Looking ahead, position-by-position: offensive line

With four of five starters returning, Tigers' offensive front looking to dominate

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd fades back to pass near left tackle Brandon Thomas during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd fades back to pass near left tackle Brandon Thomas during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

Looking ahead, position-by-position: offensive line

No. 1 question: Can the Tigers' front five continue to improve, developing into a dominant unit in 2013?

Depth chart: The 2012 Tigers had their moments - good ones for the most part. Clemson's offensive front did its job in providing the foundation for a record-breaking attack, and four of five starters will return for 2013 - left tackle Brandon Thomas, left guard David Beasley, right guard Tyler Shatley and right tackle Gifford Timothy. The only departure is a major one, though - three-time Rimington Award finalist Dalton Freeman at center. Fortunately, Clemson invested heavily in playing time for rising sophomore Ryan Norton throughout the fall, playing him both at center and guard.

It's somewhat difficult to gauge Clemson's development of true working depth at the other positions, simply because offensive coordinator prefers to go with an offensive line unit and stay with it. Shaq Anthony jumped into the mix at the beginning of the season, and filled in satisfactorily when Timothy was injured early. Anthony, however, was academically ineligible for the bowl game, and his status for the run-up to the 2013 is uncertain. When Timothy was injured again against LSU, coach Robbie Caldwell tried to plug Joe Gore in at right tackle, but Gore found himself overwhelmed, and so Thomas moved to right tackle and Isaiah Battle took over at left tackle. Battle, considered to be a player of great potential by the Clemson coaching staff, appeared to give a good account of himself. At the guard spots, Kalon Davis - who was beaten out for a starting job by Beasley last August - and Reid Webster got backup snaps, while Spencer Region got his feet wet.

Former tight end Eric Mac Lain will be in the mix this spring, and the offensive line group will be bolstered by the addition of redshirt freshmen Jay Guillermo, Oliver Jones and Patrick Destefano. Also helping out will be walk-ons Cody Thurlow (Central, S.C.), Scott Wilson (Woodstock, Ga.) and Darrell Brevard (Rock Hill, S.C.).

Recruiting prospects: The Tigers have one offensive lineman committed for the class of 2013 - Maverick Morris of Coffee County, Ga. - and are still pursuing highly-rated Tyrone Crowder of Rockingham, N.C., who will choose between Clemson and Georgia. For 2014, players high on Clemson's wish list include Donnell Stanley (6-5, 310) of Latta, S.C., Bentley Spain (6-6, 295) of Charlotte, N.C., Steven Moss (6-4, 270) of Fredericksburg, Va., Taylor Hearn (6-5, 305) of Williston, S.C., Mason Cole (6-5, 275) of Tarpon Springs, Fla., Damian Prince (6-7, 310) of Forestville, Md., and Orlando Brown (6-9, 340) of Duluth, Ga.

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