Tigers feeling good about center position

CLEMSON - There is one thing that will definitely not happen at Clemson next spring - football players will not be allowed to take a class on Saturdays.

Twice during spring practice, several players missed scrimmage snaps because they had to take a class that just happened to be going on at the same time.

Clemson offensive guards and centers coach Brad Scott said he counted 115 snaps redshirt sophomore Mason Cloy missed at center in those scrimmages. That's not exactly what Scott had in mind for a player and a position that needed a lot of work in the spring.

But there was a silver lining in all of this. Had Cloy not taken that class, then it's unlikely the coaches would have been able to see the improvement of Dalton Freeman at center. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound redshirt freshman filled in so nicely, the coaches almost didn't notice Cloy's absence.

In fact, Freeman did such a good job filling in; he opened up a battle for the starting position at center and will enter the spring just a shade behind Cloy for the starting job.

"Dalton took advantage of some of that," Scott said recently. "Dalton gives you a guy with a lot of quickness and gives you a guy with a nice body in there with nice long arms and all."

Freeman's move up the depth chart at center was a blessing for a Clemson team that last year struggled to find any continuity at the position once Thomas Austin moved over to left guard halfway through the season.

Now with Cloy penciled in as the starter and Freeman not far behind, it appears for the first time since the Tigers had Dustin Fry in 2006 they are pretty stable at center.

"I thought it was important that we develop two solid centers and I wanted them to get all of those reps," Scott said. "Centers kind of quarterback the offensive line. He has to make all the calls, set all the blocking schemes, and make all the points and the protections.

"We didn't want to give (Freeman) too much too soon, but right now this allows us to have the luxury of having five guys that have the ability to play center. Usually you don't have that on a football team, and not that we will work five, but Austin has a background at playing center, Barry Humphries will be back and will have that opportunity, Cloy, Freeman and then Ben Ramsey."

And that depth should allow Clemson too survive should the same kind of injuries that decimated the offensive line last year occur again.

"(Ramsey) is a very solid backup center-guard combination in there," Scott said. "I think we have more depth here than we've had in the last couples of years."

And that, along with a little more experience at every offensive line position, should help Clemson improve on last year's 111.5 yards rushing average and 34 allowed sacks.

CUTigers.com Top Stories