A lot of people think Clemson might struggle this year on the offensive line, and they should. After all, the Tigers did lose four starters – Dustin Fry (center), Roman Fry (left guard), Nathan Bennett (right guard) and Marion Dukes (right tackle) – from the 2006 season that helped them rank in the top 10 nationally in rushing offense. But Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden and offensive line coach Brad Scott setup a plan three years ago that will help the Tigers combat the loss of a group that had 117 combined starts and more than 7,000 plays in their careers.
"We have gone out and recruited big, strong guys that are athletic and who we think can help our program grow in the direction that we want to go offensively," Scott said.
When Bowden first arrived at Clemson in 1999, he recruited offensive linemen that were athletic, but smaller than the prototypical offensive lineman. Those guys fit a style of offense in which Clemson tried to stretch the field with four or five wide receivers sets, using a fastbreak style that wore down opposing defenses with finesse and skill.
But thanks to a few rule changes, and defensive coaches adjusting to Bowden's tactics, Clemson was forced to make schematic changes, and when Scott became the offensive line coach at Clemson in 2004, he directed a plan that had the Tigers going after the bigger and more stronger offensive lineman that fit a system designed to run the football more traditionally.
Since that time, Scott has redshirted just about every offensive lineman that has signed with the Tigers. As a matter of fact, left tackle Barry Richardson is the only offensive lineman coached by Scott not to be redshirted heading into the spring.
"Generally, as a rule of thumb, offensive linemen need a year or two to adjust to the college game," Scott said. "A lot of times, they have to improve on their pass blocking skills because they came from a high school that did not pass the ball very much, plus odds are they have never seen defensive ends or tackles in high school with the speed that they are now seeing in college.
"They did not see many Gaines Adams and Ricky Sapp type pass rushers when they where in high school. I can promise you that."
Orangeburg-Wilkinson's Jamal Medlin is one of those guys who very rarely saw that. In high school, Medlin was the No. 14 player in the State of South Carolina according to The State (Columbia) newspaper. He was rated as the No.25 offensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com. He chose Clemson over Central Florida, Maryland, N.C. State, South Carolina and Virginia.
"Jamal is a young man who is extremely smart and that's one of his strengths," Scott said. "He is just so smart and he works real hard and those are two of the things I like about him and why I recruited him.
"You know, I didn't get to see him perform much on the field because he was on the scout team and I was working with the other guys, but when I recruited him it was obvious to me he was extremely talented and very skilled."
Scott said, like many freshmen linemen, Medlin needed his redshirt season to get stronger and improve on his pass blocking skills, while also learning the offense.
At 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, Medlin will get the opportunity this spring to be a tackle. Scott will like to see him become Richardson's backup at left tackle, so others can help fill the need at right tackle behind Christian Capote, who is expected to replace Dukes.
CUTigers outlook: Medlin will start the spring out at left tackle and Scott hopes to see him emerge as a solid backup to Richardson. Scott really likes his smarts and hopes that will be a skill he can use to his advantage on the football field. If things don't workout at tackle, then Medlin can very well be moved inside as a guard. Scott said because of his body type, he has the size to be productive at a guard spot too.
Tigers Hope Medlin Can Fill OT Need
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