As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
An elder statesman on a young Tigers offensive line this year, Freeman finds himself well-tenured and well-decorated heading into this season. After a fantastic 2011 campaign, the senior has been named to three different watch lists (Lombardi, Outland, Rimington) and has received tons of all-conference buzz. Throughout his career, he’s shown remarkable durability at the center position, starting the team’s last 36 games there, with 143 knockdowns. Due to Clemson’s high-powered, high-volume offensive attack, he also racked up a school record 1,044 snaps in 2011, too.
As we discovered toward the end of last season, Tigers QB Tajh Boyd still has some work to do under pressure. So while he’s addressing those issues on his own this offseason, it’ll also come down to how well the inexperienced offensive line to protect their passer. Over the final six games of last year, schemes fell apart quicker, allowing for less throwing time and more turnovers (nine in that time, versus just three in first eight games). Same goes for the running game, which saw a huge drop-off as the year wore on, and little success inside (right where Freeman lines up).
For Freeman, he can take a look at these failings from 2011, and focus on how to improve both on the field and in the huddle. Now, with a lot of responsibility thrust upon him, there will be a major microscope on how he responds. If offensive coordinator Chad Morris has his way, this year’s pace will increase even further, meaning more snaps and more of a necessity for Freeman to be at 100-percent at all times. For what it’s worth, I believe Freeman will be able to replicate his elite level of play, though it may take some effort on the part of his offensive line cohorts.