On Monday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney fielded a question from a reporter about why he thinks, historically, the Tigers haven’t had many offensive linemen taken in the early rounds of the NFL Draft.
Swinney was quick to point out that Clemson has sent its fair share of O-linemen to the league – such as Brandon Thomas, who was selected in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, and Tyler Shatley, who is entering his eighth season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, among other players.
“We’ve had some good players,” Swinney said. “Brandon Thomas, Shatley, John Simpson, Jackson (Carman) is fixing to do well, Mitch Hyatt’s still up in the NFL, Tremayne Anchrum… We’ve got guys out there.”
Swinney believes Clemson will continue to produce more NFL offensive linemen moving forward, based on the Tigers’ recent success recruiting the position. He noted that of the 16 scholarship offensive linemen on Clemson’s current roster, 13 of them are freshmen or sophomores, and he believes plenty of those players have the potential to play at the next level.
“That was the area where our recruiting has transformed over the last probably three years, and I think that you’ll see more of that,” he said. “I think it’s a credit to (offensive line coach) Robbie Caldwell, it’s a credit to what we’ve been able to do to win the type of games. If you go back and look at our average recruiting ranking over ‘09, ‘10, ‘11, ‘12, ‘13, ‘14, ‘15, those classes, we were probably an average of about 13 in the country. But yet we beat teams that were the average of one.
“So, I think that’s a credit to what we’ve been able to do and the job that Robbie’s done. We weren’t always getting the Jackson Carman. But as you look at our recruiting in the last two or three years, it’s exciting because I think that we have more ready guys that I think have a little more long-term potential to play in the NFL.”
At the end of the day, though, Swinney knows his job first and foremost is to win football games – not necessarily to send players to the NFL – and he gave a shoutout to former offensive linemen like Gage Cervenka, Phillip Price and Tyrone Crowder who helped him do just that.
“Gage Cervenka might not be in the NFL, but he was a hell of a player for the Tigers,” Swinney said. “Our first left tackle was Phillip Price, on our first ACC Championship team. He was a walk-on tight end that became a heck of a left tackle for us.
“The biggest thing is just the NFL’s a different game. It’s elite, elite, elite. … So, that’s what matters to me. That’s my job – win games here.”
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