'Still room for improvement' for Clemson's offensive line

'Still room for improvement' for Clemson's offensive line

Football

'Still room for improvement' for Clemson's offensive line

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It’s been a mixed bag through two games for Clemson’s retooled offensive line.

The position was one of the more intriguing ones coming into the season for the Tigers given the shakeup at certain positions along with a new position coach, Thomas Austin. The group has paved the way for an offense averaging 38 points a game, but there’s some work that still needs to be done up front.

“As a whole, there’s definitely things we need to work on,” senior left tackle Jordan McFadden said. “In the run game, just technique things. But I think we’re doing some good things.”

The line returned four starters from last season, but there’s been some rearranging within the group. While McFadden and guard Marcus Tate are still holding down the left side, Will Putnam has moved from guard to center while Walker Parks has also slid inside from tackle to guard. That created a spot for the newest member of the line, true freshman Blake Miller, at right tackle.

With that many familiar faces back up front, McFadden said before the season he felt like this was the cohesive line he’s been a part of in his five years with the program. McFadden said it’s brought a level of comfortability that he expected heading into the season, and the group has largely been on the same page with its communication even if it’s not always easy to do so, he said.

“Essentially the center kind of directs the traffic,” McFadden said. “The tackles have our calls. The guards have their calls and different things like that. But (Putnam) is in a sense telling everybody kind of where to go basically.”

McFadden cited last week’s game against Furman, which came just five days after Clemson’s opening win over Georgia Tech, as an example. 

“It’s just repetition and doing it at practice,” McFadden said. “Furman was a really short week, so we didn’t have necessarily as much time as we’d like to rep exactly what we’d be running that week, so it was tough at times just to kind of make sure if I’m making a call, it’s relayed.

“That’s also a big thing, just making sure if Blake makes a call to make sure that I know what he’s doing or what the right side is doing. A big part of the game is passing it down the line. I think that’s something we can get better at. If I get a call, making sure the other side hears it and different things like that.”

While the group continues to work on honing its communication, getting push in the running game is another area that could use more consistency. Clemson improved its yards per rush to 5.2 against Furman. Leading rusher Will Shipley was even better at 6.8 yards a pop.

McFadden was particularly pleased with that performance given Furman often loaded the box with more defenders than the Tigers could block. He said he liked push the Tigers got when they were able to get a hat on a hat, but Clemson still ranks 11th in the ACC in yards per carry (3.91) and 12th in rushing yards (133 per game).

Next up for the line is a Louisiana Tech defense that’s giving up the eighth-most rushing yards in the country on a per-game basis (233.5). 

“I’m proud of this offensive line,” McFadden said. “We still have to get better and there’s still room for improvement, but I think we’re going in the right direction.”

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