We're breaking down the status of each position on the Clemson football team every week until kickoff.
By Morgan Thomas
Position Coach: Thomas Austin
See my article here on the tackle position for a complete coaching and offensive line expectation breakdown.
Who is the starter?
OC: Senior Will Putnam
Will Putnam is making the necessary move to the center position after playing 1,615 snaps on the offensive line, primarily at right guard. The former 4-star recruit per 247Sports Composite rankings was also ranked as the 5th best offensive guard in the 2019 recruiting class. Putnam has been a versatile player on the line of scrimmage since his high school days. As a senior at Plant HS in Tampa, Florida he played offensive tackle, guard, and defensive tackle. He was also a standout wrestler. Now he looks to be the veteran leader who is reading the defensive alignment and snapping the ball to DJ Uiagalelei in 2022. Putnam is a proven run blocker and put together a solid performance during this year's spring game.
Who is the rising star?
Redshirt Freshman Ryan Linthicum
I get a lot of questions from Clemson fans regarding Ryan Linthicum. Mainly being, "where is Ryan Linthicum?" What I have found is that many of us, including myself, have forgotten that 2021 was his true freshman season. He played in two games and just seven total snaps. Based on that information, it seems as if it was always the plan to redshirt him in 2021. This is the normal practice for offensive linemen. While he is still young and being developed into the next starting center for Clemson, many of us still wonder where he has been. I think that comes from the fact that he was ranked by Rivals.com as the best center in the nation for the 2021 recruiting class. A guy comes in with the "best in the nation" tag and with that comes high expectations. Maybe even some unrealistic expectations. Senior Will Putnam is the best option for Clemson this season due to his multiple years of experience and proven ability. However, we saw in the spring game that Linthicum is the next man up. He was the starting center for the white team and showed his ability to get the ball to another rising star in quarterback Cade Klubnik. It's best that he develop that relationship now, as the roster sets up for Linthicum and Klubnik to become long-term coworkers.
Best of the rest?
Redshirt Sophomore Trent Howard
Trent Howard is a name that Dabo Swinney will mention from time to time as someone who has the potential to see more playing time in 2022. He played 53 snaps in 2021 and 21 snaps in 2020. Before coming to Clemson he was a big punishing offensive lineman at Briarwood Christian in Birmingham, Alabama. The same school that 2023 5-star QB Christopher Vizzina is from.
What will make 2022 a success?
It is important for the offensive line to stay healthy at all positions and the center position is no different. Putnam needs to establish himself as a level-headed veteran who does not let stressful situations get to him. He will be leaned on heavily to make DJ Uiagalelei's job as simple as possible. After him, there is Ryan Linthicum who has a lot of potential and high expectations but barely any experience at the college level. There is no denying that there is a gap at center in 2022. Dabo Swinney publicly went looking for a proven star in the transfer portal but was unable to find a suitable option. Due to that, the team is relying on a converted guard and two very inexperienced backups. The best case scenario for success is that Putnam plays and starts every game for Clemson this season. With uncertainties still lingering around the quarterback position, success would be to eliminate that uncertainty at center.