Matt Bockhorst had plenty to say during the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte on Thursday.
Bockhorst came to the defense and praised his own unit, but he also took time to commend all the pieces and position groups around him offensively.
He provided quite the offensive outlook from running back to tight end to wide receiver, giving a mini-preview of each position group.
Clemson’s starting left guard was asked what type of offense he expects to hit the ground running when the Tigers are back in Charlotte to face off against Georgia on Sept. 4.
“An explosive one,” Bockhorst said, without much hesitation.
Bockhorst acknowledged the high-profile losses that Clemson has experienced on the offensive side of the ball. Everyone that the Tigers had drafted in April’s NFL draft was on offense: Trevor Lawrence, Tarvis Etienne, Jackson Carman, Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell.
Clemson’s anchor on the offensive line really went into detail about what to expect out of the Tigers backfield, especially for life beyond Etienne.
“We got some pretty good young guys too,” Bockhorst said. “That guy over there D.J. [Uiagalelei] playing quarterback, he’s not too shabby. And then from a running back perspective, I’m even more excited because of the amount of guys that we have. I think that you’re going to see a running back by committee and that’s fantastic because you can just keep going, you can keep going. We’ve got some young guys and old guys. Lyn-J’s been here for a long time. You got guys like [true freshman running back] Will Shipley coming in that are going to compete.”
Bockhorst spoke highly of senior running back Lyn-J Dixon, who was named as one of 82 players on the watch list for the Doak Walker Award, which is presented to the nation’s top running back at the end of the season.
Dixon enters the 2021 season as the elder statesman in Clemson’s running back room. For his Clemson career, he has 1,372 rushing yards on 208 career attempts with 13 rushing touchdowns.
“Lyn-J Dixon, I love that dude,” Bockhorst said. “He’s great. Everyone’s given the attention to Travis over the past four years and Travis was an exceptional player, but Lyn-J has had a pretty big role too. He’s made some big plays and he’s got the ability too. But at the same time, I think to have the depth..to have the ability to do that is something that most teams don’t have. Since we have this depth and we’ve got 3,4,5 guys that can play, that changes the dynamic.”
Bockhorst doesn’t know if Dixon will be the first guy out there against Georgia but made it clear that he doesn’t believe that the first guy who’s in the backfield will matter much because of an expected rotation. That very well may include a couple of true freshmen.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Shipley is the newcomer that excites Bockhorst the most.
“I really like Will,” he said. “I think that once again, talking about having success as a young guy in this program, you come in and relentlessly work hard and you’ll find a way. Not to mention that he’s an incredibly talented guy and I just think that a lot of guys respect the way that he carries himself. We got a deep running back room, a very deep running back room, but I’m excited to see the way he competes this year and I really believe that he’s going to be a strong contributor for our team.”
Speaking of newcomers, Bockhorst was asked just about his early impressions from freshmen offensive linemen Dietrick Pennington and Tristan Leigh thus far.
“Obviously, they’re huge,” Bockhorst said. “I just think it’s good to see some size walk through the door. I know that was something that we wanted to emphasize and you can tell that they’re recruiting that, so that’s good to see. Obviously, they’re both specimens. Dietrick, you just look at the dude, he looks like he plays in the NFL.
“Those dudes have really fit in and kind of just made it work. It’s hard for freshmen anytime, but they’ve done a really good job of getting with the program and falling in line. I’m excited about both of those guys and Tristan as well. Obviously, you can see why he was a highly recruited, very twitchy guy. I’m excited about those and hopefully, they can potentially help this camp. You never know.”
From there, Bockhorst wanted to make sure he acknowledged just how stacked Clemson is at the tight end position.
“I think this is the best tight end group, without question, that we’ve had during my time here,” he said. “We’ve got really good players, but we’ve got a variety of types of players.
“You got [senior] Braden Galloway, who’s more of a receiving type. [Redshirt senior] Luke Price is back from a torn ACL, he’s that more fullback type of guy. [Junior] Davis Allen can do it all and we got [freshman Jake] Briningstool, we got [redshirt freshman] Sage Ennis. We’re loaded at tight end, we have plenty at tight end.”
Last, but certainly not least is the wide receiver position.
There obviously remain some health concerns with the unit headed into fall camp, but if the receivers can avoid that injury bug stipulation, they have quite the season ahead of them.
“That’s Clemson’s brand is the receivers,” Bockhorst said. “If we’re healthy like we’re supposed to be, then good luck to anybody else.”