There is a perception among some Clemson fans, perhaps widely held, that the Tigers have concentrated on signing elite offensive skill players at the expense of the 'big nasties' in the trenches, and that the commitment the coaches received last week from five-star tackle Mitch Hyatt was a breakthrough.
Not true, says Dabo Swinney, who contends that the offensive line has been anything but neglected during his run as head coach.
"I totally disagree with that," said Swinney when asked about the perception of skill-heavy recruiting during his signing day press conference. "I'd like to say that we've set about every record in history the past three years, and you don't do that without some offensive linemen getting their job done. I think those guys deserve a little credit."
Swinney reeled off a list of current and past Tiger offensive linemen who he said "are just what we're looking for."
"Just look at the guys we've had come out of here and who are here now," he said. " Ryan Norton? What a player. He's exactly what we needed. Jay Guillermo - on his way. Eric Mac Lain - on his way, even though he was signed as a tight end, he's developing into exactly what we want. Joe Gore is a tremendous talent, we just need him to take that next step. Isaiah Battle is going to be a first-round draft pick one day if we can keep him heading in the right direction.
Swinney said he believes the Tigers "hit a home run" with the four offensive linemen brought in during the past two recruiting cycles - Tyrone Crowder and Maverick Morris in 2013, and Taylor Hearn and Justin Falcinelli this year.
"Taylor Hearn and Justin Falcinelli - and I mean this in the right way - are dirt bags," Swinney said. "Those guys are what you want. Tyrone Crowder is going to be a great player, and we love Maverick Morris."
Swinney said the Tigers' depth and class-to-class continuity has been affected by injuries that cut short the careers of tackles Gifford Timothy and Patrick DeStefano.
"Tackle will be the biggest need for us next year as we go out and recruit," he said. "We lost two tackles off-cycle in Giff Timothy, who had another year and who can't play any more, and Patrick, who had three more years. That's really hurt us, depth-wise. I like the guys we have on campus, but we've got to go sign some tackles (in 2015)."
Swinney pointed out that the Tigers' offensive success has come behind a line with few senior players.
"We haven't had a lot of seniors over the past few years," he said. "Dalton Freeman was the only one last year, and he's in the NFL. They usually don't give those jobs away. This year, I think Brandon and Tyler will both make it, and then next year, again we'll only have two senior starters. Kalon Davis and David Beasley both have the ability to play on the next level, if that's the measure of a good offensive lineman.
"Shaq Anthony has really come on, and we feel really good about Battle and the step he took this year. It's going to be a big spring for Mac Lain and Gore, who we need to take that kind of step for us, to solidify our two-deep."