One of the things Tyler Shatley recognized with the move from backup defensive tackle to potentially starting at right guard on the Clemson offensive line was the attention.
Shatley seemed to understand as reporters crowded around after Clemson’s first practice of the spring, and a hint of a smile appeared.
Originally a fullback/tight end, he moved to the defensive line two years ago. Shatley said he had not played on the offensive line since grade school — “pee wee.”
So this was as much a big deal for him as it was for the Clemson program.
Coach Dabo Swinney approached him about the move after the holiday break. Replacing three starters on the offensive line next season was daunting yet critical to an offense flush with talent at the skill positions, including an experienced quarterback who needed protecting and an all-star back who required room to run.
Facing the prospect of opening the season with as many as two freshmen on the line, it occurred to Swinney that Shatley might help ease the transition and shorten the learning curve, even if it meant moving a player who started two games and took 300 snaps last year on defense.
“Coach Swinney told me he thought I could help the team on the offensive line,” Shatley said. “I just wanted to help as much as I could to make the team better.
“I thought about it for a couple of days. I talked to my parents, and I prayed about it. Just kind of thought that God wouldn’t have opened a door if he didn’t want me to succeed in it, so I just saw it as an opportunity to succeed and help the team out.”
Swinney described Shatley “as one of our best football players… the epitome of a football player.”
At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds with a low center of gravity, Shatley could be a natural run blocker. He is one of the team’s strongest players, capable of benching 450 pounds, squat nearly 600 and press 225 up to 36 times.
“I’m really excited about Shatley,” Swinney said. “I think it’s a great move for our team. I think it’s a great move for him. He looks totally different over there on that side of the ball.”
Offensive playbooks are thicker and more complex, so extra study time has helped ease the move, he said, along with tutelage from line coach Robbie Caldwell and advice from center Dalton Freeman.
“As a defensive lineman, you’re fighting off double-teams. As an offensive linemen you’re doing the double-teaming, trying to track down linebackers and get on them,” he said, “knowing where everybody else is where on defense you’re just holding a gap.”
Shatley said Swinney told him this could potentially increase his value after Clemson.
“He goes from being an OK athlete on defense,” said Swinney, “to being a really, really good athlete on offense.”