clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2012 Position Analysis: Offensive Line with Robbie Caldwell

Robbie Caldwell is a Furman graduate who went to work there for about a decade after graduation as the OL coach under then-HC Dick Sheridan. Dick Sheridan, the only guy that could give Danny fits consistently with inferior talent, took Caldwell with him to NC State where he continued as OL coach during the tenure of Mike O'Cain. He'd stay there until 2000, when he went to work for UNC for 2 years.

In 2002, Bobby Johnson got the head job at Vandy after guiding Furman to the 1-AA National Championship game and he picked his friend Caldwell to come work for him. Vandy is where Caldwell really caught my attention as a quality line coach. Vandy never pulled in great talent up front, and with his coaching he developed several guys who weren't well-thought-of in recruiting into a quality group of linemen nearly every year.

When Johnson abruptly resigned in 2010, Caldwell got the chance at the head job, and it did not work out well for him, finishing 2-10. At the end of the season he resigned and I think he just realized that being the Head man wasn't right for him.

Of course, in the end, it may matter just as much who the S&C coach is in terms of OL development, and this is one glaring area that has yet to be addressed. The training table that is in programmatic development should help this problem.

How we evaluate Coach Caldwell:

  • Recruiting
  • Passing/Sacks allowed and pass blocking
  • Run Blocking, statistics and overall tenacity.

Coach Caldwell is a respected OL coach, but despite his affable manner he's never been thought of as a dynamic recruiter. We knew all of that before he came in, and weren't expecting him to suddenly become one, despite spending a couple stops of his career at places where it was pretty damn hard to recruit star athletes. In 2011, he joined the staff just after Scott announced his formal retirement and was not responsible for the OL commitments we did get this cycle. In fact, he wasn't even here when they were offered.

In this cycle he did not have many top targets in his home region around Pageland in the Midlands of SC, along with some of the Pee Dee. We'll expect him to spot recruit TN and eastern NC and the Triangle (Greensboro/Durham/Rockingham) with Brooks in the future, as well as GA in the future. Some allege that he has difficulty using the social media or internet well (facebook, skype, etc.) to recruit, which doesn't surprise me given his age and countryfied ways. I'm sure many of our readers can't figure out an iphone or have parents/grandparents that think facebook or twitter are stupid things to use.

In the 2012 cycle Coach Caldwell nabbed OG Tyrone Crowder, one of the best in the region, out of Rockingham NC. He also was the recruiter of record for safety Korrin Wiggins from Durham, but there was help given with Harbison in that recruitment. Coach Caldwell is listed as the recruiter of record for Montravious Adams and was a factor there, but that effort was shared by the defensive staff. He was also the recruiter for DeMarcus Robinson, who ended up with Florida, but again this one was worked with Jeff Scott. Two signees isn't exactly stellar, and he's not mentioned as much as Scott or Harbison or Hobby in this cycle, but Caldwell certainly wasn't a liability in recruiting like Pearman. We give him a good grade here.

However there remain serious issues with our OL recruiting. Clemson still doesn't carry a large offer board at the position, and its annually the position where we bring in the least amount of talent. We have far fewer problems bringing in DL or skill players, but we strike out with the top OL talent just about every year. If this is going to be addressed, it has to be by the Head Coach. Clemson needs to offer more of the top talent every year and be willing to oversign if they want to commit. You can take a flyer on a Maverick Morris-level guy as long as you're getting more of the Crowder-level talent. Over the last decade plus, that ratio has been more weighted to the former, and thats part of our problem up front.


Participation Chart 2011
Player Pos
David Beasley OG 764
Shaq Anthony
OT 123
Kalon Davis OG 166
Dalton Freeman C 959
Isaiah Battle
OT 153
Joe Gore
OT 66
Jerome Maybank
OG 3
Tyler Shatley
OG 939
Giffford Timothy OT 820
Spencer Region
OG 61
Reid Webster OG 28
Brandon Thomas OG 987

-Note: we have left off Eric MacLain because he didn't officially switch positions from TE to OT until late in the season.

Offensive linemen are the one position that are the toughest for a coach to evaluate in HS. Sometimes a guy could just be big in HS and not really be all that great. Sometimes his quickness is deceptive against weak defensive competition. Sometimes he could have everything physically and just be a wimp, like Cory Lambert. Sometimes he really has the ability to be good but isn't pushed by the S&C staff to his maximum level. There are more variables in evaluation here than at any other position in my mind.

This was the position that scared me the most pre-Spring ball in 2012. Recall that LG Brandon Thomas looked completely lost in his time at LT instead of Phil Price, and he was basically slotted into the LT spot immediately because we had no one else to take the spot. LG was a question mark as a result. We decided to move our 2nd string NG over to offensive RG and he held the spot without much of a challenge from anyone. Still, anyone with a pulse would be an upgrade over McClain. We had Gifford Timothy come in at RT with a grand total of 45 snaps under his belt in 2011. What worried me also is that in August camp Dalton Freeman was extremely sick and lost a bunch of weight, and barely practiced for a few weeks, which Clemson hid from media release.

