As good a gauge as any of the improving quality of Clemson's offensive line is that Jay Guillermo hasn't cracked the Tigers' starting lineup yet.
A rising redshirt sophomore now in his third spring practice with the Tigers, Guillermo is working his way into a clear leadership role in Clemson's offensive line room, even as he battles with Ryan Norton for the starting center position and filling in capably at both right and left guard spots.
"I'm trying to be more of a vocal leader," said Guillermo after a recent practice. "I'm just jumping in wherever they need me. I'm playing a little bit more guard, left and right, competing and getting better."
The 6-3, 305-pound Guillermo arrived at Clemson with impressive credentials, ranked as the nation's No. 1 center prospect and as the No. 1 overall player in the state of Tennessee.
Jay Guillermo working on leadership
A long-time Tiger fan, Guillermo chose Clemson as his 'dream school' in part because of trips he made to Death Valley as a child in the company of his grandfather, Ron Greene, a successful head coach at Burns High in Lawndale, N.C.
Greene still keeps an eye on Jay, helping him refine his technique as an offensive lineman.
"He really helps me a lot," Guillermo said. "He'll stay after practice and we'll look at film. He helps me a lot with my technique. He's been around football for nearly 40 years, coaching, in addition to him playing in college and everything."
Guillermo finds his skills being honed by day-to-day competition on the Clemson practice field.
"It's been nice to be able to go up against a guy like Grady Jarrett every day - special," Guillermo said. "There's about 10 of us, first and second team (offensive line). The more we compete, the more we get better.
"With the culture we have here on this team that Coach Swinney has created, we don't really recruit guys (who give less than 100 percent effort). But with the talent we have here, the offense is going against a top-10 defense and the defense is going against a top-10 offense. Unless you want to get embarrassed, you can't help but go 100 percent."
Guillermo says the next step in his development is improving the use of his hands.
"Sometimes I let guys get too much into my chest because I've not used my hands like I should," he said. "It's being more consistent with my hands, I guess - not having to think about them and be aware of them. I'm just doing it more naturally."