Taking inventory: Offensive tackle

Taking inventory: Offensive tackle

Football

Taking inventory: Offensive tackle

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Clemson still has a bowl game left to play this season, but it’s never too early to look ahead.

With the regular season in the books, TCI is taking some time to analyze how the Tigers performed at each position this fall and where the Tigers stand with each as the offseason quickly approaches. Quarterback, running back, tight end, receiver and center have already been assessed.

Next up is offensive tackle.

A quick note first: This is where things currently stand with Clemson’s personnel at tackle. With the one-time transfer rule and recruiting still in full effect, things are always subject to change. This story will be updated as needed to reflect any future modifications at the position.

2021 in review

Clemson has had all sorts of moving parts on the interior of its offensive line. The edges, though, have been a different story.

Veteran Jordan McFadden made the switch from right tackle to left following Jackson Carman’s early departure to the NFL, and Parks, a true sophomore, took over on the right side as a first-year starter.  The two have been mainstays on the outside all season, forming one of the top tackle tandems in the ACC. 

With attrition and shuffling rampant not only up front but also at receiver and in the backfield, the pair have given Clemson more stability and durability than any other offensive position. Not only did they start every game during the regular season, but they rarely came off the field. Nobody on Clemson’s roster has logged more snaps than McFadden (798), and Parks isn’t far behind (795). 

McFadden and Parks have spearheaded an offense that’s allowed the second-fewest sacks in the ACC (1.6 per game) while improving on the ground as the season wore on. The Tigers averaged 208 rushing yards over the last five games to boost their average on the season to 171.3, good for 57th nationally. Pro Football Focus ranked McFadden as the third-best offensive tackle in college football during the regular season with a grade of 89.0, trailing only North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu and Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard.

Perhaps the best news for the offensive line is it will get another year out of McFadden, who has already decided to return for his senior season. Clemson has also worked to get some other players ready at the position should the Tigers need them going forward.

True freshman Marcus Tate has gotten most of his reps at guard this season but has cross-trained at tackle. Mitchell Mayes and another freshman, Dietrick Pennington (torn ACL), are also versatile linemen who could play on the edge if needed.

There’s also freshman Tristan Leigh, the jewel of Clemson’s 2021 recruiting class. The five-star signee hasn’t seen the field much this season (20 snaps) given what’s in front of him and is in line to redshirt, but he’s part of the depth the Tigers are building at what’s been one of the stronger positions on the roster this fall. 

Who’s leaving?

No one as of now

Who’s staying?

McFadden, Parks, Tate (tackle or guard), Mayes (tackle or guard), Pennington (tackle or guard), Leigh

Who’s joining?

Clemson inked two four-star offensive linemen during the early signing period, Greenville High’s Collin Sadler and Strongsville (Ohio) High standout Blake Miller. Both project as tackles in college.

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