To say that the 2021 offensive line did not meet expectations would be an understatement.
This unit was dismantled right out the gate against a ferocious Georgia defensive front. They were bested both from a physical standpoint and a mental one, with players clearly being out of position or not being aware of who they should be blocking at times.
Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei took a beating as a result and the Clemson offense was held to just one field goal all game. The running game was stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey. The poor play continued throughout the first three quarters of the season.
Eventually, the offensive line would fight their way out of the funk and start to gel. It wasn’t until the last quarter of the season that they did so, but when it finally happened, it kick-started Clemson’s offense, particularly in the running game.
Clemson was literally able to run all over the ACC Coastal Division Champs Wake Forest and their arch rival the South Carolina Gamecocks. Will Shipley, Kobe Pace, and Phil Mafah became the three-headed monster running machine that Clemson sorely needed. Looking ahead to the 2022 regular season, Clemson’s offensive line unit looks to be the most improved offensive unit on the team from the previous year.
Clemson likes to keep 15 scholarship players on the roster. Let’s take a sneak peak at what the 2022 roster will look like.
Jordan McFadden: To put it simply, he was by far the best offensive lineman on the team in 2021. There was even chatter of him foregoing his senior season to make an NFL roster, but he looks to be returning for the 2022 season. That bodes well for Clemson.
William Putnam: Putnam was steady thought the 2021 season. He, along with most of the group, did miss time due to injury. He was a mainstay at RG and likely starter going into the next season.
Walker Parks: Started at RT during the 2021 season. Will most likely start for Clemson next season in what could be his breakout year.
Hunter Rayburn: Clemson was hoping Rayburn would be the starting center for the 2021 campaign, but he wasn’t quite ready. There was plenty of shuffling at center throughout the year, as this was the position in which Clemson struggled the most regarding offensive line.
Mason Trotter: Trotter found plenty of playing time but still needs to put on a little weight. Trotter had a long way to go from high school to be ready to play at this level, but he is knocking on the door to being his ideal size.
Mitchell Mayes: Mayes looks poised to be one of the players in the group who will log much more playing time next year. He is physically ready but just starting to master the nuisances of the position.
Bryn Tucker, Trent Howard, John Williams: Most of these guys will likely find themselves listed behind the starters on the depth chart, but will get expanded playing time. With a full season under their belt they should be ready to see more action and provide much needed depth.
Tristan Leigh, Ryan Lithicum, Deitrick Pennington, Marcus Tate, Collin Sadler, Blake Miller: This group has tremendous potential with Leigh being one of the top rated tackles in the country per recruiting analysts and Linthicum being a former No. 1 center. Every single one of these guys are former blue chip prospects.
In closing, Clemson has more talent, according to the recruiting sources, then they have ever had entering the 2022 season. There is no reason at all for them to not be able and make the 2021 season a distant memory next year.
Barring injuries, this should be one of the best offensive lines in the Dabo Swinney era. The outlook on the 2022 season is very bright. Clemson could look to add a player via the transfer portal if the right opportunity presents itself, but outside that this is a very talented and, after this year, experienced group who should be one of the strengths of next year’s team.
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