O-line making progress

O-line making progress

CLEMSON — When Thomas Austin walks to the line of scrimmage and looks down the line at the guys he is about to go to battle with in the trenches of college football, he sees men that are battled test, hungry and ready for anything that comes their way.

There is confidence in the Clemson offensive line, a confidence that was seldom there last season when it seemed a new face popped up in each game thanks to one injury after another.

But through the first half of spring practice things appear to be different for the Clemson offensive line.

Sure, there are still kinks to work out, but the unit already seems to be coming together and developing the kind of continuity they hungered for last year.

"I feel good about things," Austin said following Wednesday's practice. "We have a lot more competition and more depth. We are working hard."

That hard work was evident in last Saturday's scrimmage when the boys up front took things over, allowing their running backs to amass 200 yards rushing.

"We had a good day Saturday and not so good Monday, but today I think we exchanged some blows with the defense pretty good so we are definitely getting better up front," Austin said.

That's the same thing Austin's coach noticed.

"They are doing a really nice job of developing," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "We have some competition. I'm seeing competition and I see a guy like Dalton Freeman that is coming on."

Freeman has been the talk of the young spring so far.

The rising redshirt freshman has made his presence know after a solid outing with the first team in last Saturday's scrimmage and has since received a lot of reps with the first team players in practice.


"We are doing a lot of good things," he said. "We still have to find out who our center is. We have good competition at right tackle between Cory and Landon. I think that job is still up for grabs completely. It will be interesting to see how that ends up." (Roy Philpott/CUTigers.com)

But it's not just Freeman that has improved or has made noise. J.K. Jay, who just enrolled in school in January, has impressed coaches with his ability to go after people while learning the blocking schemes on the run at tackle. Landon Walker, who started as a redshirt freshman last year, is battling it out with Cory Lambert at right tackle, which is probably the best competition in camp besides quarterback.

Then there is Wilson Norris and Antoine McClain going at it at right guard, though McClain appears to have the upper hand in that competition.

"It is going to be interesting," Swinney said. "We are giving a lot of people a lot of work and that is what spring ball is all about.

"In the fall, it is hard to rep three units and things like that so a lot of guys are getting some work because we have to develop our young players. We have some good young linemen that we redshirted and things like that and we have to get them as much work as we can. I'm pleased with the offensive line at this point in spring ball."

Austin is pleased with the way his teammates are battling.

"We are doing a lot of good things," he said. "We still have to find out who our center is. We have good competition at right tackle between Cory and Landon. I think that job is still up for grabs completely. It will be interesting to see how that ends up."

It's also no coincidence the Tigers improvements have come since line coach Brad Scott and Swinney incorporated the three-point stance back in play after spending the majority of the last four seasons in a two-point stance, including short-yardage situations.

"I feel comfortable in the three-point stance," Austin said. "You can't have too much weight going forward because you have to have consistency between the pass and the run stance. But I think it allows you to keep your hips a little lower and allows you to fire off."

Austin says the guards play strictly in the a three-point stance, except in third-and-long situations and in two-minutes drills, while the tackles are 50-50 depending on the formation. That is allowing the offensive line to play physical, to play with confidence and more importantly is allowing it to improve.

"Wilson (Norris) is playing well and David (Smith) is playing well. Matt (Sanders) is stepping up and Dalton is playing real well and is getting a lot of reps with the ones," Austin said. "All of those guys are showing a lot of improvement and we are all really excited about their development."

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