Heading into last season, everyone knew Clemson would likely have a drop off on the offensive line. After all, the Tigers had to replace four starters from the year before.
However, no one expected the drop off to be as big as it turned out.
To say Clemson’s offensive line struggled in 2020 was an understatement. At times, the Tigers were just bad.
Part of that had to do with the Tigers’ lack of experienced depth. Sophomore Will Putnam, who gained some experience as a reserve guard in 2019, had to start at right guard and behind him was Tayquon Johnson, a redshirt freshman who was playing defensive tackle in 2019.
The Tigers averaged just 153.8 yards per game on the ground, which ranked 11th in the ACC, behind teams like Florida State, Wake Forest and Duke.
In 2019, Clemson was second in the ACC in rushing, averaging 240.4 yards per game. The Tigers averaged 6.4 yards per carry, which led the league. This past season, they averaged 4.5 yards per carry, nearly a decline of two yards per carry.
The worst games for Clemson came in both losses. Notre Dame held the Tigers to 34 yards on 33 carries on Nov. 7, while Ohio State held them to 44 yards on 22 carries. Clemson struggled in both games to pick up a yard in short-yardage situations.
TCI’s projected depth chart at right guard heading into spring practice:
Will Putnam, Jr., 6-4, 300: Putnam started all 12 games last year at right guard. He has played in 23 games overall in his Clemson career thus far, while taking 982 snaps. Putnam helped Clemson lead the ACC as the only team to allow fewer than two sacks per game. As a freshman, he played in 11 games as a reserve guard and took 192 snaps.
Blake Vinson, *Jr., 6-4, 300: Vinson has played in 16 games in his career, but injuries have held back his progression. In the 16 games he has played in, he has just 150 snaps. He did play in three games this year, but they were early in the season. He played a season-high 15 snaps against Wake Forest in the season opener. His injured knee acted up later in the year and he did not play again after the Georgia Tech game on Oct. 17.
Tayquon Johnson, *So., 6-2, 340: Moved over from the defensive line last spring. Played in 11 games last year as reserve guard. Played 86 snaps overall, including a season-high 30 in the Tigers’ 70-7 victory at Georgia Tech. In 2019, Johnson appeared in three games at defensive tackle before being redshirted. Overall, he has played in 14 games in his Clemson career and has taken 93 snaps.