Left Offensive Tackle
Up First: Brandon Thomas, 6-3, 300, redshirt junior
For what seemed like a long time, Clemson’s coaches pushed and challenged and nothing happened. Then, something clicked. Forced onto the field early last season by injuries to others, Thomas – long touted for his athleticism and strength – responded in a big way.
He played mostly at the left guard spot last season, but got his feet wet at the left tackle spot, as well, due to Phillip Price’s late-season knee injury. He started out spring practice at guard, but was quickly moved to tackle as the coaches shuffled the deck to get their best five on the field together.
Thomas, after playing just four snaps in the Tigers’ first two games last fall, played a season-high 89 snaps in the third game against Auburn and finished the season with 777 snaps and 10 starts. He ranked third on the team in knockdown blocks with 39. Out of Dorman High School (Spartanburg, S.C.), he was rated among the top 15 offensive tackles in the nation by both Rivals and Scout.
Next In Line: Isaiah Battle, 6-7, 265, first-year freshman and Shaq Anthony, 6-4, 275, redshirt freshman
With the competition apparently too close to call, the coaching staff lists both Battle and Anthony in the No. 2 position on the depth chart at left tackle.
Battle signed with the Tigers in 2011 and then spent the fall at Fork Union Military, where he was rated as the No. 5 prep school prospect in the nation by Rivals. He enrolled in January. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, he played his high school football at the Blue Ridge School in Virginia.
Anthony is a local product out of Wren High (Williamston, S.C.) whose dad, Vernie, played on Clemson’s 1981 national championship team as a backup to William Perry. In high school he was a first-team all-state performer and U.S. Army All-America nominee.
Both Battle and Anthony showed flashes throughout the spring, and both should get chances to play, and continue their development, over the course of the 2012 season.
In The Pipeline: Oliver Jones, 6-6, 320, first-year freshman
Jones is one of four early-enrolling offensive linemen, along with Battle, Patrick Destefano and Jay Guillermo. Ranked as the nation’s No. 58 offensive tackle by Scout, he was honored as the Class A Upper-State lineman of the year and was a Shrine Bowl selection out of Ninety Six (S.C.) High.
Walk-On Offensive Linemen: Jim Brown, FR, Walterboro, S.C.; Harrison Tucker, FR, Ninety Six, S.C.; Darrell Brevard, JR, Rock Hill, SC; Cody Thurlow, SO, Central, S.C.
Overall Outlook: Excellent. The coaches have the players they want at the left tackle spot. And while Thomas gives the Tigers their best option now, both Battle and Anthony have a chance to improve the overall offensive line in a big way if they can push Thomas and demand playing time. Thomas’ versatility in being able to play either left-side position gives coach Robbie Caldwell options.