Clemson Football: Why Ryan Norton is the Tigers' Third-Most Most Important Player

By Colby Lanham
Tajh Boyd and his Offensive Line
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Just mere days away from the season opener, all eyes are on the Clemson Tigers’ senior quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins, both of whom have earned All-American Honors and All-ACC team honors. Everyone know how critical they are to a team.

But they can’t do it all alone. Who else would be worth watching on Chad Morris’s spread offense?

Plenty goes on around Boyd. As the quarterback, he is the driving force of the offense, but to drive such an offense requires more moving parts. Watkins is just one of those important parts. While fellow receivers like Charone Peake, Martavis Bryant and Adam Humphries are important, as are running backs Rod McDowell and Zac Brooks, the importance of the position lies along the offensive line.

One of those other parts people should pay attention to is center Ryan Norton. Next to the quarterback, offensive linemen are perhaps the smartest players on the offense. The center in particular is responsible for having good chemistry with his quarterback and making the proper protection calls to the rest of his offensive line.  If Boyd is the driver of the offense, then Norton is the steering wheel. Norton is replacing former center Dalton Freeman, who had great chemistry with Boyd the past three seasons. Next to left tackle, center is the most important part on the offensive line. They’re perhaps the smartest players on the offense, as they have just as much to process as the quarterback. And Norton appears to be ready for the role.

It’s not in Clemson’s best interest for Boyd to take too much abuse over a 12-game schedule. Freeman was a good at what he did, and was the Tigers’ security blanket along the offensive line. Norton has responded to the competition posed by redshirt freshman Jay Guillermo, who was a highly touted center coming out of high school. Guillermo still remains an option should Norton get injured or falter, but the redshirt sophomore will have the chance to establish himself as the brains of the offensive line.

Every quarterback needs a good center to succeed and their value on the offensive line can be underestimated at times. Norton has a great chance to guide this offensive line to have a special season. It will be up to them to win the battles in the trenches so that the Chad Morris spread offense can continue its upward ascent in its third year.

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