Give me offensive linemen or give me death.
It's universally accepted that quarterback is the most difficult position to recruit & scout. If there's any position nearly as difficult to recruit and scout, it's the offensive line. Mostly, OL recruiting is projection. Can this player get bigger? If this player gets bigger, will he remain just as athletic? Does this player have the tenacity required to slug it out on a weekly basis with other fiercely talented players? If you can check all those boxes, the final question is whether or not the player can remain healthy enough to endure the weekly turn monthly turn yearly beatings endured.
Les Miles opted to make a change in the OL coach this offseason. Studrawa's seven seasons at LSU were earmarked but ups and downs. Since his hire in 2007, Joseph Barksdale and Trai Turner are the only two offensive linemen selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft under his tutelage. Recruiting saw it's highs and lows, with many highly ranked prospects failing to materialize once arriving at Baton Rouge, for a litany of issues.
Miles hired Jeff Grimes in effort to improve that production, both in recruiting and future NFL success. While the first recruiting class to enter under Grimes only features a single prospect he targeted, he's been given a trio of quality prospects to work with.
I love a quality 2nd generation athlete. Odell Beckham Jr., son of Odell Beckham Sr., just capped one of the best careers of any receiver in LSU history. We've seen both of Collis Temple's sons experience success in our basketball program. Kenny Hilliard, nephew of Dalton, will cap his LSU career this fall.
Will Clapp's dad, Tommy, played defensive line at LSU from 1984-1987, and named the permanent team captain for the 1987 squad. He started both Sugar Bowls against Nebraska in '85 and '87. Here's a video of Tommy Clapp speaking to the New Orleans QB club (apologies for the poor quality). Apparently Tommy bodyslammed a man during the infamous LSU/Tulane brawl of 1984.
So it really came as no surprise when Clapp pulled the trigger and picked LSU in January of 2013 after Boys from the Boot. He took only one unofficial visit to Alabama, in 2012, and never looked back. LSU's in the kid's blood, so the writing on the wall from an early age.
Clapp claimed 1st team All State honors in Class 5A both as a junior and a senior. He opted not to compete in any camps that could have lead to him becoming an All-American or receiving further acclaim. His rationale? He was committed to LSU, what else was there to prove? He's a 4-star offensive guard on the 247Sports composite. He's rated a .9054, which places him around the top 10 guards in the nation.
110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has "can’t miss" talent.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
Tale of the Tape
Weight: 275 pounds
I can't get any confirmation of the 4.95, but it was reported in an article on NOLA.com. There doesn't seem to be any official testing data available. 40 times aren't really all that important for OL, but it does indicate he's a pretty good athlete for his size. Clapp is phenomenally well put together with broad shoulders and thick chest, arms and lower half. Here's a pic of him next to Cameron Robinson. While Robinson looks a little soft around the middle and upper body, Clapp is solidly composed. At 6'4", assuming he doesn't grow taller, he's teetering the line of good enough height to play the tackle position. Ciron Black started for four years as a 6'4" left tackle for us, and La'El Collins is closer to that height, but that's more of an exception than the rule. Typically, you are looking for tackles that stand 6'5" or over. I'm not certain his height precludes him from playing tackle, so there's a chance for some added versatility here.
Strengths: Nasty Mentality, Second Level Ability, Sound Technique
Weaknesses: Bulk/Strength, Lack of Violent Punch
Nasty Mentality: Clapp loves to finish his blocks by putting people into the dirt. 1:08 shows how much he loves getting after it and giving the defenders a little extra. 1:34 not only does he do a good job of getting to the second level, his finish is absolutely nasty on this play. 3:30 is one of the best examples of his drive blocking, but also another fine example of how he loves to finish his blocks. Loves flopping on top of his victims. Finally at 4:54 he once again punishes the linebacker, driving him into the dirt.
