Clemson’s offensive line has been banged up throughout this season, and last Saturday at Louisville, the Tigers started their sixth different O-line group in nine games.
From left to right, Jordan McFadden, Marcus Tate, Hunter Rayburn, Mason Trotter and Walker Parks comprised the first-team OL in Saturday’s game. And with Matt Bockhorst (torn ACL) out for the season and Will Putnam missing the game due to an injury, each of the starting offensive linemen played virtually every offensive snap in the 30-24 victory over the Cardinals.
Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said during his media availability Monday that the O-line showed the “heart of a champion,” and it had a carryover effect on the rest of the team.
“They played just about every play. … Just heart of a champion,” Elliott said. “We talk about ‘the eye of a Tiger, heart of a champion.’ Coach (Swinney) says it all the time – you know it when you see it, you know it when you don’t. So, what you’re seeing out of those guys is a heart of a champion. They’re going to do whatever it takes because they love each other, they love the team, they love the program and they’re willing to put it on the line.
“I think that Bockhorst had established that over his career and what he’s played through, and then you’ve got Putnam who was battling. Obviously he was out last game, but the game before that (vs. Florida State), he’s battling on a swollen ankle. So, I think it’s just a mindset that whatever it takes, for 60 minutes, play Clemson football. No excuses, no explanations, just do your job. And when you have that, especially in the trenches, it resonates to everybody.”
Elliott added that he believes the fact that junior wide receiver Joseph Ngata, freshman running back Will Shipley and sophomore quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei all battled through injuries during the Louisville game is an example of what the Clemson football program is all about.
“Joe’s out there playing on a foot. He’s out there,” Elliott said. “Shipley goes in the locker room, he comes back, he’s playing on a foot. D.J. puts a daggone knee brace on and says let’s go. And when we needed it, big call right there, quarterback run (for the 8-yard, go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter), and no flinch.
“So, I think that’s just the essence of what the program’s all about that you can see. A lot of times that get missed just because the focus is on sometimes stats and points and all those pretty things. But for us as coaches, that’s when you know what kind of football team you have when you see things like that.”
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