinelli, who played sparingly in 2016.
“We are little untested at center, losing Jay Guillermo, but I have all the confidence in the world in Justin Falcinelli,” Caldwell said.
Before moving to center in the spring of 2015, Falcinelli (6-4, 320) had never snapped a football as he played guard in high school and was a three-year starter on the defensive line.
“I say he agreed, but he reluctantly went over and tried it and it was difficult to do, especially when you have never snapped the ball. But he has adjusted to it well,” Caldwell said.
Falcinelli moved up to second-team center last year behind Guillermo and played in 11 games and took 174 snaps. He took a season-high 32 snaps against S.C. State and 30 against South Carolina.
“He is a very smart young man,” Caldwell said. “You would not believe it, but he can put a computer together with spare parts and make it work. He is a video guru.”
Caldwell says playing center is just a little bit easier than putting a computer together.
“I said, ‘This is a little bit easier than that. You just point and we go in that direction,’” the O-Line coach joked. “He has had a lot of fun doing it. Time will tell.”
Behind Falcinelli and pushing for playing time is sophomore Gage Cervenka (6-3, 320). He moved over from defense before the start of training camp last year and he is now in position to challenge Falcinelli for the starting job.
“Gage never played too much offense and he has taken really well to snapping the football. He looks great and ran great the other day,” Caldwell said. “We have a chance to have some pretty good bulk in there as well. Then of course you have Zach Giella and we may even work Cade Stewart there some. He is a local product. Man, he is doing really well. He weighs 298 and is running well and is doing a great job.”
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