The old saying in football is that the older and more experienced an offensive lineman is the better it is for the team.
Even though Clemson redshirted offensive linemen Blake Vinson, Matt Bockhorst and Noah DeHond this past fall, the experience they all picked up on the scout team this year will pay off for the Tigers in the years to come.
Those three linemen had to literally go up against Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant every day in practice.
“Going against that defensive line every day … not only have they gotten roughed up physically, but they had to learn some technique to be able to compete,” Clemson offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell said prior to the Sugar Bowl. “That is the thing. Now we have been able to fine tune it more by having some work with them. That part is good.”
Going up against the best defensive line in the country allowed Vinson, Bockhorst and DeHond to grow and learn how to compete at the highest level without having to burn any eligibility to do it. Caldwell said all three progressed well in the fall which was especially good for Bockhorst and DeHond, who were coming off injuries from their senior years in high school.
“They had to get the rust knocked off them, but we have been doing a lot of work here lately,” Caldwell said. “I see good physical players. They have high intelligence. They understand football. When I say things like that I’m not talking about academics, even though they have that too. But they understand football. They have good size. They got stronger.
“They were able to go through the Power Hour. Coach (Joey) Batson and his crew do an unbelievable job. They all about doubled their strength. One had a shoulder and one had a knee. I think that is going be a really good class.”
Caldwell got 15 junior varsity practices with the three during bowl prep. Once fall camp is over in August, all the redshirt players move over to the scout team and the position coaches rarely get to coach them until bowl practice.
“We don’t get to practice with them that much and all I get to see is out there is when we are stretching. I will say hello and all of that sort of stuff. But now they are back under my wing. I’m having a lot of fun with it.”
Caldwell will continue to have fun with the three when the Tigers begin spring drills in March.