In both its regular-season losses at Notre Dame last November and in the loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, Clemson struggled to run the football and control the line of scrimmage.
The Tigers rushed for just 34 yards against in a double overtime loss to the Irish and they did not run the ball much better against the Buckeyes. Ohio State held them to 2.0 yards per carry as the Tigers rushed for just 44 yards overall.
Matt Bockhorst did not make any excuses this past spring for why Clemson’s offensive line struggled at times last year.
“And the end of the day, it does not matter what the reason is or what is a legitimate reason and what’s not. At the end of the day, we did not play as well as we were capable of playing or as well as we were required to play,” the starting left guard said. “Moving forward, we are really trying to instill a mindset that we need to get better.
“This team is only going to go as far as we take them.”
Bockhorst has a point. When the Tigers ran the football for more than 200 yards last year, it won those games quite handedly. One of those games was in a rematch with Notre Dame.
After rushing for a season low in South Bend and averaging just 1.0 yards per carry, Clemson bounced back in the rematch—the ACC Championship Game—and ran for 219 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per carry against the same Notre Dame defense.
“In the run game, as we got down the stretch, there was just not as much movement, especially on the inside,” Bockhorst said. “We need to assess why that is? Maybe our splits were too tight. Maybe we were crowding the ball a little bit and the footwork gets a little sloppy.
“So, there are a ton of little things that add up and turn into big things. It really is cliché, and it sounds stupid, but it is very basic and fundamental things that impact the effectiveness of the play.”
There are a lot of things that could be causing some of those issues. It could be as simple as experience and development.
“Obviously, we have different guys that are in different stages,” Bockhorst said. “I am the oldest. Then Jordan [McFadden] is a veteran as well. But we have a pretty young group. So, different guys are in different stages, but the fundamentals are the same, but if we can just get everyone on the same page with the fundamentals and on the same page mindset wise, I think we will be headed in the right direction.”
They will find out what direction they are going in pretty quickly when they open the season against Georgia on Sept. 4. The Bulldogs arguably have one of the best defensive fronts in college football heading into the season.