Left tackle looks to become Tigers’ first O-Lineman selected in first round of the NFL Draft since 1960
Like Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant, Mitch Hyatt could have turned professional.
Many thought he was going to. A starter for three years while playing in 43 games, including 42 starts, the senior from Suwannee, Ga., has already seen it and experienced it all at Clemson.
Hyatt has been a part of a program that has won a national championship, played for another and won three Atlantic Coast Conference Championships. The Tigers are 40-4 in those three seasons.
So why did Hyatt decide to come back to Clemson for his senior year?
“A big reason for me coming back, just talking to people close to me, I feel like I’ve got some unfinished business, I want to finish school,” he said. “And how the season ended last year is just something I didn’t want to end it on, either. I’m just hoping with the work that we’ve done as a team in the off-season that we can … that we’re looking good for a good season this year.”
No one was happier to hear Hyatt say he was returning more than offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell. With so many young players on the offensive line that will play in some fashion this year, Caldwell likes the fact Hyatt is there for them to lean on when they are unsure of what or why Caldwell is asking them to do certain things.
“Mitch coming back has been wonderful for the group,” Caldwell said. “Not only his leadership but his work ethic … he never says a word. He just does it. The fact that he can help teach these young ones by being an example and getting across what I am trying to teach them to do, you can’t put a value on that. That is remarkable.
“The fact that Mitch is here to help me bring some of these young ones along is great value to the program.”
Hyatt also brings so much value with his game experiences. He has seen and hurt things throughout his first three years, especially since he has already gone up against talented defensive fronts from Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Oklahoma and NC State.
“I mean, I just have that experience. To start 42 games, it’s just experience. I’ve seen a lot of things,” he said. “I’ve played almost every team in the ACC, so I just can call back on that experience whenever I need to.”
When Hyatt came to Clemson in 2015, the 6-foot-5 offensive tackle weighed just 272 pounds. He was strong and physical, and he is as smart as any player Caldwell has ever coached. However, he wasn’t big enough. That’s where Caldwell says Hyatt has grown the most, literally, in his four years at Clemson.
Hyatt is expected to weigh in at 315 pounds when the Tigers report for fall camp on Aug. 1.
“That is what we are hoping to hold,” Caldwell said. “Each year he has gone up at least ten (pounds) and trying to hold that is different. When we say add weight, putting on fat is easy, putting on muscle mass is a little different, it is a little harder job. That is what he has done.
“His waist size has not really changed, but his weight has really gone up. He has maintained his quickness and his strength and his knowledge so that is where he has really progressed over time.”
There is no doubt in Caldwell’s mind Hyatt can play in the NFL. Besides all the great players he has played against in his time at Clemson, going up against NFL defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd as well as future NFL guys like Ferrell, Wilkins and Bryant the last two seasons in practice should pay off, too.
Many expect Hyatt, a First-Team All-American last season, to be drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft next April. If he does, he will be just the second Clemson offensive lineman in history to be selected in the opening round of the NFL Draft.
Lou Cordileone was selected in the first round at No. 12 overall by the New York Giants in the 1960 NFL Draft.
“Going against great players in practice every day has really helped him,” Caldwell said. “The next level will not be a big transition for Mitch because he is going to see it every day in practice. Hopefully, we can keep him healthy. You never hear of things that he played with a wrist hurt all year. He just goes about his job. He does not make excuses.
“You don’t hear much out of him because he does a great job. He does not give up sacks. He does not make many mistakes and he can move people. His ability to bend and play as low as he does allows him to play the position with great physicality. It looks like he is bigger than he is because of his pad level.”
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