If last weekend’s spring game was any indication, the Clemson offensive line will not only be improved next season, it will also feature more depth.
Due to a multitude of reasons, the Tigers’ coaching staff went into last season with only six players they really trusted in big situations. Expect that number to likely be in double digits in 2021.
One of the guys expected to provide immediate help is true freshman Marcus Tate. The 6-foot-5, 290 pound player from Florida was considered my most to be a Top-150 prospect coming out of high school and while most offensive linemen tend to need at least a season to acclimate to the collegiate game, Tate looks to be an exception to that rule.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney noted after the spring game on Saturday that Tate isn’t your typical true freshman offensive lineman.
“He’s an unusual kid in the offensive line,” Swinney said. “He’s still technically a high school senior as a midyear. But he’s unusual, and physically he’s gifted. And he’s further along than most freshmen coming in, in the OL. It’s an incredibly difficult position to play.”
In fact, Swinney went on to say that Tate has already earned a spot in the Tigers’ two-deep, meaning fans can expect to see a lot of the freshman in 2021.
“He’s one of those guys that looks like he’s been here for a year or so,” Swinney said “So, we’re really excited about Marcus. He’s going to help our team. He’s easily a guy that’s in our two-deep right now and he’s earned that.”
Very few offensive linemen come into Clemson and make immediate impacts as freshmen. Mitch Hyatt and Jackson Carman are two players that have done it in recent seasons. Walker Parks eared significant playing time as a freshman last season and by all appearances Tate will do the same next season.
“It’s really not easy to do, it’s definitely not the norm,” Swinney said. “He’s very uncommon when it comes to that part of his development at this point. You never know until you start coaching a guy where they are. Some guys physically have got to get better, or some guys mentally are a ways away. Some guys, it just doesn’t come as easy to them. It’s so much, especially at that position. It’s the hardest position out there, and he’s just been a natural.”
What makes Tate even more special is his versatility. Heading into 2021 Swinney has insisted the Tigers are intent on getting the five best players on the field and being able to play every position but one along the offensive line should give Tate even more opportunities to shine.
“He can play left tackle, he can play either guard, he can play right tackle,” Swinney said. “So, he can play four positions on our team, and that’s huge for us to not just go play him physically, but mentally he’s really gifted with how he can process things. So, going through the summer for him is going to be huge, getting down in the weight room. But he’s a real bright spot.”