CHARLOTTE—Offensive linemen carry a certain respect among their teammates, and rightfully so—as they possess, arguably, the most thankless job on the entire team.
They can play an entire season without hearing any of the cheers that come for their teammates—but let the lineman have one bad snap, one key holding call or some other unfortunate occurrence, and all of the sudden they are hearing their name called by the thousands of fans—for all of the wrong reasons.
The task for Clemson’s offensive line this season is to do their best to live up to the hype that has them currently ranked as ESPN’s No. 2 line in the country, and not hear their names called this season.
“I feel like this is definitely Clemson’s best offensive line, but whether or not people believe it or not—doesn’t matter to me,” Tyrone Crowder said. “Our job is just to be the very best that we can be and just grind this offseason and get ready for the season.”
The Clemson offensive line may end up being one of the best ever, as they return four starters from last season’s national championship winning team and the one new piece, redshirt junior center Justin Falcinelli, amassed seven knockdowns in 297 snaps over his 24-game career.
It is the veteran leadership that this season’s line possess that has Crowder confident that the Tigers can climb back up to the top of the mountain this season, because they understand what to expect.
“Just having been there before, just it brings a lot of experience, and we know what to expect,” Crowder said. “We have other guys like Mitch Hyatt, Taylor Hearn, and we just keep on going, and we take these younger guys under our wings.”
However, for Crowder, the art of being a leader was not something that came naturally to the redshirt senior guard. It was something that was learned by watching other leaders that have come through the program.
But even with the mantle now having been passed to him as the leader of the Tiger line, Crowder is going to do things his way.
“For me, it’s kind of hard to replace those guys (Eric Mac Lain and Jay Guillermo),” Crowder said. “Obviously Jay, he was a very vocal guy, very friendly guy. For me, I kind of lead by example, but I’m trying to step up to that role as being a more vocal leader, and I’m trying to transition to be a complete player.”
If Crowder is able to become a complete player this season it will go a long way toward the Tigers achieving the level of success that they have come to expect. But even so, he understands that without the likes of Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, Wayne Gallman, Jordan Leggett, Artavis Scott and Jay Guillermo questions will be asked about the offense’s ability to perform.
Nevertheless, Crowder is excited about what the future has for the Tigers’ offense, because they only recruit the best.
“Obviously, it’s hard to replace a guy like Deshaun, but we’ve got a group of core players who want to prove themselves that this is why they came here, to be that guy,” Crowder said. “Everybody has their own different roles, but we recruit the best in the country, and we’ve got players out there, and I’m just looking forward to seeing what they can do.”