Clemson was well-represented by three great ambassadors of the university during Thursday’s ACC Kickoff.
Few players were as candid and displayed the level of humility that Matt Bockhorst did when he held court with reporters on Thursday.
Bockhorst gave a fair and honest assessment of the current state of Clemson’s offensive line. Nobody is better suited than the bona fide leader of the unit in Bockhorst, who enters his fifth season with the Tigers having played 1,352 career snaps in 40 games (13 starts).
Clemson’s offensive line has received its fair share of criticism and nobody is more aware of that than Bockhorst. With the way the unit has looked this summer — and according to Bockhorst there’s been nothing but rave reviews — they seem to be more than ready to get rid of the bad taste that last season left and start the season off with a bang against Georgia.
“First thing I’d like to say is that our offensive line has had an incredible summer,” he said. “The competition that I’ve witnessed from our group is unmatched during my time here at Clemson. I think the energy of the young guys, coupled with the experience of myself, Jordan McFadden and Will Putnam, I think we’re in store for a special year.
“I think that all really needs to come to fruition in camp in a couple weeks. I know we’ll be well-prepared heading in to play Georgia, given the fact we get to compete against a good offensive line every day in practice.”
Bockhorst was confident enough to say that the unit that he commands had a great summer, especially from a competitive environment and standpoint. They’ve come a long way since last summer. The pandemic prevented teams from holding in-person summer workouts, which meant that those on the offensive line were lifting sandbags and doing what they could to stay in shape. However, it was all happening away from one another.
Now, they’re in the weight room every day, competing and pushing one another to get better. That should shape up well for the start of fall camp. Bockhorst has every reason to be encouraged.
“I’m very optimistic,” Bockhorst said. “I’m a tough critic, especially on myself and the group, to which I’m their leader. You know what? There was a lot of criticism from last year and I’m not gonna shy away from that. I’m going to acknowledge that criticism and we’re gonna move forward.”
Bockhorst wasn’t shy about saying that some of that criticism is undeserved, but he knows it doesn’t matter how he feels or thinks in this scenario. It’s about putting up or shutting up.
‘What matters is how well we do this year,” he added. “That’s plain and simple. The end. Because it’s a production game. I feel very good about the offensive line and I’m excited to put that into fruition. Sooner or later, talking season is over and on Sept. 4, we have to put our hand in the dirt and prove it against a really good D-line.”
If it hasn’t been made clear enough, Bockhorst is obviously one of the loudest voices on the team.
“I’ve always been a vocal, charismatic guy, just kind of by nature,” Bockhorst said. I’ve always been that guy, for better or for worse. I’ve definitely tried to make that a productive thing and as I’ve gotten older and now I’m the old guy, if you will, people look to me for guidance or leadership or what have you.
“For me, I’ve just tried to establish to these young guys what can make you successful during your career at Clemson. And, not that I’m perfect, but I feel like I’ve done a good job of taking care of my business during my time here, academically and athletically, and it’s important to have that balance, as well as your social life. You’ve got to have all three. For me, I kind of just try to be that old guy that has all that wisdom, and when it comes time to play football, then I’ll do that pretty aggressively as well. I try to just be who I am and that’s the biggest thing about being a leader, you can’t try to be something you’re not.”
Bockhorst has never shied away from the spotlight. He’s authentically himself and his teammates like James Skalski have certainly taken notice of the amount of respect that his presence commands in the locker room.
Skalski mentions how Clemson has lost guys and had a lot of turnover in the offensive line room, including a lot of younger guys. Bockhorst is the perfect voice to help bridge that gap.
“We’ve got guys like Matt, who can bring a team together, bring a bunch of guys together,” he said. “That’s been one of the hardest working groups this offseason, I’ve seen it first hand. A lot of togetherness over there, a lot of camaraderie…If you know Matt, that’s the kind of guy he is. He’s done a great job of connecting everyone, from the old heads to the young guys, and creating a strong, healthy room, where guys can work, compete, be themselves.”