2011 Clemson Pre-Camp OL Analysis

Clemson's offensive line saw some changes following the 2010 campaign. Brad Scott was finally moved to an administrative role allowing Coach Swinney to bring in former Vandy head man and Southeastern OL coaching legend Robbie Caldwell. Caldwell is a much better technical coach, turkey inseminator, teacher, and motivator than his predecessor, so we are encouraged to see what this group looks like following fall camp. We also lost longtime LT Chris Hairston, who will be missed immensely.

Additionally, new offensive coordinator Chad Morris brought his fast paced attack to Clemson, stating that he wanted to run 80-85 plays per game. The number of plays requires this group to be in much better shape than previous campaigns.  This also means that depth will be even more critical than season's past-which could be a huge problem due to deficiencies in recruiting and signing strategy.  It also means that our guys will need some sort of resemblance to being in "football shape" come September.  In a nutshell, last year's physical conditioning will not cut it.

I will say that the starters are experienced.  Clemson lost only Chris Hairston and Ben Ramsey from last year's two deep. The problem lies beyond the starters (assuming Caldwell improves their technique/drive and the players lay off the donuts prior to season's start) and with a lack of proven, quality depth.  We have 5-6 guys who have been seasoned to play.  Outside of the starters and Mason Cloy we see players who are largely not yet ready to play, many of them freshmen and sophomores.

Here is the two-deep following Spring drills per the CU Athletic Department. 

Pos.

#

Player

Ht.

Wt.

Class

LT

79

PHILLIP PRICE

6-5

300

*Sr.


63

Brandon Thomas

6-4

300

*So.

LG

73

DAVID SMITH

6-5

315

*Sr.


67

Kalon Davis

6-4

345

*Fr.

C

55

DALTON FREEMAN

6-5

285

*Jr.


62

Mason Cloy

6-3

295

*Sr.

RG

74

ANTOINE McCLAIN

6-5

330

Sr.


54

Matt Sanders

6-6

320

*Jr.

RT

72

LANDON WALKER

6-6

310

*Sr.


70

Gifford Timothy

6-6

335

*Fr.

It is difficult to break these players out into individual positions because so many players are starters and/or backups at several positions by necessity. In so many ways, the OL depth chart is intertwined like one large spider web. So, you shouldnt pay much attention to it. Caldwell has said the best 5 will start, which would mean the line is David Smith, Cloy, Freeman, McClain, and Walker....but who knows if they'll carry through with that.

We originally had Price and Thomas flipped in our best guess. Price had a better Spring than Thomas and was rewarded as such. If Price ends up starting, get worried. He's a solid backup but 60 snaps a game for him would scare us. Thomas is the better talent, but was tentative about his knee, according to Caldwell. Word is that since then, the light came on and we'll see a real battle at LT. We hope so. We also originally pegged Mason Cloy as primarily a backup left guard.  He will play both C/G this season so this positioning matters little. Matt Sanders was speculated as the number 2 center and could play there if needed. Caldwell currently has him behind McClain at OG, but we expect a RS freshman to pass Sanders.

No surprise Caldwell slated Landon Walker at the other tackle. Hopefully he'll be able to do something besides pass block this year, and won't talk about how the right side are such road graders to TI without being able to back it up. We are a bit concerned about Walker's health coming into the year and how this will affect offensive line depth. The incumbent starter had his knee scoped July 22 and is scheduled to return for the early part of preseason camp. Delays in his return and/or any complications with this procedure would move Price to the other starting tackle position. This could also cause a major shakeup in other line assignments due to quality depth issues.

Behind Walker (outside of Price and Thomas) are two redshirt freshmen:  Reid Webster and Gifford Timothy.  Neither has really wow'ed me to date but Timothy appears to be ahead of Webster based on the current depth chart.  I am not sure if the staff made this decision based on a coin flip or if there is something that I've missed, but I have these two pegged as pretty much equal and both will see some action in the fall with, apparently, Timothy in line to see the field first. Some say Webster is further along as a G. This battle is one to watch play out during fall camp and could have a fairly large impact on this team throughout 2011 and into '12.

We've spoken highly of David Beasley and Kalon Davis but both are inexperienced and hopefully won't be pressed to contribute too much too soon in 2011. We originally hoped that DB would snatch a spot from someone, but the word we're getting is that he hasn't been in shape enough to do it, and hasn't wowed anyone. Kalon's back problem seems to be OK, but we'd have this boy on a treadmill and away from Batson immediately.

Same goes for the loser of the Reid Webster / Gifford Timothy competition. Getting them reps would be nice, but reps also indicate an injury at the top of the two-deep.  Because of our depth issues, I am convinced at least one of these guys will see a significant number of snaps this fall.  Offensive line is a tough position to master early. Hopefully we can ease these guys in AND get them valuable experience without entering into a crisis situation.

Dalton Freeman will snap the ball for the Tigers this season. Freeman has been pretty good for the Tigers the past couple seasons and has been named to various "watch lists" this preseason.  We still think that Freeman needs to improve his attack angles but know that Freeman will be under the constant watch of Coach Caldwell.  Caldwell places a premium on center play and demands excellence out of this position, as an able center who can handle a defender one on one frees another lineman to pull, make a double elsewhere, or get to the next level and increase offensive production. Since our running game with Morris is heavily A-gap to A-gap, you'll notice Dalton much more this year.

