If you are curious as to what Clemson’s offensive line will look like next year, here you go. Juniors John Simpson, Gage Cervenka, Tremayne Anchrum and Sean Pollard all said Tuesday they will return to school for their senior season next year. Freshman Jackson Carman, who played a lot in his first season, will fill in for the departing two-time All-American at left tackle in Mitch Hyatt.
All-ACC center Justin Falcinelli and Hyatt are the only two the Tigers will lose up front. Cervenka, who has started the last six games at right guard, will slide over and start at center for Falcinelli.
“We are going to dominate,” Anchrum said on Tuesday.
The offensive line was very dominant at times in 2018. Clemson heads into the 83rd Cotton Bowl Classic against Notre Dame on Dec. 29 averaging 259.8 yards per game on the ground. The Tigers lead the country in yards per carry at 6.8 and ranks 11th nationally in sacks allowed with just 14.
In the last six games, Clemson allowed just one sack.
“We are a dominate and experienced group that really knows how to get down and work,” Anchrum said. “We really know how to put this team on our back and really charge forward.”
They offense will charge forward with almost everyone expected back at the skilled positions. Running back Travis Etienne, the ACC’s Player of the Year, will be back after what has already been a record-breaking season. ACC Rookie of the Year Trevor Lawrence will return at quarterback where he will have dynamic receivers Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers and Justyn Ross back to throw to.
The Tigers will lose Hunter Renfrow and tight end Milan Richard, but there are promising freshmen in wide receiver Derion Kendrick and tight end Braden Galloway, who have already shown glimpses of stepping in and getting the job done.
“It is going to be scary for other teams, really,” Anchrum said. “It is going to be something that is going to shock the world because once you find a team that has really found its groove, that team is hard to stop.”
The Tigers (13-0) have been hard to stop this season. Since the Wake Forest game, when Lawrence started and finished a game for the first time, Clemson is averaging 50 points and 550 yards per game.
“Well, we are obviously still being over looked by another team,” Simpson said. “Hopefully, we can be a model program. That is what I want to do. I want to help this team and this program be a model program, so they look at us like we are the best.
“We do not want to be second to nobody.”
That other team of course is Alabama, who is the favorite to win the College Football Playoff again this year. But, to be the best, you have to beat the best first. The Tigers are hopeful they will get that chance on Jan. 7, but right now their focus is on beating a Notre Dame team they feel is every bit as good as anyone in the CFP.
“You keep working. You see a lot of mistakes if you watch that game film,” Anchrum said. “We did not do everything like we should have. We definitely missed some hits. We definitely had a lot of miscues. Really, you are never going to play a perfect game, ever, but if you do clean up the mistakes, there is no telling where you could be.”
And that is probably right back in the CFP again next year.
“Part of the problem is the mental battle,” Anchrum said. “Can we do it? Once we got over that hump of can we do it, let’s see how far we can take it. Once we really find that groove, and we might not find it next year, but it is going to be a scary thing for other teams if we do.”