One of the biggest questions this spring for the Clemson Tigers is at center. For the third straight season, they are having to find a new starter at the position after last year’s starter, Cade Stewart, graduated and decided to move on.
However, after eight practices this spring, it appears the Tigers have found their guy.
No matter if it is coming from head coach Dabo Swinney, offensive coordinator Tony Elliott or starting left guard Matt Bockhorst, everyone seems to be raving about redshirt sophomore Hunter Rayburn.
“Throughout his time here, we have always known he has had the physical ability. He is extremely gifted and very athletic,” Bockhorst said following Monday’s practice. “He is able to carry weight very well, which is something that might get overlooked sometimes.
“But with him, the corner I have seen him turn, is just from a physicality standpoint. He is really sticking his head in there and being able to move guys and not getting knocked back. That goes for the run game and the passing game. Obviously, people like to talk about physicality in the running game, but at center, in the passing game, you are really setting the depth in the pocket. So, the ability to sit down on a bullrush, especially when you have a head-up-nose [tackle] and kind of allow that quarterback the space to follow through on his throw is really important.”
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.
But despite his limited playing experience the last two seasons, it seems everyone is thinking the same thing … the lightbulb has come on for the 6-foot-4, 320-pound center.
“Hunter has done a great job this spring and has really taken that next step, and that is great because we need the guys to step up, especially at center with the departure of Cade. It has been great to see Hunter come into that role and hopefully, he will continue to make those strides.”
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