Sizing up the ACC: Tiger o-line in transition, aiming for next level

Clemson spring football game - Reid Webster (77), Kalon Davis & Isaiah Battle

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson spring football game - Reid Webster (77), Kalon Davis & Isaiah Battle

It’s the frustration/hope most every season among Tiger fans.

Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd sell the jerseys (I mean… No. 2 and No. 10 rather) – Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony get Death Valley rocking on third down.

But the Clemson faithful – especially those raised on the Danny Ford days – gaze longingly at what programs like Alabama have been able to build on the o-line.

Under Robbie Caldwell’s direction, the Tigers have made strides – and the future appears bright with the 2015 class made up of some of the nation’s highest-rated big uglies, but where are they now?

Measuring o-line effectiveness isn’t all the “eye test.”

Two handy Football Outsiders’ stats are adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate.

Adjusted line yards assigns a grade of sorts to the o-line on rushes based on a scale starting with lost yards-to-0 yards (120 percent for TFL; 100 percent for 0-4 yards; 50 percent for 5-10 yards).

Here’s the top-five comparison for rushing yards per game versus adjusted line yards…

2013 rushing leaders

1. Georgia Tech – 299.3 YPG

2. Boston College – 208.7 YPG

3. Florida State – 203.1

4. Syracuse – 195.3

5. Duke – 178

(6. Clemson – 175.6)

2013 adjusted line yards leaders

1. Miami – 116.8 (10th nationally)

2. Georgia Tech – 114.5 (12th)

3. Florida State – 113.1 (16th)

4. Duke – 112.6 (20th)

5. Clemson – 112.1 (21st)

You see the difference between volume and efficiency, as BC and Syracuse were among the ACC’s leaders in carries, but both finished outside top-25 nationally in ALY. Miami was eighth in the league in rushing, but they were efficient despite largely abandoning the run after Duke Johnson’s injury (ankle, eight games in).

Sacks allowed is a pretty useless stat on its own. Some teams throw it much more often than others, making an apples-to-apples comparison hard 1-120+ in college football or 1-14 in the ACC.

But when you adjust it for a variety of factors, the picture does become a little clearer on pass protection…

2013 sacks allowed per game

1. Georgia Tech – 1.08

2. Duke – 1.21

3. Miami – 1.31

4. Syracuse – 1.39

5. North Carolina – 1.67

(13. Clemson – 2.62)

2013 adjusted sack rate

1. North Carolina – 172.4 (10th nationally)

2. Miami – 166.6 (11th)

3. Duke – 166.2 (12th)

4. Virginia – 143.6 (23rd)

5. Syracuse – 136.1 (32nd)

(8. Clemson – 107.1, 60th)

Obviously, Georgia Tech and its flexbone attack doesn’t fare as well in stat two (52nd in adj. sack rate). A more pass-happy team like the Tigers fares better, though they couldn’t certainly improve from 80th nationally.

A look at the ACC o-line experience and track records, led by the Seminoles and their two All-ACC first-teamers returning.

Projecting the ACC Offensive 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.)

Tier 1

1) Florida State

Career starts: 114; 2013 adj. line yards rank: 16 (2012: 13); 2013 adj. sack rate rank: 68 (2012: 87).

Tier 2

2) Miami

Career starts: 74; 2013 adj. line yards rank: 24 (2012: 13); 2013 adj. sack rate rank: 25 (2012: 87).

3) Duke

Career starts: 74; 2013 adj. line yards rank: 24 (2012: 18); 2013 adj. sack rate rank: 25 (2012: 9).

4) Louisville

Career starts: 115; 2013 adj. line yards rank: 33 (2012: 79); 2013 adj. sack rate rank: 62 (2012: 62).

5) Syracuse

Career starts: 78; 2013 adj. line yards rank: 27 (2012: 10); 2013 adj. sack rate rank: 32 (2012: 13).

6) Clemson

Career starts: 49; 2013 adj. line yards rank: 21 (2012: 26); 2013 adj. sack rate rank: 60 (2012: 72).

Projected starters: LT Isaiah Battle (6-7 275) – LG David Beasley (6-4 320) – C Ryan Norton (6-3 280) – RG Kalon Davis (6-5 340) – RT Joe Gore (6-5 300)/Shaq Anthony (6-5 300).

Outlook: The makeup of the Tigers’ 2014 offensive line is intriguing, losing stalwart left tackle Brandon Thomas and right guard Tyler Shatley. That’s the summer depth chart starters above, but after the heavy rotations this spring, that group shifting dramatically before Aug. 30 wouldn't be surprising at all. Two backups to watch are Jay Guillermo (center, 6-3 315) and Eric Mac Lain (left guard, 6-4 295), who’ll have a chance to emerge as starter at their position or another. Kalon Davis is another who seems like a fit for right tackle, where Gore and Anthony will get the first crack at it.

7) North Carolina

Career starts: 43; 2013 adj. line yards rank: 52 (2012: 45); 2013 adj. sack rate rank: 10 (2012: 15).

Tier 3

8) Virginia Tech

Career starts: 73; 2013 adj. line yards rank: 109 (2012: 106); 2013 adj. sack rate rank: 79 (2012: 68).

9) Virginia

Career starts: 49; 2013 adj. line yards rank: 90 (2012: 95); 2013 adj. sack rate rank: 23 (2012: 51).

10) Georgia Tech

Career starts: 45; 2013 adj. line yards rnk: 12 (2012: 12); 2013 adj. sack rate rnk: 52 (2012: 103).

11) Boston College

Career starts: 115; 2013 adj. line yards rnk: 40 (2012: 118); 2013 adj. sack rate rnk: 81 (2012: 72).

12) N.C. State

Career starts: 71; 2013 adj. line yards rnk: 79 (2012: 62); 2013 adj. sack rate rnk: 99 (2012: 77).

13) Pittsburgh

Career starts: 62; 2013 adj. line yards rnk: 83 (2012: 66); 2013 adj. sack rate rnk: 119 (2012: 109).

14) Wake Forest

Career starts: 47; 2013 adj. line yards rnk: 108 (2012: 112); 2013 adj. sack rate rnk: 58 (2012: 78).

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Comments » 2

brownrobert402#293681 writes:

Our offensive line will be very good. They were not all that bad last year. You remember, we were loaded by WR talent and that's why we passed so much but, still had a 1,000 yard runner. Not too bad for a line that was criticized the entire year. And our QB set all kinds of records along the way.

33dtb writes:

at least we're not hearing the usual spring "O-Line problem is finally fixed" mantra.

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