To help get you through college football’s slow days of late June and early July — before conference media days launch the preseason festivities — we’re counting down the 12 most important South Carolina Gamecocks and 12 most important Clemson Tigers for 2013. One Gamecock and one Tiger every day, so you can spend part of your summer studying the players who will make a difference for your team come autumn.
CLEMSON’S NO. 9 MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
GIFFORD TIMOTHY, JUNIOR, OFFENSIVE LINEMAN
Interesting statistic from the Clemson football files: the squad has won 76 percent of its games in years with at least four returning offensive line starters. (The program has won 57 percent of its overall games, for perspective.) Seeing as Brandon Thomas and Gifford Timothy return at the tackles, and David Beasley and Tyler Shatley are back at guard, that could give the Tigers their complete starting lineup sans center Dalton Freeman from the entire ACC slate and Chick-fil-A Bowl. There’s still some competition to sort out – does Kalon Davis take over from Beasley at left guard? Does Isaiah Battle factor in at some point? – but continuity and chemistry are everything to coach Robbie Caldwell’s big uglies.
You know what you’re getting out of Thomas: an All-American effort from a guy who if healthy will keep Tajh Boyd’s backside clean. The real fear for opponents is if a second dominant tackle emerges. (Remember when Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews resembled a shark-infested moat around some guy named Johnny Manziel?) Now, when Thomas got hurt in the first quarter of the bowl game, Battle held his own against LSU’s first-round NFL defensive end talents. So the onus is on Timothy to keep Battle just where he is: a hot prospect in waiting.
Position: Offensive lineman
Hometown: Middletown, Del.
Last year: Made 11 starts at right tackle, missed Furman game in week three and left Chick-Fil-A Bowl with injury