Trench warfare

Dabo Swinney likes the makeup of both his offensive and defensive lines, probably more so than he has before the start of any season.

The return of seven starting linemen, along with the addition of a few new faces on Wednesday, Swinney sees plenty to be excited about when evaluating next season's fronts.

"I think we'll, probably, be as good in the trenches as we've been in a long time," Swinney said. "It's probably going to be the first time -- up front -- that we have the correct combination of talent, depth and experience.

"To me, that's the most exciting thing. We've still got a lot of youth. We're not going to have any seniors on the defensive line next year -- zero. We're not going to have many juniors. So I'm excited about that."

Malliciah Goodman is the only departed starter from the defensive line. The returning defensive ends are Martin Aiken, Tavaris Barnes, Victor Beasley, Roderick Byers, Corey Crawford and Kevin Dodd.

Clemson has already added early enrollees Ebenezer Ogundeko and Shaquille Lawson to the fold, and at least one more end -- Dane Rogers -- will sign on Wednesday. Four-star Carl Lawson is considering the Tigers.

Grady Jarrett, D.J. Reader, Tra Thomas, Carlos Watkins, Josh Watson and DeShawn Williams are all back at defensive tackle.

Scott Pagano will make his commitment official with a signed letter of intent on Wednesday. Five-star Montravius Adams could send his in, too.

On the offensive

"We're only going to have two seniors on the offensive line," Swinney said.

Maverick Morris has been committed to Clemson since June.
Four-year starter Dalton Freeman will relinquish his center job, likely to Ryan Norton. Jay Guillermo will also contend for playing time.

Headlining the returning guards are starters Tyler Shatley [senior] and David Beasley. Reserves Kalon Davis, Reid Webster, Spencer Region, Patrick Destefano and Jerome Maybank also return.

Starting tackles Brandon Thomas [senior] and Gifford Timothy are back. So are Isaiah Battle, Joe Gore, Eric MacLain and Shaq Anthony.

Maverick Morris will sign on Wednesday. Tyrone Crowder is expected to as well.

"Just another year, another offseason, another spring for Kalon Davis, Ryan Norton and Eric MacLain. We've got DeStefano, Guillermo -- we've got a lot of young players that I'm excited about that I think are going to be even better," Swinney said.

Chief among that promising group of young players along the offensive line is Battle.

"It's going to be even better, taking a guy like Isaiah Battle -- go beat LSU with him playing left tackle as a true freshman. He's just going to grow immensely from that," Swinney said.

Evaluating the past and future

Competition, on both sides of the trench, will be ratcheted up when spring practice opens next month.

"We had more competition on the defensive line [in 2012], all those freshman and sophomores -- it was very competitive," Swinney said. "We were able to play a lot of guys. That was one of the things that helped us win 11 games.

"Offensive line-wise, we didn't quite have that…had a pretty good first group, a couple of guys, then there was a big drop -- not talent, just dependability. So I think that's going to close tremendously, that gap.

"I think we'll have a lot of competition in the offensive line. We're already going to have it in the defensive line." Top Stories