Continuing the STS tradition of honest assessment of the program, the offensive line takes top priority given criticism last season and questions surrounding the strength and conditioning program. Bill Connelly posted lots of data, including some statistics ranking offensive lines. The main categories consist of the OL’s ability to open running lanes (adjusted line yards, opportunity rank), gaining first downs in short yardage situations (power success), preventing losses on running plays (stuff rate), and protecting the QB (adjusted sacks). Definitions can be found here. Overall Clemson has not had a very good OL and there is evidence that it is overpowered in situations that require more strength than otherwise, such as power success and stuff rate.
Clemson OL Rankings:
*1-10 (bright green), 11-30 (dark green), 31-49 (gray), 50-74 (light red), 75+ (bright red)
The OL was good in 2005 but elite in 2006, with Clemson and Louisville the only to rank in the top 30 in each category. It has been a sad state of affairs since then with abysmal results from 2007 to 2011, getting back up to respectable in 2012 and 2013. Sack rates have not been good under Tajh Boyd, so there is room to debate whether that is on him or the OL. Not being able to overpower the DL when trying for 2 yards or less and allowing tackles behind the line of scrimmage indicate a general problem with strength training, especially in years when the OL is opening up running lanes.
Just as a reference point of a very good OL, here is the same chart for Alabama. Since 2008 they have been elite, although they have also struggled with sacks. Data was not readily available for 2013, but this provides enough to see the difference.
Clemson’s OL has been a historical point of weakness, although there have been improvements in the past couple of years. The staff needs to continue to make OL recruiting a high priority and to improve the strength and conditioning program. Without a strong OL, Clemson will have a very hard time positioning itself as a top 10 program.