Obviously, Clemson’s coaching staff was prepared for Tyrone Crowder and his backup, Maverick Morris, to leave school and a vacancy at right guard. They were both graduate students and they were in the last year of their eligibility.
The coaches also knew Taylor Hearn, though just a junior on the playing field, was leaving them at left guard as well.
“Taylor was above board with us so we knew what he wanted to do,” Clemson offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell said prior to the Sugar Bowl. “We are prepared. We are ready to go.”
Caldwell says John Simpson will be their first choice to replace Hearn at left guard where the sophomore has been Hearn’s backup the last two years.
“John Simpson, he has gotten the most work at it so we will see,” Caldwell said. “He still has some work to do knowing the finer details of it and knowing the system. He is young, too. He has been playing a great deal but now he gets to be in charge. There is a little bit more pressure coming his way.”
On the right side, Caldwell said several of his young players will have a chance to play there, including Matt Bockhorst who was redshirted in 2017. During junior varsity drills, Bockhorst played both left and right guard.
Newcomers Jordan McFadden and Jackson Carman will also see work at right and left guard according to Caldwell.
“They have a chance to be very, very special,” the Clemson coach said.
Caldwell isn’t afraid to play and start a true freshman if they are ready to play. In 2015, he started Mitch Hyatt at left tackle when he was just a true freshman and in 2016 Sean Pollard started as a true freshman in 2016.
This year, he thinks McFadden and Carman will both have an opportunity to earn playing time.
“Here is what I tell them,” Caldwell said. “They need to be ready and they need to be prepared. They need to be prepared to play. I never make them any promises. They determine if they play.
“We have been fortunate that the last two national championship games we started a freshman in both of them. I have started freshmen before. I do not have any problem with it as long as they can handle it.”