Spring practice is set to start next week, and the offensive line will be one area that gets a lot of attention, most notably at center.
Clemson knows what it has on the outside with fifth-year senior Jordan McFadden set to return at LT and junior Walker Parks back at RT.
Senior Will Putnam also returns at RG and sophomore Marcus Tate, who saw a ton of action at LG, is also back, giving new offensive line coach Thomas Austin plenty of experience at those four spots.
The Tigers should also have some quality depth at tackle and guard. Dietrick Pennington, who is a mountain of a man, is hopefully back and fully healthy. Tristan Leigh, the former 5-star, had a redshirt season to acclimate and develop physically.
Both freshmen, Blake Miller and Collin Sadler, enrolled early and could easily find themselves in the two-deep and you also still have guys like Mitchell Mayes, Bryn Tucker and John Williams all battling for more playing time.
However, center is a little bit of an unknown at this point. With Hunter Rayburn no longer able to play after being forced to retire, and the questions surrounding the status of Mason Trotter, Clemson has little to no experience at the position and very little depth.
Ryan Linthicum is coming off a redshirt season. Despite being the No. 1 center in the country coming out of high school, he just wasn’t ready and it’s extremely possible he still isn’t. This is why we have already seen the coaching staff scouring the portal looking for a center, even before Rayburn’s status became known.
Center is an extremely hard position to learn, and as seen in 2021, it isn’t just as easy as sliding a player over from guard, as Matt Bockhorst struggled mightily starting the first few games at center last season.
Linthicum is likely to get a lot of work during the spring, and is no doubt the future at the position. The question remains, though, is that future now or still a year away. Trent Howard will also get an opportunity.
Having said all that, it is highly likely that next season’s starting center isn’t on the roster at this point. The coaches do, however, have the luxury of going through the spring, seeing what they have, then re-evaluating. That’s what the spring is for.
Any player brought in right now could not enroll until summer anyways, not to mention, there are very few centers currently in the portal capable of coming in and starting at Clemson. It should make for an interesting spring and summer.
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