If there was anyone who was not happy with the way Clemson performed on the offensive line this season, it was left guard Matt Bockhorst.
To say the Tigers’ offensive line struggled in 2020 was an understatement. At times, the Tigers were just bad. There were some good moments too, like their 219-yard rushing performance against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game, but for the most part the offensive line was inconsistent with its performances.
“I think it is always important to be challenged and you can correct your mistakes,” Bockhorst said. “If you never have any challenges or adversity then you might have a false sense of security as to how good you’re performing.”
Clemson rushed for just 200 yards in a game just three times all season, and not once did it run for 300 yards in a game. The Tigers averaged just 153.8 yards per game on the ground, which ranked 11th in the ACC, behind teams like Florida State, Wake Forest and Duke.
In 2019, Clemson was second in the ACC in rushing, averaging 240.4 yards per game. The Tigers averaged 6.4 yards per carry, which led the league. This past season, they averaged 4.5 yards per carry, nearly a decline of two yards per carry.
The worst games for Clemson came in both losses. Notre Dame held the Tigers to 34 yards on 33 carries on Nov. 7, while Ohio State held them to 44 yards on 22 carries. Clemson struggled in both games to pick up a yard in short-yardage situations.
But it was not all bad for the offensive line. Clemson did tie Virginia for the ACC lead with the fewest sacks allowed (20), while leading the conference in average allowed. They gave up just 1.7 sacks per game. The only ACC team to allow less than 2.0 per game.
Below is TCI’s projected depth chart at left guard heading into spring practice:
Matt Bockhorst, *Sr., 6-4, 315: With Jackson Carman gone, Bockhorst becomes the most experienced player on Clemson’s offensive line. Though he has started just 13 games, 12 coming this year, the rising senior has played in 40 games and has taken 1,352 career snaps. He was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2020 after taking 753 snaps. He was part of a Clemson O-Line that led the ACC in fewest sacks allowed and was the only unit in the league to allow less than two sacks per game.
Paul Tchio, So., 6-5, 300: He played in nine games last season, while taking 80 snaps as a reserve guard. He recorded 24 snaps in Clemson’s wins over The Citadel and Georgia Tech. He has shown the ability to overpower defenders in the run game and get to the second level, while he also possesses the quickness to block in the open field and the agility to be an asset in pass protection as well. He has all of the tools to eventually develop into an impact player and potential anchor on Clemson’s O-line.
Blake Vinson, *Jr., 6-4, 300: Vinson has played in 16 games in his career, but injuries have held back his progression. In the 16 games he has played in, he has just 150 snaps. He did play in three games this year, but they were early in the season. He played a season-high 15 snaps against Wake Forest in the season opener. His injured knee acted up later in the year and he did not play again after the Georgia Tech game on Oct. 17.