McClain is going to be his usual self. He'll infuriate you several times by getting whipped by someone he shouldnt, and then occasionally he'll get pissed off and actually move someone 10 yards downfield. He's not the player Dabo thinks he is, and hasn't had someone get in his face about it enough. I hope Caldwell changes that in his last year.

Freeman will be backed up by fifth year senior Mason Cloy. Cloy is a capable backup here who will also be pressed into action at other offensive line positions. We would start him at LG over Smith, and he's the one player on 2nd string that you could call into starting without losing anything. Mason gives this line needed depth and we were encouraged when he decided to return to Pickens County for his final year of eligibility.  We still wouldn't be surprised if the staff takes a serious look at pushing Cloy into the starting guard position if Smith/McClain need a fire lit under their ass, or if Smith gets moved to LT.

#

Player

Pos.

Hgt.

Wgt.

Cl.

Exp.

Hometown

HS/JC

54

Matt Sanders

OL

6-6

320

*Jr.

2VL

Crestview, FL

Crestview Senior HS

60

Tyler Felt

OL

6-4

265

*So.

SQ

Greenville, SC

J.L. Mann HS

62

Mason Cloy

OL

6-3

295

*Sr.

3VL

Columbia, SC

Spring Valley HS

63

Brandon Thomas

OL

6-4

300

*So.

1VL

Spartanburg, SC

Dorman HS

67

Kalon Davis

OG

6-4

345

*Fr.

RS

Chester, SC

Chester Senior HS

68

David Beasley

OG

6-4

325

*Fr.

RS

Columbus, GA

G.W. Carver HS

69

Tyler Fowler

OG

6-6

335

*So.

SQ

Canon, GA

Franklin County HS

70

Gifford Timothy

OT

6-6

335

*Fr.

RS

Middletown, DE

Middletown HS

72

Landon Walker

OT

6-6

310

*Sr.

3VL

North Wilkesboro, NC

East Wilkes HS

73

David Smith

OL

6-5

315

*Sr.

3VL

Greenville, SC

Greenville HS

74

Antoine McClain

OG

6-5

330

Sr.

3VL

Anniston, AL

Anniston HS

75

T.J. Buck

OL

6-3

290

*So.

SQ

Chapin, SC

Chapin HS

77

Reid Webster

OT

6-4

290

*Fr.

RS

Woodstock, GA

Etowah HS

79

Phillip Price

OT

6-5

300

*Sr.

2VL

Dillon, SC

Dillon Christian School

 

All incoming freshmen should redshirt this season so you'll see little mention of them so far as the depth chart is concerned.  If you want to point to the true freshman with the best chance to play, I'd say Spencer Region because of his size and history in a faster paced high school offense. He still needs to change his body composition though. We put Maybank here because we'll believe he's going to be successful at NT when we see it. Let me stress that we believe that ALL incoming offensive linemen should redshirt due to the physical and mental maturity needed to transition from the high school to collegiate level on the OL.

 

Player

Scout

Rivals

High School

Hometown

HT/WT/40

Position

Shaq Anthony

3

3

Wren HS

Piedmont, SC

6-4/260

OT

Isaiah Battle

3

3

Blue Ridge School

Dyke, VA

6-7/260

OT

Joe Gore

3

3

East Columbus HS

Lake Waccamaw, NC

6-6/250

OT

Jerome Maybank

3

2

Waccamaw HS

Pawleys Island, SC

6-4/320

OT

Ryan Norton

3

3

Mauldin HS

Mauldin, SC

6-4/274

C

Spencer Region

3

3

Cullman Senior HS

Cullman, AL

6-6/345/5.40

OG

 

We have been pimping Coach Caldwell here for quite some time, well before he took the job here at CU.  Clemson needs to build toughness and we are hoping for a stark contrast to what we saw out of Coach Scott's lead.  Dalton Freeman is already telling us things we like to hear about Caldwell and his influence on this offense:

"He's a real old-school type of coach," Freeman said of Caldwell. "Coach (Brad) Scott was very detailed, he was into some of the more modern techniques as far as (angle blocking) and getting the right hand placement. Coach Caldwell is more old-school: straight off the ball, hit them in the mouth and knock them out."

(courtesy of the Charleston's Post & Currier)

We expect this line to build on adequate pass protection a year ago.  While there were some individual mistakes, the overall pass protection was acceptable for the most part and would have been better had Kyle Parker been more patient and learned to feel pressure and step up in the pocket. I am sure that will be an item that Morris works on with Boyd. We're looking for added intensity run blocking. Clemson looked flat in this area at times last season and never seemed aggressive nor did Clemson come out and push the opponent around. In conjunction, we weren't very physical and it showed-particularly in the red zone, a hallmark of Brad's line over the years.  A major focus coming out of fall drills will be Caldwell's ability to get this group to be a tougher, more physical, get after your ass offensive line...something we haven't seen in Tigertown for quite some time. An offense can only go as far as the OL can take it, and ours has been mediocre for most of this decade.

We're hoping these guys are in shape and can avoid an injury that would turn this depth chart into one giant game of musical chairs again this season.

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