Well Brandon Thomas put the work in and got better. He was initially signed as a Tackle because he moves his feet really well and has good knee bend and length there. Rarely does someone out-quick him. Gifford Timothy did alright, unless you were facing a fast DE. Tyler Shatley was unchallenged, which can be taken as good or bad. David Beasley was also unchallenged and his play went up/down this season as a result.

The participation chart may be a bit misleading at face value. I'm happier that some other guys got PT this year to help us build depth, and we do have a chance to finally have depth on the OL for the first time I can recall, but no one was seriously pushing the starting 5. Our guard rotation really needs improvement and i'm still concerned about the RT position for 2013. Timothy is not the answer.

It feels like I say this every year, but most of the group needs to get into better condition. Region came in as a blimp and remains so. If he does not lose weight this year I'd cut him. The same goes for Maybank. Davis also came in as a blimp but has lost a chunk of that fat, yet needs to cut some more. He simply does not pull into a hole fast enough, and if he doesn't lose another chunk of jello he isn't ever going to. Beasley still needs to be in better running shape. Shaq Anthony needed a year on RS to gain muscle mass, and still needs to gain muscle mass and strength. The same can be said of Joe Gore, who also needs reps to hone his fundamentals and master assignments. That much was evident against LSU, but the athleticism was obvious.

Isaiah Battle is one who does not. Half of his snap total above came against LSU, which was surprising given the lack of PT this year and the tall task at hand, but he was forced in with Timothy's injury and Thomas' movement to RT. He has the most potential of any Clemson OL I can remember. If he continues to improve from where he is, and barring injury, he could be the highest drafted OL ever from Clemson.

I heard just last week that some guys were pushing their weights even higher, which is very concerning because you don't put on good weight in the 2 months we've gone without heavy practice every afternoon.

Incoming Help: The Chad worked Maverick Morris out at camp in June, and he offered and had the commitment in the bag. In the future I could see him moving from RT to RG, but he'll redshirt. Tyrone Crowder reminded me a bit of David Beasley's film. He's a mauler and his time at OT in HS will help his footwork. However, his weight is also pushing up and up and needs to be brought under control. I don't want to be saying the same thing about him in two years that I just did for Beasley. DT Tra Thomas couldn't crack the rotation there and moved to OG/OC, where he won't crack the rotation either. Attitude problems have been mentioned as a reason for his lack of development. OT Oliver Jones and OG Patrick Destefano come off RS. TE Eric MacLain moved inside to OT finally, and I think he has the best potential of anyone other than Battle, its just a matter whether he wants to be great or not. The staff feels like he can hold 285+ easily and at that point if his fundamentals are sound he's going to take the spot from Timothy.

Prospective Clemson Offensive Line Depth Spring 2013
LT LG Center RG RT
Brandon Thomas David Beasley Ryan Norton Tyler Shatley Gifford Timothy
Isaiah Battle Kalon Davis Jay Guillermo Reid Webster Joe Gore
Shaq Anthony Patrick Destefano Tra Thomas? Spencer Region/Jerome Maybank
Oliver Jones/Eric MacLain

The depth chart is just a wag guess. Remember depth charts mean very little other than being a practice rotation during the week. In games, the better players play, even if they are listed as a backup at another position. If Battle continues to perform at LSU levels, he will push for PT, which allows Thomas to either move to LG or play RT in a pinch against a good pass rushing team. Shaq Anthony will probably be a swing tackle as of today, meaning he'll play RT before Gore or Jones would play.

If Thomas does end up moving back to LG, Beasley will be a swing guy or have to push Shatley for his spot at RG. I don't see Kalon Davis pushing anyone above him significantly unless he loses his weight.

I don't see Webster or Region pushing Shatley out of the #1 spot at RG under any circumstances. Region would have to have his triplets and master fundamentals that he hasn't shown signs of doing yet, and frankly I've given up on Webster becoming more than a situational or reserve player. Oliver Jones may initially get reps at RG instead of RT, and could end up playing either spot in the future.

Tra Thomas is going to work at Guard/Center in a reserve role, and I would not be surprised to see Webster at Center if a situation arises with Norton/Guillermo. I do not expect Maybank to garner much more PT than he did in 2012.

Pass Blocking

Clemson's OL has ranged from bad to very good in pass blocking over the last several years. In 2009, aside from Derrick Morgan or when our Head Coach signaled the wrong protection, our Line did a very good job protecting Kyle Parker. In 2008 it was off/on due to injuries and no depth (OFFER BOARD) at all. In 2010 it was similarly good/bad, but the stats do show relatively few sacks given up by the Tigers. 2011 was a different story. The new scheme is simpler than the last one, and yet we can't pick up blitzes well yet at all.

