It’s not exactly surprising to see teams run out big, athletic defensive linemen, particularly at Power Five schools. But Georgia’s are a different breed in that category.
“I think the last one I can remember was on our own practice field with Dexter Lawrence,” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said, referencing the last time he saw interior defensive linemen as physically imposing as what the Bulldogs have. “Dexter was a big man that was hard to move.”
Clemson’s offensive linemen have gotten about as good a look as you can get from the defensive line it faces in practice on a daily basis, particularly on the inside. The Tigers’ starting defensive tackle tandem, Tyler Davis and Bryan Bresee, goes 6-foot-2, 300 pounds and 6-5, 300 pounds, respectively.
Right guard Will Putnam said repping against those two certainly helps Clemson’s offensive line get ready for Georgia’s defensive line, but it will be almost impossible for the Tigers to prepare for exactly what they’ll see when the teams meet Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Georgia has arguably the largest nose tackle in college football in senior Jordan Davis, a 6-6, 340-pounder who was projected to go high in this year’s NFL Draft had he left early. Instead, Davis will pair with defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, who checks in at 6-3 and 315 pounds, to once again spearhead what has been college football’s top rush defense two years running.
“Going against someone who’s 340, 350 pounds is something unique,” Putnam said.
Davis and Wyatt helped Georgia yield fewer than 3 yards per carry over the last two seasons, but it’s not just on the inside where the Bulldogs have proven difficult to move. Defensive end Travon Walker goes 6-5 and 275 pounds while Adam Anderson, the Bulldogs’ projected starting edge rusher, is 6-5 and 230 pounds.
The key for Clemson’s offensive line in trying combat the Bulldogs’ girth up front? Sound fundamentals, Putnam said.
“I think something for us to really emphasize is really just kind of lining up and getting off the ball,” Putnam said. “It’s going to be like an Oklahoma drill mentality for us because they’re a very good defensive line and very big. The biggest thing for us is coming off that ball with some tenacity.”
Elliott said moving the ball consistently on the Bulldogs is going to require balance from Clemson’s offense, which means finding ways to try to run the ball effectively even if it’s not consistently through the A and B gaps. Run-pass options, more runs on the perimeter and pushing the pace even more than usual could be alternatives for Clemson to try to keep Georgia’s revolving defensive front off balance.
“Outside of their size, they’re very sound. They’re coached very well,” Elliott said. “They’ve got depth at all positions. They can keep running guys out there, and there’s no dropoff.”
Said Putnam, “Obviously we run a tempo offense so we’ll always be kind of pushing the pace a little bit. It’ll be interesting.”
Football season has finally arrived. Time to represent your Tigers and show your stripes!