Though he did not have the kind of year he and Clemson expected in 2020, Jackson Carman still jumped to the NFL after the season, where he will likely move inside and play guard.
With Carman gone, it leaves the door open for a new starter on Clemson’s offensive line. Many believe rising sophomore Walker Parks will eventually win the job and start in the place of Carman.
Parks was impressive in fall camp and head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott praised the freshman for his readiness despite not enrolling in school until the summer. Parks success in fall camp spilled over into the season where he earned Freshman All-American honors from ESPN.com.
However, Parks’ success was not easy at first. The Lexington, Ky., native said he got knocked down a few times in practice before he realized his football life in college was not going to be as easy as it was in high school.
“Coming here in fall camp, I remember doing one-on-ones – the first couple days of one-on-ones, I was being absolutely dogged by these guys,” Parks said last October. “That’s when I realized that my pass set was pretty bad, and I needed to work on my stance and weight distribution and work on my punch and pretty much everything all around.
“In high school, these guys weren’t that fast or that strong, so if I got hands on them, it was pretty much over. But now, if you’re not technically sound all around, you’re going to get whooped by these guys, and that’s what really made me realize that I didn’t know as much as I thought – how to walk my feet on run blocking, how to push my hips through and where to place my hands.”
Parks got better, and thanks to hard work, dedication, and a fiery streak where he refuses to give in, he saw more and more time as the season went along and became the Tigers’ most consistent reserve offensive lineman in 2020.
“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.”
Below is TCI’s projected depth chart at left tackle heading into spring practice:
Jordan McFadden, *Jr., 6-2, 300: McFadden will likely start the spring at left tackle, but he and Walker Parks will likely share equal reps at both left and right tackle as the coaches decide where the two fit the best on the offensive line. McFadden is Clemson’s most experienced tackle. He started all 12 games last season at right tackle, while recording 767 snaps. He has played in 29 games overall and has been in on 1,099 snaps in his career thus far. McFadden started on an O-line last year that allowed the fewest sacks per game in the ACC and was the only offensive line to allow fewer than two sacks per game.
Walker Parks, So., 6-5, 295: Parks was the backup to Carman last year at left tackle. He will compete in the spring with McFadden for the starting job at left tackle. He is likely to start at right tackle, but will get equal reps as McFadden, more than likely, at left tackle. Parks was a Freshman All-American last year after playing in 11 games and recording 199 snaps. He produced a season-high 48 snaps against Georgia Tech, but his freshman season will best be remembered for a memorable de-cleating block he had in the Tigers’ win over then No. 2 Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game. Parks’ quickness and ability to move fast serve him well in pass protection and when getting to the second level on blocks. A couple of his best characteristics are his toughness and hard-nosed attitude. He plays with the type of aggressiveness and nasty mean streak that his coaches love to see.
Mitchell Mayes, So., 6-3, 300: Was listed as the backup at right tackle to McFadden. He played in four games and took 61 snaps in those four games. He had a season-high 24 snaps in the Tigers’ 49-0 win over The Citadel. Mayes is a 300-plus-pounder that is athletic and moves very well for his size. He is tough, physical and plays with the type of nasty attitude you like to see in an offensive lineman. He is powerful off the ball with great push that helps him consistently drive defensive linemen backwards. Mayes’ strength is his run-blocking ability, but his quickness and agility give him the tools to be dependable in pass protection as well.
Marcus Tate, Fr., 6-5, 320: Tate likely will provide depth at right tackle, but he will cross train in the spring at left as well. How he does here will determine where he will practice the most in fall camp. Not only does Tate have superior size, but he is very athletic as well. He was a two-sport athlete who also played basketball in high school, and that background shows up in his plus footwork on the gridiron. He takes good steps when run blocking and is solid in pass protection thanks in part to his athleticism and ability to move around well, which helps him when pulling and blocking out in space. Tate is strong at the point of attack, uses good hand placement, finishes blocks and plays through the whistle. The push he is able to generate is evident in his high school tape as he consistently drove defenders to the grass.
—Gavin Oliver contributed to this story