There is no doubt Clemson is one of the top four or five teams in the country heading into the 2021 season.
But if the Tigers are going to seriously contend for another national championship, they have to get better in the trenches, especially on the offensive side of the football.
One of the areas on the roster Dabo Swinney wants to see progress is on the offensive line, where the Tigers have 16 scholarship players. But of those 16 linemen, one is a senior and two are juniors. The other 13 are freshmen and sophomores.
“That was a weakness for us last year. Not the line, but our weakness was our youth and inexperience,” the Clemson head coach said this past spring. “I really like the guys that we have signed and the guys that we have recruited.”
Swinney feels offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell has done a good job in recruiting and coaching his players through the years. And though they have not been able to land the top offensive linemen every year, they have still been able to hold their own for the most part.
“We have not always (signed) the elite offensive linemen over the years, but yet we have been able to take ours and beat yours,” Swinney said. “And that is a credit to Robbie. He does an awesome job. But over the past two or three years, we have been able to recruit a more ready guy from a physical standpoint.
“The offensive line has always, mentally, been a very big challenge. I think we signed four outstanding linemen in this class that we are super excited about. We have two still coming this summer. Highly recruited guys. These guys have really long term, high potential.”
Swinney also pointed out last year’s offensive line class and added how proud he is of senior left guard Matt Bockhorst, who has been a productive player, as well as the Tigers’ two juniors – Jordan McFadden and Will Putnam.
“Those guys have done a good job for us, and they are now entering the second half of their careers,” Swinney said. “Then you look at those sophomores and some of them that we redshirted… Then we have these four guys coming in right on top of them.
“So, I really like the talent that we have, but we have to develop that youth and get those guys more confident and more functional. That was a weakness for us last year. We just could hardly ever substitute. We were not where we needed to be. Whereas the year before that was a strength, our depth was so much better.”
Clemson will kick off the 2021 season on Sept. 4 against Georgia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.