A look at Clemson’s 2021 projected OL depth chart heading into fall camp
The goal for Clemson in the spring was to develop a strong second unit on the offensive line that will be able to successfully compete with stronger defensive fronts in 2021, something the Tigers did not have last year.
The verdict is still out on whether or not Clemson was successful in doing that this past spring, but head coach Dabo Swinney felt like they did when the Tigers wrapped up spring practice back in April. Swinney says he feels a whole lot better about their depth on the offensive line, something they never could develop in 2020 and it showed at times.
Swinney said they could play just seven or eight players on a consistent basis because they just did not totally trust some of their young offensive lineman at the time. But through the course of the winter and spring, plus the growing pains they suffered through at times last year, the Clemson coaches feel as if the younger linemen are ready to take the next step in their progression and will be ready to help the offensive line improve in 2021.
Last year, the Tigers did well in pass protection, but they struggled to run the football with any consistency, especially in short-yardage situations.
The Tigers averaged just 153.8 yards per game on the ground, which ranked 11th in the ACC, behind teams like Florida State, Wake Forest and Duke.
In 2019, Clemson was second in the ACC in rushing, averaging 240.4 yards per game. The Tigers averaged 6.4 yards per carry, which led the league. In 2020, they averaged 4.5 yards per carry, nearly a decline of two yards per carry.
The worst games for Clemson came in both losses. Notre Dame held the Tigers to 34 yards on 33 carries on Nov. 7, while Ohio State held them to 44 yards on 22 carries in the Sugar Bowl.
Projected starters heading into fall camp
Matt Bockhorst, *Sr., 6-4, 315: With Jackson Carman gone, Bockhorst becomes the most experienced player on Clemson’s offensive line. The left guard has started just 13 games, 12 coming this past year, the senior has played in 40 games and has taken 1,352 career snaps. He was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2020 after taking 753 snaps.
Jordan McFadden, *Jr., 6-2, 300: McFadden will likely start camp at left tackle, but he and Walker Parks will likely share equal reps at both left and right tackle as the coaches decide where the two fit the best on the offensive line. McFadden is Clemson’s most experienced tackle. He started all 12 games last season at right tackle, while recording 767 snaps. He has played in 29 games overall and has been in on 1,099 snaps in his career thus far. McFadden started on an O-line last year that allowed the fewest sacks per game in the ACC and was the only offensive line to allow fewer than two sacks per game.
Walker Parks, So., 6-5, 295: Parks was the backup to Carman last year at left tackle. He will compete with McFadden for the starting job at left tackle. He is likely to start at right tackle but will get equal reps with McFadden. Parks was a Freshman All-American last year after playing in 11 games and recording 199 snaps. He produced a season-high 48 snaps against Georgia Tech, but his freshman season will best be remembered for a memorable de-cleating block he had in the Tigers’ win over then No. 2 Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game. Parks’ quickness and ability to move fast serve him well in pass protection and when getting to the second level on blocks. A couple of his best characteristics are his toughness and hard-nosed attitude. He plays with the type of aggressiveness and nasty mean streak that his coaches love to see.
Will Putnam, Jr., 6-4, 300: Putnam started all 12 games last year at right guard. He has played in 23 games overall in his Clemson career thus far, while taking 982 snaps. As a freshman, he played in 11 games as a reserve guard and took 192 snaps.
Hunter Rayburn, *So, 6-4, 320: Rayburn quickly took control of the center position in the spring and will head into fall camp with the best opportunity to win the starting job. He received high praise from both head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott during spring practices. 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.
Projected second team heading into fall camp
Paul Tchio, So., 6-5, 300: Tchio is good enough to be a starter on the offensive line. The backup left guard played in nine games last season, while taking 80 snaps as a reserve guard. He recorded 24 snaps in Clemson’s wins over The Citadel and Georgia Tech. He has shown the ability to overpower defenders in the run game and get to the second level, while he also possesses the quickness to block in the open field and the agility to be an asset in pass protection as well. He has all of the tools to eventually develop into an impact player and potential anchor on Clemson’s O-line.
Tayquon Johnson, *So., 6-2, 340: Moved over from the defensive line last spring. Played in 11 games last year as reserve guard. Played 86 snaps overall, including a season-high 30 in the Tigers’ 70-7 victory at Georgia Tech. In 2019, Johnson appeared in three games at defensive tackle before being redshirted. Overall, he has played in 14 games in his Clemson career and has taken 93 snaps.
Mitchell Mayes, So., 6-3, 300: Was listed as the backup at right tackle to McFadden in 2020. He will likely be a backup at both tackle positions his coming season. He played in four games and took 61 snaps in those four games. He had a season-high 24 snaps in the Tigers’ 49-0 win over The Citadel. Mayes is a 300-plus-pounder that is athletic and moves very well for his size. He is tough, physical and plays with the type of nasty attitude you like to see in an offensive lineman. He is powerful off the ball with great push that helps him consistently drive defensive linemen backwards. Mayes’ strength is his run-blocking ability, but his quickness and agility give him the tools to be dependable in pass protection as well.
Marcus Tate, Fr., 6-5, 320: Tate likely will provide depth at right tackle but will continue to cross train in fall camp at left as well. The freshman held his own for the most part in the Spring Game at left tackle, while going against All-ACC defensive end Myles Murphy. Not only does Tate have superior size, but he is very athletic as well. He was a two-sport athlete who also played basketball in high school, and that background shows up in his plus footwork on the gridiron. He takes good steps when run blocking and is solid in pass protection thanks in part to his athleticism and ability to move around well, which helps him when pulling and blocking out in space. Tate is strong at the point of attack, uses good hand placement, finishes blocks and plays through the whistle.
Ryan Linthicum, Fr., 6-4, 305: Linthicum really came on during his first spring, but he still is not ready to take over as the starter just yet. The freshman is very athletic for his size, and it shows on the gridiron with his quick feet, explosiveness off the line, agility and ability to get to the second level and block linebackers. Not only is Linthicum athletic, but as the No. 1 center in the 2021 class per Rivals, he is strong and powerful, too. His biggest strength is his run blocking, but he is more than capable as a pass protector as well and should only improve in that area.