CLEMSON — One of the most overlooked groups on an offense that is expected by many to be one of the greatest, not only in Clemson history, but the history of college football is the offensive line.
While in this group of "big uglies" names are often unknown, unless there is a bad snap or a blown blocking assignment, for offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell, the challenge this year will be even greater, as the players will be without the services of four-year starter at left tackle Mitch Hyatt, who recorded school records in career snaps (3,754) and career starts (57).
"Well, I'm (going to) tell you, you get awful spoiled. (With) Mitch Hyatt, you didn't have to worry," Caldwell said. "You know he was on the best player most of the time — never was a concern — because I knew what you're going to get from him every play. It was such a joy. He never, never said a word. If he asked a question, you knew he had something he wanted to get answered because he was very attentive. He knew what was going on. Learn, very competitive, loved to compete, so that's a great question. It's going to be different.
"It's going to be fun trying to place that continuity, replace It. I hope we can."
Despite losing the most experienced player in Clemson football history, Caldwell returns an offensive line whose extensive experience will be matched by its versatility. The unit, which was a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award, welcomes back three All-ACC performers among nine returning linemen who played at least 100 snaps a season ago.
The job of replacing a four-year starter with the pedigree of Hyatt appears to be falling to sophomore Jackson Carman.
While Carman, a former five-star recruit from the state of Ohio, may be the logical choice for many to take over the starting left tackle job, for Caldwell, it is not quite a done deal.
"Well, I think you got it a little bit wrong," Caldwell said "You're saying his position. It ain't his position. It's up for competition. Right now, he is the lead dog, but we have another young man named Jordan McFadden, and we got a young man named Tremayne Anchrum that could easily flip over there.
"We got a lot of versatility. But yes, we don't talk about what others have done, talk about what you can do. That's what I've been talking to Jackson and Jordan and Treymane (about), all those guys. John Simpson also played some left tackle and did it pretty well. It's going to be an interesting competition. That's one thing I like about Coach Swinney, ain't nothing set in stone. Start all over. You got to earn your keep."
If Carman wants to step in and take over the job of protecting the blind-side of the player pegged by many to take home the Heisman Trophy — quarterback Trevor Lawrence — he will not do so because of his ability, of which he has plenty, but because of his consistency.
"The biggest thing for Jackson is just being consistent," co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. "I think we all know how talented Jackson is, both physically and mentally. I don't think that many people understand how smart Jackson is, so his the ability to pick up the system in the offense is not an issue. The biggest thing for him is just being consistent, make sure that he manages his body, keep his body at the right weight so then you can play and can be in the best condition, and then not try to do too much. Don't try to be Mitch, just be Jackson.
"That's what he needs to do. Just be Jackson. Take coaching every single day and continue to work on the little things, and then everything will come into play."