No. 8 Dalton Freeman, C, Clemson
2012 stats: Freeman was selected a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association and became the first Clemson center to be selected to the All-ACC first team in consecutive seasons. Freeman also was a finalist for the Rimington Award, giving annually to the top center in football.
Previous ranking: No. 17
Making the case: Freeman has been a mainstay along the offensive line, and the truth is, if he did not pick up the new offense Chad Morris installed several years ago in the same way as Tajh Boyd, the Tigers may not have seen the same results. But Freeman was able to transition to the hurry-up spread with ease, making it look as if he had been playing it his whole career. In fact, Freeman credits Morris for much of his success.
"It all started with Coach Morris coming in here last year," Freeman said. "The scheme we’re running now really fits me a lot better than our old scheme did, kind of an outside zone, movement type stretch scheme more so than a downhill power-type team. I got a chance to showcase my athleticism. As soon as Coach Morris walked in, I started picking his brain trying to figure out what we were going to do. The more I learned, the more excited I got. I just knew we had great potential with the chemistry we had."
When 2012 ended, Freeman finished up his career with 49 starts, tying the school record for starts set by Landon Walker, a tackle who played from 2008-2011. He also set the school record for total snaps played, with an eye-popping 3,361. Freeman ended up with 959 alone this year, including two games with over 100 snaps.
No. 9 Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson