Last year, Clemson was not its normal self on the offensive line.
A power running team that averaged 240 and 245 yards per game the previous two seasons, the Tigers were just a shell of themselves in 2020, figuratively and literally.
Clemson averaged just 153.8 yards per game in last season, less than 86 yards per game from 2019. The Tigers averaged just 4.5 yards per rush, nearly two yards less per carry from the year before when they averaged 6.4 yards per carry.
Part of the issue the coaching staff identified was the fact Clemson did not have any real functional depth on the offensive line. Instead of playing with 10 or 11 guys like they have in the past, the Tigers instead played with just seven or eight.
But the Tigers have made an assertive effort to fix that this spring.
“I feel good about the functionality of that group,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We are not there, yet. But I really feel like by the time we get through August, we will be back to where we used to be the previous few years and that is having nine, ten or eleven guys that are not just on the depth chart, but literally can go play winning football for us.
“That was a problem for us last year.”
Ironically, not having All-ACC guard Matt Bockhorst available for live drills has actually helped the offensive line this spring. It has forced other guys such as Paul Tchio, Mason Trotter and Hunter Rayburn to get more reps at guard.
“We have mixed them up all spring,” Swinney said. “Tchio has pretty much been the starter at left guard. He has done a great job. It has been really good for him.
“It has been great for Rayburn. It has been great for Trotter. We have mixed all those guys up and have challenged them. I am really, really pleased with the progress we have made with all of those guys.”
The coaches also like what they see in John Williams, Bryn Tucker and Marcus Tate.
“Marcus Tate has really impressed,” Swinney said. “Walker Parks is a new starter. He has not done anything to dampen the enthusiasm we have for him as a player. He has a chance to be a really special tackle for us. Jordan McFadden has been great. (Will) Putnam, I am pleased with all of that group.
“Without having Bockhorst live, we have mixed guys. Rayburn has played guard and played some center, so has Trotter. But Tchio has really done a great job.”
The Tigers will return to the practice fields behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson on Monday, as they begin their final week of spring drills. Clemson will have two practices this coming week before concluding the spring next Saturday with the annual Orange & White Spring Game at Death Valley.
Kickoff for the game is set for 1 p.m., and it will be televised on the ACC Network.
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