Sizing up the ACC: Veteran Tigers' o-line has depth, talent

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.

Measuring o-line strength is no exact science, but as with any position, there are a few indicators.

Who's keeping their QB upright? Well, Clemson could stand to be a bit better than the last couple years.

Firing the second-most passes in the ACC (999), the Tigers finished 85th nationally in sacks allowed both in 2011 (2.36 per game) and 2012 (2.38).

ACC’s best in sacks allowed per game – 2011/2012

1) Georgia Tech – 1 (15th nationally/167 pass attempts)/1 (13th/194)

2) Virginia Tech – 1.21 (22th/405)/1.92 (60th/437)

3) Miami – 1.58 (43th/339)/1.5 (41st/447)

T- 4) Duke – 1.58 (43rd/493)/1.46 (35th/551)

T-4) UNC – 2.08 (68th/371)/0.92 (9th/441)

I included the pass attempts in mostly for Georgia Tech’s sake, as their numbers are skewed by the lack of passes. Half of the group outside of Tech (Duke/Miami) returns four-plus starters, while the Hokies and Tar Heels return three or less.

Which o-line units are veteran-led? Clemson checks in right in the middle here.

They are one of seven teams returning four or more starters and exactly in seventh in career starts (64).

Top-Five Most Experienced O-lines (in starts)

1) Duke – 113 starts

2) Georgia Tech – 105 starts

3) Florida State – 96 starts

4) Miami – 93 starts

5) Virginia – 81 starts

The last couple seasons we’ve also looked at the correlation to average o-line size (weight) and success, which didn’t prove to be much in 2011, but did a little better last season.

Taking out two in the top-six that were riddled with injuries (Wake Forest/N.C. State), the other four in the top half (Miami/UNC/FSU/Clemson/Virginia) averaged a 28th-best ranking in total offense nationally and made up four of the top-five in the ACC.

Top-Five Biggest Projected O-lines

1) Miami – 319.2 lbs.

2) Florida State – 316 lbs.

3) N.C. State – 312 lbs.

4) UNC – 308 lbs.

5) Pittsburgh – 304 lbs.

(10. Clemson – 299 lbs.)

On the low end, incoming Syracuse checks in last at sub-290 (289.4). Among regularly top-tier offenses, Georgia Tech again is the outlier here as they need smaller lineman (293.4) for the specialized run-centered attack.

Speaking of rush offense, the o-line opens the holes in the running game so it deserves to be factored in at some level here.

Top-Five 2012 ACC Rushing Offenses

1) Georgia Tech – 311.21 yards per game (4th nationally)

2) Florida State – 206.21 YPG (24th)

3) UNC – 193.83 YPG (33rd)

4) Clemson – 191.08 YPG (36th)

(Big gap…)

5) Virginia Tech – 145.85 YPG (79th)

Projecting the ACC O-lines

(If you haven’t been around with us before, the rankings are based on production/field impact – not a straight measure of their abilities like a NFL draft board. We’re looking at not only the player’s ability, but the surrounding cast that can help him get the W's and numbers.)

1) Miami

Returning Starters (5): – RT Seantrel Henderson (7 2012 starts), RG Brandon Linder (12), LG Jon Feliciano (12), LT C Shane McDermott (12).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 319 lbs.

2012 sacks allowed per game (national rank/pass attempts)/rush offense rank 1.5 (41st/447)/81st.

2) Florida State

Returning Starters (4): – RG Tre’ Jackson (14), LG Josue Matias (14), LT Cameron Erving (14), C Bryan Stork (13).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 316 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR 1.86 (59th/428)/24th.

3) Georgia Tech

Returning Starters (4): – RT Morgan Bailey (7), LG Shaquille Mason (12), LT Ray Beno (14), C Jay Finch (14).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 293.4 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR 1 (13th/194)/4th.

4) Duke

Returning Starters (4): – RT Perry Simmons (13), RG Laken Tomlinson (13), LG Dave Harding (13), LT Takoby Cofield (13).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 300 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR 1.46 (35th/551)/98th.

5) Clemson

Returning Starters (4): – RT Gifford Timothy (11), RG Tyler Shatley (13), LG David Beasley (12), LT Brandon Thomas (13).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 299 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR 2.38 (85th/474)/36th.

Outlook: Two spots to watch most here are at tackle and center. Sophomore Ryan Norton takes over center from four-year starter Dalton Freeman with 277 snaps under his belt. Redshirt freshman Jay Guillermo, rated as high as a four-star out of high school, is waiting in the wings if Norton can’t do the job. All eyes are also on sophomore tackle Isaiah Battle (6-6 280), who showed what he can do on the edge in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. If he assumes a tackle spot, the Tigers’ depth improves and the versatile senior Brandon Thomas can move around as needed. Historically, Clemson has won 76 percent of its games with at least four returning starters on the o-line.

6) Virginia

Returning Starters (4): – RG Sean Cascarano (12)/Conner Davis (11), LG Luke Bowanko (12), LT Morgan Moses (11).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 297 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR 2.08 (71st/474)/96th.

7) UNC

Returning Starters (2): – C Russell Bodine (12), LT James Hurst (11).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 308 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR .92 (9th/441)/33rd.

8) Syracuse

Returning Starters (3): – LG Rob Trudo (9), LT Sean Hickey (13), C Macky MacPherson (13).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 289.4 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR 1.23 (22nd/473)/40th.

9) Boston College

Returning Starters (3): – RG Ian White (9), LG Bobby Vardaro (12), C Andy Gallik (12).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 299.6 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR 3 (106th/473)/115th.

10) Pittsburgh

Returning Starters (3): – RG Matt Rotheram (13)/RG Ryan Schlieper (8), LG Cory King (13).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 304 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR 2.92 (102nd/489)/92nd.

11) Virginia Tech

Returning Starters (3): – RG Brent Benedict (6), LG David Wang (10), Andrew Miller (7).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 300.4 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR 1.92 (60th/437)/79th.

12) Wake Forest

Returning Starters (4): – RT Colin Summers (11) RG Frank Souza (11), LG Antonio Ford (6), C Whit Barnes (6).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 303 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR 2.25 (81st/427)/113th.

13) N.C. State

Returning Starters (2): – RT Tyson Chandler (12), LT Rob Crisp (8).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 312 lbs.

2012 SA (NR/PA)/RO NR 3 (106th/569)/108th.

14) Maryland

Returning Starters (3): – RG De’Onte Arnett (9), LT Mike Madaras (8), C Sal Conaboy (9).

Projected starting five avg. weight: 295 lbs.

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