Clemson has had a lot of success moving defensive linemen over to the offensive line. Just take Gage Cervenka and Tyler Shatley for example.
Cervenka redshirted as a defensive tackle before switching to the O-line in August 2016. After serving as the backup center in 2017, he earned a starting role at guard (and one spot start at center) in 2018 before starting all 15 games as a senior last season when he was a second-team All-ACC selection.
Shatley, on the other hand, came to Clemson as a fullback but moved to the defensive line in 2010 and later moved to the O-line in the spring of 2012. He started at offensive guard in 2012 and 2013 and was named a third-team All-ACC selection in 2013, and he is still playing in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars after originally signing with the organization as an undrafted rookie in 2014.
Clemson’s next similar project is Tayquon Johnson, who redshirted as a defensive tackle last season before making the transition to the O-line this spring. He worked at right guard during the Tigers’ nine practices, and while he is far from a polished player at this point, he impressed head coach Dabo Swinney with his raw strength and showcased his potential.
“It’s been fun to watch Tayquon over there,” Swinney said during the spring. “He’s fundamentally learning what to do, footwork, obviously learning the plays. But you just immediately see his power, especially when we do some of our competitive drills where it’s really not much scheme involved, it’s just can you move a guy. So, I’m pretty pleased with Tayquon.”
A native of Williamsport, Md., Johnson was ranked as the seventh-best player in the state by ESPN coming out of high school. Over his last two years at Williamsport High, he racked up 184 tackles including 44 tackles for loss and 12 sacks.
While Johnson was productive as a defensive lineman in high school, Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott believes he is better off on the other side of the ball.
“That’s probably the best move for him,” Elliott said. “Very powerful, looks like he’s picking up concepts pretty good. But when he gets his hands on you… and he moves well, too. It’s a situation where I think his skillset on the offensive line is really going to help him going forward because he can move, change direction and he’s probably the most powerful guy that we have. Now it’ll just be a function of picking up the concepts and then being able to do things in real time.”
Johnson, who was also an outstanding wrestler in high school, made his strength felt this spring when facing off against defensive tackles like Jordan Williams.
“We’ve gone against each other a couple of times, and Tayquon’s a strong dude,” Williams said. “He’s strong. He’s a good player. Once he gets it, I think he’s going to be really good at that spot.”
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