Tigers might have to lean on a true freshman at center

Tigers might have to lean on a true freshman at center

Football

Tigers might have to lean on a true freshman at center

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A look at Clemson’s 2021 Depth Chart

Clemson has not had a highly touted center since bringing in Dalton Freeman back in 2009. By midseason in 2009, Freeman had taken over at the position, one he did not lose the rest of his career.

By the time he graduated in 2012, Freeman became an All-American and was first-team All-ACC as a junior and as a senior. Freeman played a big role in guiding the Tigers to their first ACC Championship in 20 years in 2011.

He finished his career as the all-time leader in games played and snaps by a Clemson player.

With this latest signing class, head coach Dabo Swinney and Robbie Caldwell went out and inked Ryan Linthicum, the No. 1-ranked center nationally from Damascus, Md. He enrolled at Clemson in January and is expected to battle Mason Trotter and Hunter Rayburn for the job this spring.

The Tigers are looking for a new center after last year’s starter, Cade Stewart, decided he was not going to return to Clemson and play another season.

TCI’s projected depth chart at center heading into spring practice:

Mason Trotter, *So., 6-2, 280: Trotter has a good football IQ and can play multiple positions on the offensive line. He was a reserve guard and center in 2021. He has played in 13 games in his career, including nine last season for the Tigers. He played a season high 43 snaps against Notre Dame, while filling in for the injured Matt Bockhorst at guard. He redshirted after playing just four games in 2019. He had a season-high 14 snaps against Boston College as a true freshman.

Hunter Rayburn, *So, 6-4, 320: Rayburn was a backup last year at center, as he played in six games and took 57 snaps. He had a career-high 30 snaps at Georgia Tech on Oct. 17. He played in four games before being redshirt in 2019. He played a season-high 10 snaps against Georgia Tech that year.

Ryan Linthicum, Fr., 6-4, 305: Linthicum is very athletic for his size and it shows on the gridiron with his quick feet, explosiveness off the line, agility and ability to get to the second level and block linebackers. Not only is Linthicum athletic, but the No. 1 center in the 2021 class per Rivals is strong and powerful, too. Stewart started all 12 games at center this past season, with Trotter and Rayburn backing him up. Linthicum will have the chance to compete for early playing time in spring practice and fall camp, and the starting spot is up for grabs. Linthicum’s biggest strength is his run blocking, but he is more than capable as a pass protector as well and should only improve in that area. The Tigers are getting a complete center in Linthicum whose physicality, athleticism and aggressive mentality should serve him well at Clemson.

–Gavin Oliver contributed to this story

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