Clemson Sacks Allowed
Year Allowed/Games National Rank ACC Ranking
2012 31/13 85th 9th
2011 33/14 85th 9th
2010 18/13 26 3rd
2009 19/14 31 2
2008 33/13 103 11
2007 35/13 100 8
2006 15/13 6 1st

Clemson lost a total of 211 yards on those 31 sacks, and ended up in exactly the same spot nationally as 2011. At once you may want to put all of this on Caldwell and the linemen, but I think there were some issues with protection calls and bad decisions by the QB, bad RB blocking from backups, and some lazyness by the linemen. A few are run plays from Tajh that get caught in the backfield and counted as sacks. Together that makes for the sorry figures you see above. I'm tempted to go back and put each sack on the table to see the root cause, but I would not be surprised to hear Chad Morris blame Tajh for a majority of them. We know he walked into several. Chad blamed 10 of the 2011 sacks on Tajh. I expected this pass blocking statistic to really improve this year, and its probably the biggest negative statistic one could use against Caldwell.

But there is a definite issue on the right side with pass blocking. Shatley is prone to being caught in a twist at times, but a majority come right up the B-gap and were Timothy's responsibility because Shatley would already be occupied with a man to his inside. Timothy is prone to being beaten by speed rushers off the edge as well. He turned in a good performance against FSU, but he could not handle the faster Ends he faced this year. He must move his feet and protect his inside. You look stupid when you beat beat up the B-gap as an OT. You have to make the DE at least beat you around the edge, its a longer path and gives the QB more time. I'd say Timothy's problem is more exaggerated but the same basic issue Walker had: he raises his pads too much and it forces him to lunge at the rusher.

Run Blocking

Probably the most subjective evaluation of any position on the field is the ability to run block, but given the number of plays its expected that most missed assignments are coming in the run game. They're just more evident in the passing game because of pressures and sacks. Over the season, a major improvement from 2011 is that I saw less guys standing around watching plays and remaining engaged with a defender as a play continued.

The Chad opened the playbook a little more this season, but he still pulls back the running calls, and I believe a large factor in that is his feelings about his OL. Are they better? Yes. Are they good at pulling and getting downfield to take the 2nd level out? No. The Power O/G is integral to the offense (and Counter Trey works off Power) and we have had to abandon it at times because Beasley can't get into the hole and move someone. We can't get anyone behind him to do so either. Davis can't. Thomas is quick enough to get there but he was required at LT.

Brandon Thomas doesn't have the same responsibilities with the run game at Tackle as he would at Guard, but I think his future in the NFL will hinge on this area of his game. I can already see what the NFL scouts are going to say about him when he comes out next year: Athletic, moves extremely well for his size, kick slide is good, but not physical enough at the POA. At LG he could pull well, but he has to improve his functional strength and stay lower. If he can be allowed to move back inside to LG with Battle at LT, and becomes more physical, he'll go in the top half of the NFL draft for sure. The athletic ability is there.

Shatley isn't a great puller and I wouldn't expect him to be so. RGs don't pull nearly as much with RH QBs, and he was a DT before last year. The strength of the formation is usually the QB's handedness, and run plays are usually called to the strength. Shatley just didn't create enough movement at times, and neither does Timothy, though I do believe both improved.

I think Dalton Freeman is a sound technician but he's not a great run blocker. He's not mean enough, and he cannot handle a Zero technique because he lacks functional strength. He does not move anyone up front. We run an A-gap zone, and if the Center doesn't move people then it doesn't move the ball, so we had to use more deception and just let Tajh take it this season.

Spencer Region should be better here, considering his sheer mass, but it hampers his movement. He's too fat to get moving. Likewise for Maybank. Reid Webster is a guy we heard a lot of good things about 2 years ago, but his snap count hasn't moved. He doesn't push Shatley at RG and only spells him occasionally. I think he should be nudged out if he doesn't want to raise his game this offseason. If Region and Maybank don't raise their game then I'd nudge them out as well.

The Verdict

I like Caldwell, I like hearing the things from practice that I hear about him. What we need to see is him holding them accountable for their weight, and that one starts with Dabo because its not specific to the OL. I know he wouldn't have played McClain last year nearly as much if he had not been told to play him.

I did not expect last year for this review to be at all positive. We lost 3 starters and a lion's share of the snaps. Only Freeman was set in stone at Center. Thomas moved over and solidified the most important LT position, Shatley held the RG position and Beasley and Timothy were OK. In sum, I'd just call the 2012 OL "OK". They had moments but were inconsistent at getting push inside. Too many times AE was fighting for yards up the middle without help in front of him.

Everything begins with the OL. A BCS NC run requires a good OL. What we need to see now is a continued ability to build depth, and to start dominating opponents up front. We do not push people around, even little Furmans and Ball States of the world. If you want to win a national title, you must be able to assert yourself up front and take control of a football game. We can do it for one quarter of a game, but not often for a whole game, and not for 2 consecutive weeks. If Caldwell can fix that he'll be the best line coach here since Larry Van der Hayden.