Most true freshmen, especially highly touted ones, aspire to contribute right away in their first season of college ball. So naturally, many become disappointed if they are given the redshirt designation and held out of game action.
Blake Vinson is one of the three true freshmen offensive linemen that Clemson opted to redshirt last year. However, when Vinson reflects on his redshirt season, the former four-star recruit is not unhappy about the way things turned out.
“I feel like it has definitely gone pretty good,” Vinson told The Clemson Insider recently. “I redshirted, so I’m pretty happy about that. I’ve gotten a lot bigger and stronger through that and just really improved my game, so I think it’s gone pretty well.”
Vinson, an early enrollee, arrived to Clemson last January at around 295 pounds. After shedding excess weight and replacing it with muscle during the season, he now checks in at a more stout 295 pounds.
“My body composition is way different now,” Vinson said. “I lost like 15, 20 pounds that first semester here, and then I’ve slowly gained it back.”
Vinson credited Clemson’s “Power Hour” strength and conditioning program for helping him develop physically. The native of Ocala, Fla., said he benefited from additional time in the weight room as a redshirt.
“It’s been a huge asset,” Vinson said. “Just going in there every single day and lifting before practice… The guys who are playing don’t really get to lift like that, so I’ve gotten a lot stronger in every single one of my lifts and the whole nine yards.”
Meanwhile, on the field, Vinson worked mostly at left tackle in practice over the course of last season.
“I’ve been running mainly left tackle,” he said. “But in the JV periods, there are so few guys… All the guys, you play tackle and guard and kind of have to run all the positions just so you can get a rotation going. But during team periods and stuff, I ran mostly tackle.”
Vinson said he has absorbed knowledge from players such as veteran left tackle Mitch Hyatt and sophomore right tackles Sean Pollard and Tremayne Anchrum.
“Especially during spring ball and fall camp,” he said. “Guys like Mitch and Tremayne and Sean, they’ve all been really helpful with the plays and the certain calls you have to make. During one-on-ones, they’ll help me out after my reps if coach is moving on to the next guy or the next drill. So they’ve all been really helpful.”
Vinson’s versatility helped him gain recognition as a prospect. He earned a lot of attention at The Nike Opening in Charlotte, N.C., two summers ago after playing all five offensive line positions at the combine.
The former North Marion High School standout thinks he may stick at left tackle, but admitted he doesn’t know what the future holds for him positionally.
Vinson is simply hoping to crack Clemson’s O-line rotation next season, wherever the coaches might see fit.
“I’m anticipating staying at left tackle,” Vinson said. “I’m not sure if that’s what they want to do with me, but I’ll play wherever they need me to play. But I’m just really looking forward to spring ball and getting back in there with the O-line.”