If Matt Bockhorst had to describe Clemson’s new-look offensive line in one word, it would be “nasty.”
The first-year starter at left guard expects the Tigers’ first-team O-line, which will feature four new starters this season, to go about its business up front with an attitude and play with an edge in 2020.
“The first thing I would say for the first group, who are we as a group, what do we look like, I would say nasty,” Bockhorst told reporters following Monday’s practice. “I think that’s who we’ve tried to be and emulate this entire camp, and I think we’re ready to take that to the field on Saturdays and really just bring an attitude. I think that any great offensive line is going to have a little edge to them, and that’s something that we’ve really tried to make an emphasis of this fall camp.”
The Tigers are tasked with replacing consensus All-American left guard John Simpson, first-team All-ACC right tackle Tremayne Anchrum, second-team All-ACC right guard Gage Cervenka and second-team all-conference center Sean Pollard from last year’s starting unit, but Bockhorst believes he and the other replacements are up to the challenge.
Left tackle and 2019 third-team All-ACC selection Jackson Carman is Clemson’s lone returning starter up front. The redshirt junior Bockhorst is set to step in at left guard, while senior Cade Stewart, sophomore Will Putnam and redshirt sophomore Jordan McFadden are the projected starters at center, right guard and right tackle, respectively.
“Obviously, the elephant in the room is that we’re replacing four starters, and I think we’ve got a group of capable guys,” Bockhorst said. “I don’t think that any of us are worried. I think that we have a lot of strengths as a group and we, I think, are great at communicating. I think that’s something that is so often overlooked for offensive line play is the communication and how the five guys work together, but I’m very high on our ability to communicate.”
Clemson’s coaching staff has expressed confidence in the first-team offensive line while admitting the second group is a work in progress as they try to build quality, dependable depth.
The Tigers are plenty talented in the reserve ranks but have a lot of young and inexperienced players, so Bockhorst knows it is up to him and other veterans to help get the backups up to speed heading into this season.
“I think that you’ve got young guys who lack experience but have the tools that are there,” he said. “So, as the older guys, we have to do the best we can to give a great example in practice, and really in the games as well, so that they can see and learn just all the little details and things of that nature with offensive line play because it’s just a very complex position and it’s incredibly difficult to come play offensive line as a young guy right out of high school. So, we definitely have a challenge on our hands, but I don’t think it’s something that we can’t handle.”
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