The inconsistency of the 2011 Clemson offensive line may look like “the good old days” when the 2012 season rolls around. The Tigers lose 72% of their experience (on a snap basis) across the offensive line in 2012. And that’s not counting tight end Dewayne Allen’s 2,013 career snaps that are headed to the NFL.
True freshmen rarely make an impact on the offensive line and redshirt freshmen also tend to have to learn the difference between the high school and college game. Typically, a team is dependent on upper classmen along the offensive line, though there are some exceptions. One could look at Phillip Price as an exception – a former walk-on, with very little experience, playing blind side tackle and doing it pretty well. The Tigers need about 3 of those to happen in the coming year. But I’m here to tell you, that to expect a Sammy Watkins type impact (relative to the the offensive line) on the offensive line from a redshirt or true freshman is a once in a generation type occurrence.
Entering 2012, Senior Dalton Freeman is far and away the most experienced returning lineman with 2,402 career snaps. Brandon Thomas, often the target of coaches frustration, is next with 913 snaps of experience in his first two years.
|Player||2011 Class||Career Snaps|
After those two the pickings get slim. Matt Sanders was seldom used in his first three years with 131 total snaps and sophomores to be Kalon Davis, Reid Webster, Gifford Timothy and David Beasley have a total of 157 snaps between them. 157. Total.
|Player||2012 Class||Career Snaps|
If Clemson had a history of solid line play and developing offensive lineman that would be one thing. But it seems each year, no matter the coaches or how much experience the line has, there are holes and unfulfilled expectations, along with gaping examples of not being able to move the ball. We also know injuries will occur, that’s the nature of the game with every offensive line, every year in big time college football.
With that history in mind, asking the Tigers to fill the 9,230 departed snaps along the line is going to be very difficult to do and should be kept in mind when forecasting results for the 2012 Clemson Tigers.
Some will say I am setting the bar low and you typically get what you expect. I see it differently. The bar is the same, but I am being realistic about what the Tigers face on the offensive line in 2012.