Monday Morning Quarterback
There is no doubt Clemson will be one of the top teams in the country in 2020 and making a sixth straight College Football Playoff appearance is very likely. However, there is one area of concern on the 2020 team that could hold the Tigers back.
Clemson has to replace four starters on its offensive line this coming season. It’s the most offensive line starters the Tigers have had to replace at one time since the 2008 season.
Granted, Dabo Swinney and his staff have recruited the offensive line very well and they will be very capable of getting the job done. However, they are going to be wet behind the ears upfront.
The good news is the Tigers return perhaps the best offensive lineman in the ACC at left tackle. Jackson Carman, who will be a junior this coming season, had a great first year as a starter and there is no doubt, he will have Trevor Lawrence’s back.
Clemson had one of the best offensive lines in the country in 2019, as it was led by a senior laden class which included All-American John Simpson at guard and First-Team All-ACC selection Tremayne Anchrum at right tackle.
But Simpson and Anchrum are both gone, along with center Sean Pollard and right guard Gage Cervenka. The Tigers led the nation in yards per carry (6.4) and tied for second in rushing touchdowns with 45.
Clemson also finished 11th nationally in sacks allowed with an average of 1.20 per game and were 13th in rushing yards per game at 240.4.
Carman is an All-American candidate, while it appears Jordan McFadden will be the likely starter at right tackle. Keep in mind, offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell likes to cross train a lot of his linemen in the spring so he will move guys around and test them at different areas to see how they perform.
Caldwell will have his biggest task to date in trying to get his offensive guards up to speed and ready by the time the season rolls around on Sept. 3 at Georgia Tech. Redshirt sophomore Matt Bockhorst, the likely starter at left guard, returns with the most experience at the guard positions. The Cincinnati, Ohio native has played in 28 games, but just one of those was a start. He has logged 599 snaps thus far in his career.
After Bockhorst, Will Putnam played in 11 games last season, as a true freshman, recording just 192 snaps.
Pollard’s departure at center will mark the second straight year, and the third time in the last four years, Clemson will have a new starter at center. The competition is wide open this spring with Cade Stewart, Hunter Rayburn and Mason Trotter expected to battle for the starting job.
It’s going to be an interesting spring and summer for the Tigers up front and no one will truly know what to expect from this new offensive line until it gets into the season and proves itself.
Granted, Clemson is loaded at the skill positions with Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne, wide receivers Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers and tight end Braden Galloway all back. However, if the offensive line can’t block, none of that matters.
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