Spring – Trenches
“The game was won in the trenches.” How many times have we heard Dabo Swinney use this term. If he said it once, he said it a 100 times, but so has many other coaches. It’s one of the truest statements in college football.Clemson lost four starters on the offensive line from 2019. Gone are starters John Simpson, Gage Cervenka, Tremayne Anchrum and Sean Pollard from an offensive line that helped pave the way for a high octane Clemson offense. Yes, they get a bulk of the credit for the success of the offense. Now that they are gone, now what? Now the tigers reload with different bullets.Snap counts are important for an offensive lineman, more so than any position on the field. Jackson Carmen will man the left tackle position, protecting the quarterback’s blind spot. Matt Bockhorst lead the 2nd unit OL with 421 snaps. Reserve center Cade Stewart logged 335 naps, and tackle Jordan McFadden accumulated 315 snaps. Chandler Reeves (204) and Will Putnam (192) were next off the bench.
The talent is there to move up to the first unit and the spring game is going to be important in developing the chemistry so needed for an offensive line. Redshirt freshmen Blake Vinson, Kaleb Boateng, and Hunter Rayburn will be in the hunt for playing time in the spring as well.With the loss of those four starters came a strong effort to recruit a big class of offensive linemen and that’s exactly what happened. Coach Robbie Caldwell is bringing in one of the top OL groups of the 2020 class. Three of those linemen will be starting practice this week and will be counted on fairly quickly to provide depth. Paul Tchio, Mitchell Mayes and Bry Tucker bring ready-to-play size to a position that sorely needs to add depth and talent. In the fall, three more offensive linemen will join the fray. Walker Parks, John Williams and recent GT-flipped-to-Clemson Trent Howard will come in and ready to add more competition and depth.Defensively, the trenches on the line will be as deep as it ever has, with the addition of four highly rated players joining the team in the spring. The tigers lost DE Logan Rudolph, who decided to graduate and take his talents to the big stage, and DT Xavier Kelly, who also graduated and departed via transfer portal to Arkansas.
Everyone else on the 3-deep returns to the team. DT Nyles Pinckney decided to return to the team after suffering a late season ankle injury. It just didn’t end the way he wanted it to end. He joins fellow DT’s Jordan Williams and Tyler Davis to give the line experience and much needed leadership. Etinosa Rueben and Ruke Orhorhoro are two young, raw prospects that have the size to play the middle, but need experience. Darnell Jefferies and Tayquon Johnson both bring size and will also provide depth to this front, but……and this is a big but, the incoming class of defensive linemen will be pushing all of them from the beginning. Bryan Bresee and Demonte Capehart brings size, youth and talent to an already deep defensive line, and will challenge for playing time the minute practice begins. Clemson fans and coaches have been chomping at the bit to see Bresee on the field this spring.
Watch this defensive line battle closely, it’s going to be a sight. The fall will see another highly touted freshman joining the group, Tre Williams out of Washington DC.Defensive end is another position that came under fire late in the year. In trying to hold down a powerful LSU offense, the tigers went to a 3-4 defense, basically taking away the chance for getting pressure on the LSU quarterback.
The tigers, with their impressive depth on the defensive line, will likely go back to the 4-3 and opens the door for DE’s Xavier Thomas, KJ Henry and Justin Foster to flex their muscles. This could be the year XT finally explodes. Justin Mascoll and redshirt freshman Greg Williams could be an interesting pair to watch in practice, but the guy everyone wants to see in the spring is incoming freshman Myles Murphy. Murphy adds instant depth to a position that needs an influx of talent. Don’t count out Bresee seeing time at DE as well.All in all, the trenches are in great hands. The units are deep and talented, and have one of the finest coaching staffs in America to guide them. Help is already on the way with the 2021 class, already pulling in two highly rated players on both sides of the ball on the line. The rich get richer, but let’s pay attention to Spring Game 2020. It’s going to be a battle….in the trenches.