No position in football, other than playing quarterback, is harder to master than the center position. That is why Clemson football fans might want to pump the brakes on their early expectations for freshman center Ryan Linthicum.
Many feel Linthicum (6-4, 305), the No. 1 rated center in the nation according to Rivals.com, could become the Tigers’ starter by the middle of the season. However, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney warns playing center, especially at the major college level, is not that easy.
“Ryan has a ways to go. He is going to be a really talented player, but he just got here,” Swinney said. “He has four football practices at Clemson under his belt and a lot to learn. The game is fast. He is going to be a good player, but I don’t think that is very realistic after four practices for anybody on that offensive line. It takes a lot of work.”
Who will start at center is one of the more burning questions this spring coming out of the Clemson camp? With Cade Stewart moving on, the Tigers will have to find a new center for a third straight season.
Besides Linthicum, Hunter Rayburn (6-4, 320), Mason Trotter (6-2, 280) and Trent Howard (6-3, 275), along with a surprise addition—left guard Matt Bockhorst—are all getting reps at center this spring.
“Bockhorst gives us a lot of flexibility, because Bock could easily be our starter,” Swinney said. “He could be our center if we felt like that gives us the best move to get the best five. So, he could do it.”
As for who has the lead at the position coming out of the gate.
“I am really pleased with Rayburn. He is one of those guys I was talking about earlier,” Swinney said. “He is a redshirt sophomore that is going into his third year and you can see a light (has come on). It is amazing what the weight room and just some time will do for some of those guys.
“That is a hard position, but Rayburn has really come on.”
Though it has been just four practices, overall, Clemson’s head coach has been pleased with what he has seen from his younger offensive linemen.
“That group on the OL, I am encouraged by what I have seen by those young guys,” Swinney said. “Those young freshmen … the game was a little too fast for last year. They have a little better demeanor and a little better look in their eye right now. But that is what a year’s worth of experience will do for you.”
Clemson will continue with spring drills later this afternoon with practice No. 5 behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson.
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