Freeman is another example of a “coach’s son” shining in college football. His father, Ben, not only coached him in high school but also passed along the athleticism that he displayed when lacing up his cleats at Wake Forest in the 1980’s. It is, therefore, not surprising that Dalton has become a durable, high-character leader in the middle of the Tigers’ offensive line – so much so that head coach Dabo Swinney has the confidence in Freeman to play him at right tackle if injuries dictate that move in 2012.
Dalton decided not to follow in his dad’s footsteps in terms of his choice of schools, going a different ACC school after an outstanding career at Pelion High that culminated with his being named the Wendy’s High School Heisman winner for South Carolina a senior. He redshirted his first year on campus, but became the first center to start at Clemson as a freshman in over 60 years when he ran with the first team in each of the team’s final nine games in 2009. He hasn’t left the starting line-up since, leading the line in each of the past 36 games. He was a Remington Trophy finalist and first-team All-ACC pick after playing a school-record 1,044 snaps in 2011.
Durable, intelligent player in the pivot. Good positional blocker with foot work to assist one guard and move over to the other. Also reaches linebackers on zone plays and runs between the tackles with some short-area quickness, will extend his arms to send them out of the play if they try to out-quick him. Moves his feet to sustain through the whistle. Plays with some sneaky power in in short-yardage situations, as well.
He’ll need to show NFL coaches that he has the necessary strength and athleticism to get the job done at the next level. Bends at the waist to sustain or lunge at targets at times and plays upright, losing leverage battles against bull rushes and even hard-charging blitzers. Resorts to cut blocks against blitzers he is capable of stoning at the line.
The son of a high school coach and former ACC offensive lineman, Freeman plays with the intelligence and tenacity expected of a finalist for the Rimington Trophy given to the nation’s top center. He’ll need to prove he can stand up to stronger, quicker veteran defensive tackles before teams consider taking him in the top half of the draft – but I wouldn’t doubt his ability to earn a living in the pivot.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.