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2013 Position Analysis: Offensive Line with Robbie Caldwell

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

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 fixed.

How we evaluate Coach Caldwell:

  • Recruiting
  • Pass blocking/sacks
  • Run blocking, statistically 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 middle TN and eastern NC and the Triangle (Greensboro/Durham/Rockingham) with Reed 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.

Caldwell nabbed two players in the previous cycle, Tyrone Crowder and Korrin Wiggins, both quality players. In this cycle, Coach Caldwell landed big LB Chris Register (with Reed) and WR Trevion Thompson (with Jeff Scott). We expect both of these guys to be quality as well. While two players per cycle isn't exactly awesome, he's not a liability like Danny Pearman.

However we still take issue with Clemson's OL recruiting, for the umpteenth consecutive year. We took two official linemen, with another that is likely to move from TE to Tackle in his time here. We took only 2 last year. We don't carry an offer board comparable to other schools in the southeast here, as Paul Strelow's work this week shows. I have been harping on this for several years but he laid out the numbers. Clemson has offered 81 WRs over the last 3 seasons, yet only 52 offensive linemen. For the last 3 classes, we've averaged 17.3 offers to OL. FSU has averaged 33.6, Alabama 25.6, SC 22.

Clemson prefers to carry 8-10 WRs on scholarship and 15-16 offensive linemen, yet we offer 30 less at the spot where you have more attrition over 4 seasons than any other spot on the roster?

Is it any wonder then that we never pull in bigtime OL? Is it any wonder that we complain about the offensive line pretty much every year? Batson sucks but you still need to pull in talent. I don't mind taking a flyer on a low 3-star or unknown talent here as long as you are pulling in Crowder or Hyatt-talent with them.

We know Clemson is aiming to take more players this cycle. They've already offered 17 this cycle, for a potential take of up to 4-5 offensive linemen. One is #1 recruit Mitch Hyatt, a legacy commitment. I want to see us pull the other players on the board, and I want to see it for several seasons before I'll call this area fixed. A doubled offer board would help Dabo. I'm sick and tired of seeing us fail to demolish teams like SC State (who I'll remind you kicked our 1st team OLs ass this year).


Participation Chart 2013
Player Position Snaps
Shaq Anthony RT 503
Isaiah Battle OT 359
David Beasley LG 433
Kalon Davis LG 500
Ryan Norton C 841
Patrick DeStefano OL 71
Joe Gore RT 58
Oliver Jones RT 24
Eric Mac Lain OL 140
Jerome Maybank OG 3
Jay Guillermo C 182
Spencer Region RG 7
Tyler Shatley RG 837
Brandon Thomas LT 865
Gifford Timothy RT 263
Reid Webster RG 156

- Note, I have left off the walk ons. However they did end up with more snaps than Region and Maybank. Color me shocked. Neither should continue on scholarship at Clemson.

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.

Brandon Thomas really improved as a player in his time here. He was signed as a Guard but he moves so well for a big guy that he ended up being pushed to Left Tackle. Rarely does anyone out-quick him on the edge, and he handled the best pass rushers he faced this year. He's fast enough on his feet that he doesn't get beat by the speed rush often. He's projected to go in the top 3 rounds of the NFL Draft and it would really help Clemson OL recruiting if he did. We haven't had one go that high in a very long time.

Shaq Anthony's playing time really stepped up this season, and aside from occasionally not knowing who he's supposed to block (see NC State), he does fine in the pass blocking area. His pass sets are probably better because he played in an all-passing offense in HS. However, he's been at Clemson for a while, and HS is no longer an excusable reason for him not being able to move anyone off the line of scrimmage. He needed upper body development and still needs more, because when I see him play I do not see someone who plays mad and wants to move the other guy. He's basically the starter at RT in 2014, because I don't think Gore is yet ready to seriously push him.

Shatley moved over from the 1-technique DT spot to RG and he's held onto his spot 2 years without any challenger stepping up. Tyler's problem is not his upper body strength or that he takes the wrong man, his problem, and why we don't move anyone on the right side, is his feet and explosion through his hips. He wouldn't have played at DT because his feet were boat anchors, and thats partially why we couldn't run the ball this year. He doesn't have any explosion and his feet don't move. He stands up straight because he lets defenders get under his pads, which I think is because he's too slow getting off.

Gifford Timothy is actually fine unless he faces anyone with speed, when he lunges and bends at the waist instead of moving his feet. As a run blocker he's adequate. He has now given up football due to the bad knee that has bothered him for years. Patrick DeStefano also gave up football due to a lingering nerve injury from HS. Joe Gore's potential is still hampered by his own poor understanding of the offense and his bad knees. If he's seriously pushed aside at 2nd team RT by Oliver Jones, I will have lost hope in him.

Norton and Guillermo both have talent, and I actually see more out of Guillermo. I think both should play, but the issue with Norton being somewhere else (RG) is his rather small size. He gets blown back by big NGs (like Freeman did), and got whipped by the small Nikita Whitlock because he's just quicker. Norton needs more mass without being any stiffer, because he just doesn't move anyone out of the way.

