Dominick Puni will miss Tuesday’s bowl game against UNLV as he prepares for the Senior Bowl and the NFL Draft. The Kansas Jayhawks top offensive lineman has been a staple in the trenches for positions coach Scott Fuchs all season. While KU’s pass and run protection might be hindered by Puni’s absence, it allows true freshman Calvin Clements to get a feel for Power 5 football.
Clements, a 6-foot-7 tackle who graduated from Lawrence Free State, was arguably the highlight of the 2023 Kansas football recruiting class. The local talent is viewed highly by the coaching staff and could be a big part of the future. He played 11 snaps in the regular season finale against Cincinnati but did not appear in any other games, meaning he can maintain his status as a redshirt freshman next year.
Bleacher Report's Bryson Stricker reported that he'd be filling in for Puni on Tuesday. Assuming the rest of the offensive line plays in the bowl, Clements will be competing alongside some of his future teammates on the outside. He will gain some much-needed experience after sitting one year behind one of the sport's best players at his position.
Placing a freshman on a big stage like this puts lots of pressure on him, especially since he has hardly seen any collegiate game action. For Clements to gain the trust of Kansas' coaching staff, he will need to avoid penalties yet still be aggressive and protect the quarterback. After all, left tackle is the most important position on the O-line.
Regardless of how he performs, though, only good things can arise from Clements starting in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Not only will he have in-game film to work on, but it won't affect his eligibility and should strengthen his relationship with the players he could be working with in 2024.