Despite injuries, Swinney says OL is 'much better' from a depth standpoint this season

Despite injuries, Swinney says OL is 'much better' from a depth standpoint this season

Football

Despite injuries, Swinney says OL is 'much better' from a depth standpoint this season

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Clemson's head coach was happy with what he saw out of his offensive line depth against S.C. State

Clemson’s offensive line depth was delivered another blow.

Dabo Swinney announced that true freshman Dietrick Pennington tore his ACL and that he’ll miss the remainder of the season. That marks the third backup offensive lineman that Clemson has now lost to a season-ending injury. 

The Tigers have also lost John Williams (knee) and Tayquon Johnson (torn pectoral muscle), who were both injured during camp. Though, Swinney said there is a possibility that Johnson could return for postseason play.

“That’s three big losses for us on the OL,” Swinney said during his media availability Tuesday. “John Williams was a guy who was really going to help us this year. Obviously, he’s been out with his knee now since camp and then we lost Tayquon. [He] was really going to help us. That’s three guys we were really counting on being contributors for us. So, disappointed with that, but we have to keep moving forward and hopefully get those guys better sooner than later.”

Swinney was asked about his evaluation of Clemson’s depth on the offensive line (6-9) based on what he’s seen in practice and in the second half of the Tigers’ 49-3 win over South Carolina State this past Saturday.

“Like I said, I hate that we lost John early, but at least it was in camp and we had a lot of time in camp to get the other guys a ton of work,” he said. “Tayquon same thing. Tayquon would’ve really come in here, he really would’ve been a guy to help us. I think he made it one day and he was out.

“Deitrick is a real blow. I think he was on his way to really, really becoming a very consistent contributor for us and a big-time depth guy.”

Swinney was able to spin some positives out of it, though. Clemson will be getting Mason Trotter back. His right hand will be clubbed up and he’ll have to play the guard position, rather than center. However, Swinney described the redshirt sophomore as a “very functional player.”

While the loss of Pennington is a big blow, Swinney was encouraged by what he saw out of his backups against S.C. State.

“As far as our backup guys, I thought Mitchell Mayes played really, really well this past week in his first significant time,” he said. “He did a really nice job. He’s had a really good camp. The arrow’s up by his name. [Paul] Tchio has made a lot of progress. Tchio can really do it. He’s just still developing consistency in his game, but I feel good about him. 

“We really like Trent Howard. He’s still developing physically. We got four years left in a guy that I think is going to be a very good player. Understands the game. He went in and did a nice job snapping the ball for us and just communicating and directing traffic. He’s a savvy, high football I.Q. guy. And then [Hunter] Rayburn, he’s a little bit of a putty guy right now, playing center, playing guard, playing tackle. He’s a big athlete and so he brings some really good things to the group.”

Swinney was happy to get some of the backups in with the starting offensive line, getting them some experience in a game that got out of hand rather quickly.

Clemson wants to continue to build its offensive line depth because the Tigers really didn’t have beyond five guys that they could trust last season.

“We’re a lot better than we were this time last year, I can tell you that,” Swinney added. “From a depth standpoint, we’re a lot better. We’re getting worse though with losing Dietrick, that’s for sure, but between Trotter, Tchio, Mayes and Howard and Rayburn, I think we got a good little group coming on right there.”

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