Dabo Swinney has said several times already his first-team offensive line might be the best one Clemson has had in his 12 seasons as its head coach.
There is nothing to really disprove his theory thus far, as the Tigers lead the ACC in total offense (530.6 yds/game), scoring offense (48.4 pts/game) and are second in rushing touchdowns with 14.
However, when talking about his second group of offensive linemen, there is a little more concern there. The Tigers (5-0, 4-0 ACC) are young and inexperienced with their second team players on the offensive line.
But with Clemson winning each of its first five games by 18 or more points, those inexperienced players are getting more and more reps. Those extra reps are starting to pay off for some of the younger guys, especially guys like Mason Trotter and Walker Parks.
In back-to-back games, Parks, a true freshman, has came into the game at the tackle positions, while Trotter did the same against Georgia Tech this past Saturday.
“Trotter is a guy, since the day he showed up, we have had a ton of respect for just his understanding of the game,” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said on Monday. “His technique. He is a technician. He plays with great leverage. The biggest thing for him was adding some weight.”
Trotter is listed at 6-foot-2, 280 pounds, but Elliott said his weight is up since getting out of COVID-19 protocol, which held him back during fall camp.
“Obviously, being in and out of the protocol a little bit, for him, has kind of held him back this year,” the Clemson coach said. “Now he is back to where he needs to go. He knows what to do. He can play center. He can play guard. His weight it up. You are able to see him go out there and be a technician in the game.”
As for Parks, the expectations were high for the 6-foot-5, 295-pound tackle when he got to Clemson this past summer, and he has not disappointed.
“He had a very different summer than you normally would have,” Elliott said. “He is being asked to play left (tackle) and right. He is doing a good job. He just brings that work-like mentality.
“The biggest thing with him, and Mason (Trotter), is just getting those guys experience.”
Redshirt sophomore Blake Vinson is also progressing for the Tigers, giving the top-ranked team a little more wiggle room on the offensive line than it had before. It is quite the contrast from the beginning of the season.
Vinson (6-4, 300) missed a good part of fall camp has he recovered from knee surgery.
“Blake is doing everything he can. The biggest thing for him is just building confidence and strengthen that knee,” Elliott said. “He can go in…he is a guy that has played just about every position on the offensive line. He can snap (the ball). He knows what we are trying to accomplish. I think the biggest thing for him is getting him to the point where he is fully confident in that knee, so he can go out and he can execute.”
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