Back at tackle, Clemmings must ‘learn fast’

T.J. Clemmings is back at his more natural position, but is he disappointed to be out of the running for a starting spot?

When the Minnesota Vikings drafted T.J. Clemmings in the fourth round this year, the Vikings thought he might be a front runner to fill the vacant guard spot after the team parted ways with Charlie Johnson. And when organized team activities began, it was Clemmings who was the starting right guard.

Once minicamp came along, however, it was no longer Clemmings playing guard. Instead, it was another rookie, sixth-round pick Tyrus Thompson, playing between John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt. Many people just felt this was the coaching staff doing their due diligence and still considered Clemmings as the favorite heading into training camp.

During the first day of training camp, Clemmings was working at right tackle with the second team and it was Mike Harris filling the first-team right guard spot. Head coach Mike Zimmer announced they though Clemmings was a better fit at tackle and he would stay there, at least for now.

Even though Clemmings is no longer competing for a starting job, he isn’t disappointed. Instead, he is focused on improving his game because he knows he will eventually get his chance to start for the Vikings.

“No, nothing to be disappointed about,” he said. “Just staying ready. An opportunity may present itself again where I might need to go back inside at guard, so if and when the time comes, just make sure I’m ready and be able to fill the role.”

In reality, moving Clemmings back to tackle could be a smart move by the coaching staff. Even though he was one of the most talented right tackles in last year’s draft, he had only been playing the position for two years. Before that he was on the defensive side of the ball.

So moving him back to his more natural position will help him continue to develop, instead of once again trying to have him learn a new position.

“I would assume because it’s my natural position; I couldn’t tell you what coaches talk about in their meetings,” he said with a laugh. “I would assume because I am more natural at the tackle position.”

The rookie understands that he is still very inexperienced and is trying to pick up on the different techniques that the coaching staff is teaching him. But he also knows that he needs to learn these techniques as quickly as possible because the regular season will be upon them in no time and there is no telling when or if he will need to fill in along the offensive line.

“Still learning, but I got to learn fast,” he said. “There’s not a lot of time to take it slow at this point.”

Clemmings has been taking some first-team snaps early in training camp to help give Phil Loadholt some rest as he continues to recover from a torn pectoral muscle. But as camp continues along and the regular season approaches, he will likely be placed in more of a backup role to continue his development.

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