Offseason spotlight: Clemson

Our offseason spotlight series continues today with Clemson. A reminder: This series features individual players, position groups and coaches who really need to have big offseasons — starting this spring.

Spotlight: Offensive line.

2011 summary: The senior-laden group comprised of Phillip Price, Brandon Thomas, Dalton Freeman, Antoine McClain and Landon Walker fared remarkably well with a new offensive line coach, a new offensive coordinator, a first-year starting quarterback, and a new system. The Tigers paved the way for the nation’s No. 24 scoring offense at 33.57 points per game. They were integral in blocking for a 1,000-yard rusher (Andre Ellington), 1,000-yard receiver (Sammy Watkins) and 3,000-yard passer (Tajh Boyd).

The skinny: You can argue the defensive line needs an equally big offseason, but consider this: At this time in 2008, coming off of the 2007 season, Clemson ranked in the top 25 and had James Davis, C.J. Spiller, Cullen Harper and Aaron Kelly — all of whom were returning from fantastic seasons. The Tigers were a top-10 preseason pick, but had to replace four starters on the offensive line. Clemson finished 7-6 and midway through the season, Tommy Bowden was fired. Even with all of those outstanding skill position players returning, Clemson couldn’t get it done up front, and it was a major factor in the team’s implosion that year. This spring, the Tigers have to replace three starters up front, as Freeman and Thompson are the only two returning starters. The staff moved Tyler Shatley from defensive tackle to offensive guard. He’s a 6-foot-3, 295-pound redshirt junior who is a quick athlete and could play a role in 2012.

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