Even before Mitch Hyatt decided to return to Clemson for his senior year, offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell had a plan in place in case his two-time All-American decided to leave for the NFL. However, as things turned out, Hyatt decided to return to school and in doing so he gave the Tigers another returning starter on an offensive line that is filled with experience and talent.
The Tigers are also hungry.
The last two games did not go so well for the offensive line as the group played their two worst games of the season against Miami in the ACC Championship Game and against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Clemson rushed for just 77 yards against the Hurricanes, while quarterback Kelly Bryant was sacked four times.
In the loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal, the Crimson Tide held the Tigers to a season-low 64 rushing yards and sacked Bryant five times. It was not the way the offensive line wanted the season to end, especially considering how they played well for much of the year.
The Tigers’ lack of consistency at the end of the year is one reason why Hyatt decided to return to school as he, along with center Justin Falcinelli and right tackles Tremayne Anchrum and Sean Pollard, hope to make amends in 2018.
“I look at Tremayne and Sean as both starters,” Caldwell said. “They are interchangeable.”
Caldwell says Anchrum and Pollard can both back up Hyatt at left tackle, which gives him more flexibility on how he uses his personnel. Redshirt freshman Noah DeHond played at lot of left and right tackle in camp last year and in junior varsity practices during bowl prep. Blake Vinson, another redshirt freshman, also played left tackle and Caldwell thinks he can be a good backup there as well.
Then there are true freshmen Jackson Carman and Jordan McFadden, who will get a chance to compete at both the inside and outside positions. Carman is an early enrollee and will compete for the Tigers in the spring.
“You will be surprised who all can play,” Caldwell said. “I have even throw Justin Falcinelli out there (at tackle) a little bit. He played it in high school. What a pleasure he has been. He is going to leave here with a Masters Degree and made All-ACC and I tell you what, he has been a joy to coach.”
But Falcinelli still has one more year to go, and like Hyatt and the rest of the offensive line, he is looking to make up for the way the 2017 season ended up front and make sure next year they finish strong.