In the last three years, when it came time to run the football, Clemson ran the football behind the left side of the offensive line.
It made since. That is the side of the line where All-American left tackle Mitch Hyatt and All-ACC left guard Taylor Hearn occupied.
That was the nasty side of the line. That was the side where if the Tigers needed that one yard to pick up a critical first down or score a touchdown near the goal line, Hyatt and Hearn could get it done.
Unfortunately for Clemson, only half of that tandem is returning. Hyatt returned to school for his senior year, while his good friend, Hearn, left school with a year to play and signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Carolina Panthers.
With Hearn moved on, the Tigers turned to John Simpson in the spring. A backup the last two seasons, head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell feel the 6-foot-4, 320-pound junior is ready to step in and be a starter.
Simpson does have some experience. He has played in 21 games in his Clemson career with 420 total snaps register.
The North Charleston native has played in many games during critical situations. He logged in 22 snaps at South Carolina last year and had 34 in the ACC Championship game against Miami. He registered 32 snaps against Wake Forest and 23 at NC State.
Simpson also had a team-high four knockdown blocks in 32 snaps he played against Boston College. He finished last season with 11 knockdown blocks despite playing just 320 snaps.
Caldwell has always liked Simpson’s physical nature. He also played with good technique and leverage, which is why he played even as a true freshman.
As far as the depth chart goes, redshirt freshman Matt Bockhorst (6-3, 305) will push Simpson in fall camp for the starting spot. Bockhorst is second-team left guard on the preseason depth chart.
Freshman Jackson Carman (6-6, 350) is listed as the third-team guard. The former five-star was the top offensive line coming out of high school in the 2018 Class. The Clemson coaches feel he has an opportunity to push for playing time and can create even more depth at the guard position.
Clemson will begin camp during the first week of August as it prepares for its season-opener against Furman on Sept. 1.
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