Tigers’ second-team offensive line was ‘swimming’ this past spring
Clemson will enter the 2020 fall camp with a lot of question marks on the field. However, none are as big as what the depth along the offensive line will look like this fall.
In a season where there is so much uncertainty when it comes to a player’s health due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an area the team has to find able bodies in camp to fill in the gaps in case someone is injured or misses two games due to a positive test result.
Clemson will have four new starters on the offensive line when camp begins as they replace Tremayne Anchrum at right tackle, Gage Cervenka at right guard, Sean Pollard at center and John Simpson at left guard.
The Tigers do return All-ACC performer and All-American candidate Jackson Carman at left tackle. Redshirt junior Matt Bockhorst will get the nod at left guard, senior Cade Stewart will start at center, Will Putnam will be the guy at right guard and Jordan McFadden is ready to start at right tackle.
Clemson worked three true freshmen on the offensive line, who enrolled in January so they could participate in what turned out to be nine spring practices. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Paul Tchio, Mitchell Mayes and Bryn Tucker did their best to compete.
Redshirt freshman Tayquon Johnson moved over from the defensive line to help at guard, while redshirt freshman Mason Trotter is also in the mix and working with the second team. Redshirt freshman Hunter Rayburn is working at center.
“That second offensive line is swimming. They have a lot coming at them,” Swinney said back in the spring. “It is not easy out here, but that is why we are successful, I think. You get exposed on the practice field, and if you are a competitor and you are made of the right things, you will get better. You will figure it out. You will respond. Otherwise, you have some long days ahead. They don’t change the pace and the tempo and all of that stuff.”
Swinney is confident his second unit will continue to improve once camp starts to roll along.
“The second group is a work in progress,” he said. “The good news is our second group is our second group. So, we’ve got time to develop them. We’ll get Blake Vinson back, and when we get him back that’s going to give us another guy that’s going to bridge that gap. Moving Tayquon Johnson over to guard was a great move for us. It’s a great move for him. I think he’s got a bright future there.
“But all those young guys, their heads spun all spring long. They’re probably all happy right now to get the hosepipe out of their mouth. And now, I tell you what, with these meetings we have and the opportunity we’ve got, we really have a chance to get those guys really caught up from a knowledge standpoint and ready to go. But it’s a good group.”
Swinney was pleased with what he saw during spring practice from the first-team offensive line. Although Stewart, Bockhorst, McFadden and Putnam are new to their starting roles, they have played a lot in reserve capacity, combining for 1,821 snaps thus far in their careers.
“I mean, it’s a really, really good group,” Swinney said. “That speaks to the job Robbie (Caldwell) has done, the development, those guys being ready, getting guys experience when we can get them. Bockhorst has played a lot of snaps, Cade has played a lot of snaps, Putnam got to play a good bit last year, Jordan McFadden, the same thing. I think we’ve got a chance to be as good as we’ve ever been at tackle. So, our first group is really, really good.”
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