As part of our season preview we have posed some key questions about the 2019 Clemson season to our writing staff. Below is the question as well as the staff’s answers.
Brian: Last year Clemson’s OL grew into one of the strengths of the team, this year several key losses and some unknown depth make the OL an area of concern. Where do you see the OL as we head into the 2019 season?
C_Craft: I rank OL way behind TE and DT on my concern list. Cervenka and Simpson give the team maybe the strongest guard combo in my memory. Pollard holding down center is going to be key. We will see if Carman can be the reliable technician that Hyatt was, but he is certainly an upgrade in size/strength and could make that left side run game devastating. Anchrum is steady and really just had the one bad night at BC in an otherwise strong season last year. As always, health (especially at tackle) is extremely important. Looks like McFadden is ready to be the swing tackle and 3rd guy and I’m anxious to see how he progresses with his opportunities. I like our depth at guard and Caldwell’s cross training approach eases some concerns should a guy get hurt.
QuackingTiger: I agree that OL depth would be down on my list of concerns for the team as well. Next season you are going to lose four out of five starters. That is where depth is a major concern, especially at Tackle. This season the line should be as good as last year, if not better. You lose Mitch Hyatt who was a stalwart rock with his durability and experience. He didn’t bust on many plays and helped the line with his knowledge and savvy. But everyone else is back with an additional year under their belt.
Remember that this time last year John Simpson hadn’t started a game and struggled early at times against A&M. Fast forward and he and Carman make a formidable duo on the left side. As everyone knows, I have been very high on Carman. He has NFL upside and potential with his frame. He cut weight this offseason and is a very intelligent player. The only question for Carman is withstanding the grind of an entire season, keeping conditioning, and working on a few technique issues to clean up his steps. All of that is very doable and if he can, it would be an upgrade. He will need to get his feet wet, but I expect solid play from LT.
On the other side of the line, Anchrum is one of the leaders on the team. He is one of the more vocal players on the Oline. I said when he was recruited that he was a late steal for Clemson (Clemson really had to work to grab the 3* out of Georgia). Without Anchrum the Oline depth at Tackle would be very bad. I’d still like to see more from Anchrum in his last season. He is solid and dependable but got caught too many times last season against better competition getting overextended or bending at the waist.
The only real question is depth at Tackle where you have McFadden and Vinson. McFadden has tremendous upside and athletic ability. He is your starter next season at one Tackle spot but still needs to put it all together mentally. This is a big offseason for Vinson as Reeves has moved back inside.
Pollard at Center could also be an improvement. Falcinelli played better and better as the season progressed, but it was a bit rough early. Pollard sticking at Center means Cervenka can stay at RG where he also improved as the season went on. Cervenka and Stewart aren’t as good at snapping as Pollard. Cervenka provides a great run blocker who has improved as a pass defender.
There is plenty of dependable depth on the interior. Bockhorst will challenge for a good bit of reps this season. He should get over 250 snaps as he will be next in line next season. Then Stewart, Reeves, and probably Putnam give other depth. I don’t see Putnam redshirting right now because he will likely be needed next season, but it would be great to get him a lot of snaps in four games and save that year. There should be a lot of snaps to go around with this offense.
JP: As far as concerns go, I don’t think it is a big one. It would probably be third or fourth on my list. It’s actually kind of refreshing to go into a season and not be worried about the OL at least somewhat. That’s not something we’re accustomed to as Clemson fans.
I love the moving of Pollard to center. He could possibly be an improvement over Falcinelli. It also lets Cervenka stay at RG, where he’s just better suited to play. Anchrum really played well last season at RT, outside of that one game at BC, and looks to only be better this year. On the other side you’ve got John Simpson back at LG, and he’s been pretty good. That brings us to LT, where Jackson Carman takes over for Mitch Hyatt. Carman has all the potential in the world, and seems to have put in the necessary work in the weight room. I am anxious to see the backs running behind Carman and Simpson.
I guess the biggest concern with the OL would be the depth at tackle. Hopefully McFadden has taken that next step in his development. It goes without saying that staying healthy will be key. All the cross training the staff does these days with this group helps tremendously should someone get hurt. Overall though, I really like what he have up front this season.