Projecting the Clemson Football depth chart: Center

Will Putnam has exhausted his eligibility, which means Clemson Football will be rolling out a new starting center this fall.
Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik (2) passes near the blocking from Clemson offensive lineman Ryan Linthicum (53)
Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik (2) passes near the blocking from Clemson offensive lineman Ryan Linthicum (53) / Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

Clemson Football has been relatively settled at the center position for the past two seasons with Will Putnam taking the snaps. Putnam’s tenure seems like a breeze compared to the previous two seasons when a lack of personnel and injuries resulted in a lot of problems for the line emanating from center.

Putnam has exhausted his eligibility, so the Tigers must find their next starter. There are some decent options, but the competition will likely continue through fall camp.

Projected first-string: Ryan Linthicum

Projected second-string: Trent Howard or Harris Sewell

The best-case scenario for the Tigers is for Linthicum to step up and secure his position as the starting center, for a couple of reasons. The first is that he is a bonafide center, recruited as a center, and never intended to be anything but a center. Linthicum will be a redshirt junior beginning his fourth season in the program. It’s now or never.

Linthicum’s minor injury in the Spring Game shouldn’t be of significant impact on his availability, as long as it isn’t a portent of things to come.

The other reason why it’s best for Linthicum to grab the starting position is that the team might need Howard and/or Sewell to play guard. I’ll dive more into the variables at guard in future posts, but all the positions on the offensive line tend to link together.

Howard is a guy the team can count on to do whatever the team needs him to do. He might not have a high ceiling but he also doesn’t have a low floor. He was solid when he needed to step into the starting lineup last season due to injuries to key players against Notre Dame. Clemson had a fine day on the ground against the Irish thanks to Phil Mafah and the big holes he found in front of him.

Sewell is the young guy with the high ceiling, and I think the team ideally would love for him to develop over the next season or two into a guy who can eventually replace Linthicum when his eligibility is exhausted, but also be a reliable guard on the field.

If Linthicum can’t find the consistency needed to be the starting center, and Sewell can be at least as efficient as Howard, then it wouldn’t be a terrible thing for Sewell to get started as a center now and learn on the job. That would reap dividends for the future, but it might result in harsher growing pains this season.