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?
LG: Sophomore Marcus Tate
I don't believe it was in the original plan for freshman Marcus Tate to start 8 games and take a total of 627 snaps in 2021. Typically freshmen offensive linemen spend their first year in development, focusing on adapting their bodies and minds to the college-level game. Due to numerous injuries on the Clemson offensive line, Tate and the Tigers didn't have that luxury. He was thrown into the starting lineup from the very first game. The coaching staff hoped that his inexperience could be masked by placing him between seasoned veterans Jordan McFadden and Matt Bockhorst. At times it worked and at other times it failed. The Tigers had no options and so the season went on. Later even veteran Bockhorst would go down with a career-ending injury. When everything around him seemed to be in chaos, Tate endured. The coaching staff, fans and offensive unit endured. Now that 2021 is in the past, Clemson looks to set things right on offense again. That all starts with dominating the line of scrimmage. Unless Georgia Tech pulls off something short of a modern-day miracle, Tate won't have to start his first game against the eventual national champions. He along with the rest of the Clemson offense should be healthier and battle-hardened for the 2022 season.
RG: Junior Mitchell Mayes OR Redshirt Sophomore Bryn Tucker OR Trent Howard OR John Williams
I'm not joking with this list. It's anyone's guess who will actually start for Clemson at right guard in 2022. Even if one of the players listed above starts game one, that's definitely no guarantee that they will continue to start throughout the season. Dabo Swinney has put a public challenge out for the Redshirt Sophomore offensive linemen on his team. He wants to see more production from them. Fans would agree. That recruiting class has yet to help the team to this point. If one of the Redshirt Sophomores doesn't prove to the staff that they deserve to start, then the role could likely go to Junior Mitchell Mayes who spent most of his time last season backing up Walker Parks at Right Tackle. There is another name that Swinney bragged on last season before an injury ended his season in 2021. He is my rising star.
Who is the rising star?
Redshirt Freshman Dietrick Pennington
Pennington played only four snaps before suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2021. He is listed at 6-foot-5 and 335 lbs. That is what I would call "massive." According to 247Sports Composite rankings, Pennington was the 5th best player out of Tennessee and was named DII-AA Mr. Football in 2020. A high school state champion, he is every bit as big and physical as his measurables indicate. He loves to finish blocks and take edge rushers and linebackers out of the play completely. Robbie Caldwell said it perfectly, "He'll be one that you will enjoy."
Best of the rest?
In my analysis above, I listed six total players who could start. Five of those players we know very little about at this point. There is no best of the rest at the guard position this season. Someone needs to step up and separate themselves from the rest of the group.
What will make 2022 a success?
Find a solid two-man rotation at right guard and stay healthy.