Everyone knows how good Clemson is at the skill positions.
The Tigers return quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and wide receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross from an offense that averaged a school record 44.3 points and 527.2 yards per game in 2018.
For a team that was known for its defense, Clemson was one of the more dominating offenses in college football last year. This year expectations are to be even better.
However, as good as Lawrence, Etienne, Higgins and Ross are, none of that will matter if the offensive line is not up to par. Clemson had one of the better offensive lines in college football last season, evident by its performance against Alabama in the CFP National Championship Game.
The Crimson Tide’s defense, which is known for putting pressure on the quarterback, did not touch Lawrence all night. They did not give up a sack.
They also were able to run the football with consistent success on Alabama, as Etienne rushed for 86 yards and had two rushing touchdowns, including a 17-yard run for a score. Clemson closed the game with a 10-play, 94-yard drive that ran out the last 10:02. The Tigers did not throw the football on that final drive.
Last year, the offensive line allowed just 17 sacks in 15 games. The 1.13 average ranked 12th nationally.
Clemson also ran the ball well. The Tigers ranked 10th nationally at running the football, averaging 248.2 yards per game. The best season average since 1992.
Clemson should be good up front again this year. The Tigers return four seniors, all of who have started at least eight games in their careers. They also return a bevy of reserve players, who saw a significant amount of playing time as well last season.
“We got everything that we need. Everything that we need, we have it,” right guard Gage Cervenka said. “I just think, we all just need to get on the same page and be consistent. Being a consistent unit is going to be the key. So, just getting back together and kind of bringing on the freshmen and the midyears and the other guys, just being able to get them in and try to get them used to things and teaching them up. That will be key coming into the season.”
This summer, like any summer, can help get a unit and a team all working together. Summer workouts are the hardest for any team. The commit, the desire and the want-to to work hard in the strength-and-conditioning drills is what causes an offensive line to get that one yard on fourth-and-goal or when a third down conversion can seal a victory.
“Just going through the pain and all of that, just kind of brings everybody together,” Cervenka said. “Just going through all of that is really good. We just need to focus on the little things that we need to get better at, individually and as a unit.”
In the end, Cervenka says the offensive line success this season will come down to one thing … communication.
“I have said it a lot, but it is a big thing, especially for the offensive line,” he said. “The defense, they try to mess with your head and show you different things. You have to be able to talk to each other and run different things. I think just getting that back down, I think we will be fine.”