Previewing the offensive line

CUTigers takes an in-depth look at what to expect from Clemson's veteran offensive line this spring.

WHO LEFT?
Chris Hairston, Wilson Norris, Ben Ramsey - Hairston anchored the offensive line from the left tackle spot last season and is essentially the only critical piece to the puzzle that needs to be replaced.

Projected as a mid-round 2011 draft pick, his loss can't be ignored.

Norris tore his ACL during spring practice in 2010 and missed the entire season that fall. He opted to move on from Clemson following his graduation. Ramsey, a former walk-on, wasn't listed in the two-deep depth chart.

THIS YEAR'S LINEUP
Tackle
Landon Walker (RS Sr.) - Walker started all 13 games in 2010 and played 805 snaps and has solidfied himself as the starter at right tackle.

Phillip Price (RS Sr.) - Price played in all 13 games last season and was credited with 98 snaps. A serviceable backup who understands his role.

Brandon Thomas (RS So.) - Thomas played 136 snaps in 10 games last season.

Tyler Fowler (RS So.) - Fowler, a former walk-on, played 26 snaps in three games in 2010.

Gifford Timothy (RS Fr.) - As a senior at Middletown High School (Dela.), Timothy selected Clemson over offers from Boise State, BYU, Maryland and Virginia.

Reid Webster (RS Fr.) - Webster played four different positions along the offensive line during his senior season at Etowah High School (Woodstock, Ga.)

Guard, Center
David Smith (RS Sr.) - Smith missed two games in 2010, but started the other 11. He played 560 snaps at left guard and left tackle.

Mason Cloy (RS Sr.) - Cloy played 356 snaps last season at left guard, right guard and center. Of the 12 games he played in, he started two of them.

Antoine McClain (Sr.) - Last season, McClain started all 13 games and played 704 snaps at right guard.

Dalton Freeman (RS Jr.) - Freeman was the starting center for all 13 games last season and he played 811 snaps. Hairston was the only other Tiger offensive lineman who played more.

David Beasley (RS Fr.) - As a senior at Carver High School (Columbus), Beasley recorded 70 pancake blocks.

Kalon Davis (RS Fr.) - Davis enrolled early at Clemson and impressed coaches during spring practice. He was sidelined with a back injury, which required surgery.

BEHIND THE SCENES
The arrival of new offensive coordinator Chad Morris spelled trouble for any Clemson offensive linemen who had visions of late night cheeseburgers and fries. The first-year coach employs a high octane offense that aims for more than 80 snaps a game. Bigger guys like McClain, Beasley, Davis and Fowler will have to pay extra-close attention to their diets and fitness levels if they're going to be able to hang with the rest of the group.

Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell has plenty of returning veterans for his first-year at Clemson.

Thomas, who's been tabbed as Hairston's heir apparent, should fit in nicely with Morris' system because of his athleticism. If he's unable to catch on as the starting left tackle, Smith can easily slide over as the starter, leaving the left guard spot as an option for Cloy.

Freeman and Walker have the center and right tackle positions nailed down, respectively.

McClain, of course, is expected to keep his starting right guard position, but it'll be interesting to see how he's able to hold up.

Cloy, who's probably the most physically fit of the offensive linemen, is projected to push McClain for first-team reps.

Of the freshmen that are likely to play the most, it's Webster. Like most of the linemen do, he'll cross-train at guard and tackle. Though he was signed as a tackle, his greatest upside could be at guard. Back during his recruitment, he was aware that guard could be his future position. We could get a better sense of that coming out of this spring.

Fowler could also play guard, but he could end up pushing for time as the fourth tackle, behind Price.

STORYLINES WORTH FOLLOWING
1. Getting the big boys slimmed down and in good enough shape for Morris' offense. What will that transition be like?

2. Replacing Hairston with Brandon Thomas. Or will it be David Smith?

3. How Robbie Caldwell impacts the offensive line.

4. The progression of the freshmen since their arrival to campus.

5. The fourth guard, who's it going to be?

BOLD PREDICTION
Cloy will be listed as a starter on the depth chart at one of the two guard positions after spring practice is over.

PROJECTED POST-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Left Tackle
1. Brandon Thomas
2. Phillip Price

Left Guard
1. David Smith
2. Reid Webster

Center
1. Dalton Freeman
2. Mason Cloy

Right Guard
1. Mason Cloy
2. Antoine McClain

Right Tackle
1. Landon Walker
2. Phillip Price


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