Second Level Ability: Perhaps Clapp's best skill is his ability to get to the second level and picking off blockers. Under Jeff Grimes, I believe we will see a shift to more athletic off. line, away from some of the big nasty guys we've recruited in the past. Historically, Grimes likes taller, leaner, more athletic players that can reach, pull, trap and move. Clapp fits that mold. Look at :17 at how easily he gets to the second level, locates his target and latches on. :28 as well, he finds the LB and puts a hat on him. 1:34, even in tight quarters, he finds his guy, puts him into the dirt. 1:56 you'll love how he's able to get to the 2nd level, latch onto his man and take him completely out of the play. Once he latches on, the defender is essentially eliminated. 4:18 he's asked to pull off a pretty complicated reverse where he fakes a down block, then must reverse direction to get into position to pick off any trailing defender. It shows his exceptional footwork and athletic ability.
Sound Technique: Much like his guard counterpart Garrett Brumfield, Clapp illustrates advanced understanding of technique combined with his quality footwork. In a year where we didn't return four starters, it would likely give him a chance to eat up some playing time. On all the second level blocks above, notice how he keeps his head on a swivel, finds his target, sinks his hip and gets into their pads. He does this to LBs and DBs alike. Clapp makes it look so easy you forget how difficult of a task it is for a near 300-pounder. Check out his reach blocks at 3:15 and 4:00. Great footwork and makes a clean lateral step at his opponent's outside shoulder, which puts him in terrific position. He's then able to get his hands inside their pads, latch on and take them for a ride, which gives his back the edge of the field. He plays with pretty good leverage, something I'm sure will be more richly emphasized once he steps on campus.
Bulk/Strength: While I love the way he's put together, Clapp needs to continue to add strength/bulk. He does a pretty solid job generating power right now, but this is pretty much true of every single HS OL.
Lack of Violent Punch: I love a mean punch. Trai Turner always impressed me, because in HS, he could lay waste to people right from his stance. It's a big reason why he could make the leap into the NFL and will probably be starting there this fall. He's got an awfully powerful punch. Clapp flashes it some, but not consistently. At 1:45 you see what he can do, albeit against a player naturally off balanced. But look at :49. He stands up and play patty cake. I give him credit for sticking with it, but at the college level that's going to turn into him on his back. Hand violence is big, big part of successful OL play, especially when you don't have freakishly long arms to keep defenders at bay.
Clapp is pretty similar to his OG class mate, Brumfield. Both show advanced technique for their ages, both play with a nasty mentality and both look like offensive guards. Additionally, both need to get bigger and stronger before they are ready to step into the starting rotation. The strong core of linemen returning gives us the flexibility to redshirt both to add that bulk, which means the two could both be starting as early as 2015.
Clapp played left tackle in HS and excelled. I love his spatial awareness, ability to get to the second level and finish blocks. He's not a powerful, dominant blocker at this point, but he is tough and tenacious. Adding bulk and strength should kick up his punch and make him more dominant at the point of attack. He's not the longest prospect, so I think that throws into question his potential to play tackle, even in college. He could maybe be a right tackle, but I don't see him ever stepping into the left-side role.
His footwork is really excellent. Clapp should be a guy that can play in that 300-315 range without being clunky and awkward. He can move around well. I think this makes him an ideal guard, assuming he can add enough bulk to handle bigger DTs in the middle. His pass protection needs to be kicked up. Currently his lack of violent punch would put him in precarious position against bigger, stronger foes. He needs to be able to at least serve as a stalwart on that initial attack. Adding that bulk/strength will be essential to his development.
Just taking a look at the current depth chart, the 2015 line could return Alexander and Hawkins. Pocic and Boutte seem to be most likely to assume starting roles. Jonah Austin will still be around, but he looks more like versatile depth than potential starter. Who moves to left tackle? LSU will potentially be filling all five starting positions, which could expedite his transition into starting. If Hawkins and Alexander stick around, it's more likely he's battling with Brumfield, Malone and others for the OG opening. Bottom line is that there's a good chance Clapp becomes a starter, by 2016 at the latest. I think he's a more athletic Will Blackwell.
High End: All SEC guard.
Low End: Starter as a junior or senior.
Realistic: Multi-year starter, possibly as early as 2015.