TJ Clemmings switches from defense to offense

Justin K. Aller

Former star recruit TJ Clemmings has struggled to contribute during his three seasons at Pitt. Today it was announced that he's switching to offensive tackle.

When T.J. Clemmings committed to Pitt, a lot of positive reaction followed. Clemmings was a four-star recruit out of New Jersey and picked Pitt over Florida, Georgia and Notre Dame among others. At 6'6' and 265 lbs, Clemmings had all of the tools to come into college and immediately make an impact.

But recruiting is an inexact science and the plan to redshirt Clemmings while Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard manned the defensive end position. That plan detoured when Pitt was injuries struck the defensive line and Clemmings was forced to play as a true freshman. He was able to redshirt last season, however, and started several games this season while fighting a lingering back injury.

He was never really the disruptive force this season that many had hoped, but hey, that's what happens when a player has a reoccurring injury. However, Clemmings' time at defensive end has come to an end as he announced today that he's been moved to the offensive line:

"Coach (Paul) Chryst asked me if it was something I wanted to do," Clemmings said Friday. "I didn't have to. He said it was no big deal. I went home, thought about it and thought I'd be pretty good at it, so I figured I'd give it a try. The team needed some help on the offensive side anyways, so I stepped in to try to help the guys out."

....

Clemmings said he's currently playing at 285 pounds. He expects to add good weight during the off season and wants to play around 300.

Though it appeared to be an experimental move at first, Clemmings believes it will be permanent heading into next season. He said he's enjoyed playing the position so far and wants to continue improving.

"I'm going to say it's moving forward in the future," he said. "I would think my coaches think I was going to the future for it, but I'll probably stick with it because I'm liking it so far."

It's been speculated that Clemmings could be a pretty nasty offensive lineman. He has a huge frame and is clearly a superior athlete. But at first glance, I'm not sure I like the move. Next year without Clemmings, Pitt looks like it has four options at end: Bryan Murphy, Devin Cook, Terrell Jackson and LaQuinten Smith. That's a two-deep. If anyone gets injured, Pitt will seemingly have to burn the redshirts of one of the incoming freshmen just to fill rotation.

But this does make one thing crystal clear: The coaching staff must be absolutely horrified by what they have at offensive tackle next year. That's the only reason I could see for moving a starter at an already thin defensive end position and switch him to the offensive line midway through his career. If the coaching staff feels that way, it's with good reason. There is no returning player on the offensive line that right now looks remotely like a starting left tackle on a contender in a major conference. Even if Juantez Hollins comes back from his season-long suspension better than he was in 2011, he still probably has a long ways to go before left tackle is not a cause for serious concern. And that's just one of two spots.

Hopefully Clemmings will do what he has to do, bulk up, learn the position and make me feel ridiculous for worrying about the offensive line. Hopefully.

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