Davis and Beasley split time after UGA at LG. Davis is just too slow on his feet, and carries 340 pounds. We all know Joey won't get any of that flab off him. He cannot pull into a hole, ever. I haven't seen him get over there and move anyone all season. He should be moved to RG and stay there, where he wouldn't have to pull as much. I don't really know what is up with David Beasley but I suspect its part lingering-injury and part attitude. He has the ability to get to the NFL as a Guard, but if he's beat by Davis and now possibly Mac Lain, then he needs to get his head in it.

I cannot praise Battle's potential enough, he has everything you want at Left Tackle. He's got the attitude. He's got the best feet I can recall on any Clemson lineman over the last decade and doesn't look stiff when he's blocking. He does however need work on fundamentals. Sometimes what Battle is actually doing out there is merely staying in the other guy's way. I don't see him pushing them, and sometimes his hands are in the totally wrong place, he's just so fast on his feet that he stays in the way. It shows when he has to run block, and his upper body strength needs to improve. If he does that he's 1st round material.

Prospective Depth Chart Spring 2014
Isaiah Battle Eric Mac Lain Ryan Norton Kalon Davis Shaq Anthony
Joe Gore David Beasley Jay Guillermo Reid Webster Maverick Morris
Tyrone Crowder Region/Maybank Oliver Jones

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. I don't see anyone pushing Anthony this spring, but if Gore is healthier maybe he finally ramps it up in August to push. The situation at both Guard spots bothers me, because I do not believe Kalon Davis is suited to be a 1st team player. I'm holding out judgement on MacLain, but he's been moved everywhere and hasn't turned it on yet. David Beasley should be able to equal him in snaps unless David remains lazy.

Pass Blocking

Clemson finished 102nd in the nation with 35 sacks allowed, an average of 2.69 per game. Obviously that is terrible, and even though we can put some of the blame on others than the 5 men up front. Tajh Boyd is a big contributor, as the official scorer of the game can call it a sack if he pulls it and doesn't make it to the LOS. It really depends on what the scorer felt the intent was. Sometimes Tajh runs right into a sack too.

After all of my game film reviews this year, there are a couple problems that continue to come up. Timothy, as we all know, was completely incapable of doing this job. He doesn't move his feet and lunges at the End, who whips him soundly thereafter. However, the replacements for him appeared to not be counting the right man often. Anthony would look inside when he should've looked outside, for example. We get beat by twists/stunts into the B-gap on both sides, showing me that the Guard or the Tackle took the wrong man. I don't see that often at all up the A. The Center gets mauled quite a bit more than he should. No other problems show up as continuously as these. The rest I'd say were because the guy just got beat, a RB didn't take the right man, or the TE's general suckage at blocking.

Run Blocking

Clemson finished 103rd in tackles for loss allowed, at 7 per game. Again, pisspoor TE blocking contributes, and Tajh runs do count as TFL many times, but this is still awful. This brings me to my main issue with Clemson run blocking play = they do not remain engaged with their blocks, they do not stay low, and it gets RBs/QBs killed. None have reached the laziness of Antoine McClain, but if you don't play to the whistle then you aren't playing hard. Too often I see Anthony or Timothy pull off the block. Shatley remained engaged, but with his cinder block shoes, he isn't going to move anyone out of the way. Norton is just too small and not at all powerful enough to move anyone. We run A-gap zone plays, and if the Center can't move anyone then you can't do squat. Kalon Davis' feet are too slow to pull his 340lb girth into a hole, or even get off the line to bulldoze the man in front of him.

Basically the only one I think does a good job is Brandon Thomas. Beasley is capable of it, but the effort is inconsistent. That's why our run game dropped off, and that is why you see so many TFL.

We do believe Clemson still could've finished in the Top 35 in rushing offense had Chad Morris actually called some run plays for Hot Rod when the run game was working. He doesn't give his OL enough chance to become maulers because he'd rather throw it. 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. However, Clemson could've been more productive on the ground and the staff didn't push it enough to make them so.

The Verdict

I like Caldwell, I like hearing the things from practice that I hear about him. What I want to see is more guys playing to the whistle for 60 minutes, which admittedly is not the problem it once was. I want to see an offensive line that doesn't get its ass handed back to it by SC State or Furman or Ball State anymore. I need to see more recognition of the defensive fronts so we don't get killed by twists and stunts up the B-gaps. What we need to see is him holding them accountable for their weight, and that one starts with Dabo.

I want to see 5 guys foaming at the mouth dying to knock somebody's damned head off. Give me 5 Philip Price's. Show me that and I'll start believing we can actually make a National Title run.

2014 is going to be a bit of a transition year, but getting back to 10 wins is going to fall on the OL. If they block for a new QB, it'll be much easier to bring the signal caller along. We know Stoudt can move but he's no speedster - if he's not protected he'll stink it up royally. If Kelly is in there and we're running ZR, then someone better take out that Linebacker and not get out-quicked underneath the block.

So the book is still out on Caldwell, he's decent at recruiting but can do better. His results here are a bit hampered by Joey Batson, but I think he can still find areas of technical improvement.