Caldwell goes in-depth on ‘special’ 2020 O-line class

Caldwell goes in-depth on ‘special’ 2020 O-line class

Football

Caldwell goes in-depth on ‘special’ 2020 O-line class

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Clemson signed six offensive linemen in its historic 2020 class: Trent Howard, Mitchell Mayes, Walker Parks, Paul Tchio, Bryn Tucker and John Williams.

That is the most offensive linemen Clemson has taken in a single class in Dabo Swinney’s head coaching tenure. The Tigers signed five offensive linemen in both the 2012 and 2016 classes.

But not only did Clemson get a large quantity of offensive line signees, it also got a lot of quality talent. Five of the six O-linemen are rated as a four-star prospect by at least one recruiting service, while Parks (No. 49), Tchio (No. 102), Mayes (No. 147) and Tucker (No. 285) are all ranked among the top 300 prospects in the country regardless of position by the 247Sports Composite.

Clemson offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell knows his 2020 O-line class is special, but it’s not because of star ratings and player rankings in his opinion.

“It’s a very special group in our eyes because it’s what we do — they can do what we do, and they’re of great moral character. They’re good students,” Caldwell told The Clemson Insider. “So, they’re the kind of people that you want your children to be around as well as being good football players. As far as stars go and all, I really don’t know. Some people say they’re ranked really high, but I don’t really pay that much attention.”

Tchio, Mayes and Tucker all enrolled early at Clemson in January, while Parks, Williams and Howard are set to join the team this summer.

“Paul, Mitchell and Bryn are all in, and very impressive,” Caldwell said. “Great people. Really quick. I’m excited where they are right now. They’ll be spending time in that weight room, getting there … But their quickness and size and length is very impressive.”

Tchio played on the offensive and defensive lines as a senior at Milton (Ga.) High School, and even saw some action as a wildcat quarterback despite weighing 300-plus pounds. He has trimmed down considerably and could play tackle or guard for the Tigers.

“Paul, when we started the process, was 340. He’s 270. He wanted to lose weight and then rebuild it, and so I’m excited for him,” Caldwell said.

“Long, length … I think he’ll be able to play either tackle, and he puts his weight back on, he’s powerful enough (to play guard).”

Mayes, meanwhile, is listed at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds but moves particularly well for his size. He played offensive tackle in his final three seasons, earning all-conference honors each of those years.

Mayes began his high school career at 4A school Sanderson in Raleigh, N.C., before transferring to 4A Leesville Road in Raleigh for his senior season.

“Mitchell is just a big guy that can run, very quick, very agile,” Caldwell said. “I’ve just enjoyed having him in practice. It’s been phenomenal. I can’t wait till (strength and conditioning) coach (Joey) Batson gets ahold of him in the weight room and really takes off.”

Tucker (6-5, 292) is another guy with the versatility to play multiple O-line positions at Clemson. He was a three-time all-state selection at Knoxville (Tenn.) Catholic High School and graded out at 85 percent from his offensive tackle position in 2019.

“He’s a big guy that’s going to give us tremendous help inside,” Caldwell said, “and I’m not so sure if we needed him, he could probably go over to the tackle position.”

The highest-rated Clemson offensive line signee will arrive on campus this summer in Walker Parks, a consensus top-100 prospect ranked as high as the No. 38 overall prospect in the 2020 class by Rivals.

Parks was a first-team all-state performer and 5A District Player of the Year as a senior at Frederick Douglass High School in Lexington, Ky. He notched 75 knockdown blocks and did not allow a sack in 15 games.

Parks (6-5, 275) is the son of former Kentucky offensive lineman David Parks.

“Walker Parks is amazing,” Caldwell said. “He’s one of those guys that he will fight a chainsaw with it running. He’s just that type. He wants to prove, and he’s a loyal guy, a pleaser. He wants to make you proud in everything he does whether it’s on the field, off the field, in the classroom. He’s just a jewel, diamond in the rough that as it started and then it unfolded, and that piece of coal became a diamond. He’s got good genes. His dad played; his dad helped teach him. He’s got good coaching at the high school level. So, he’s really prepared to go compete and that’s what he loves best – competing.”

The first O-line commitment that Clemson picked up for its 2020 class came from Williams, who pledged to the Tigers on September 1, 2018.

A two-time first-team all-state offensive tackle, Williams (6-6, 295) played along the offensive line his entire career at Creekview High School in Canton, Ga., but did see some time on the defensive line in short-yardage situations.

Williams suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder midway through the 2018 season and played through the injury before undergoing surgery after the season. But after a long rehab process, Williams is 100-percent healthy again and ready to start his Clemson career this summer.

“John Williams had an injury, so he didn’t get to go to all the combines and stuff and get his name out there,” Caldwell said. “But we had him in camp. We know what he can do. It’s like the other day, he was squatting 500 pounds, so he’s an athletic guy that can run. Can probably play inside or out. Can probably get as big as we want him to get, he has such a good frame. He’s an A student. Just comes from a great family. Can’t say enough good things. He’s probably the least known because of not getting out throughout the summer and stuff due to his injury.”

Conversely, Clemson’s final commitment from an offensive lineman in the 2020 class came from Howard, a 6-foot-4, 285-pounder from Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham, Ala.

An original Georgia Tech commit, Howard flipped to the Tigers in early December after a spot became available in their class. His father, Johnny, was teammates with Swinney at Alabama, including during its 1992 National Championship season.

Howard is one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the Clemson freshman class who played all five positions on the line in high school.

“We were full, and then when Chandler Reeves decided that he was going to go ahead and graduate and get married and go into business, it left a spot open,” Caldwell said. “And Trent was a logical choice because he’s very talented and he’s our kind of people as far as being a great person, great student and hard worker, and got great bloodlines. He can long snap. So many things he can bring to the program … He’s as good as there is. He’s going to be a really good player for us, so I’m excited about him.”

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