Fiery Matt Bockhorst defends his QB, promises to "ride with 5" 'til the end
|Monday, September 20, 2021, 1:59 PM- -|
CLEMSON – Center Matt Bockhorst sat down with the media for interviews Monday afternoon with a scowl on his face. His jaw was set, his visage grim, and what followed was 15 minutes of fire and brimstone as only an offensive lineman can deliver. He defended his teammates. He defended his quarterback. And he told the truth about the struggles of the offensive line. It was pure gold.
Clemson’s offense struggled in a 14-8 victory over Georgia Tech Saturday, and through three games it hasn’t produced to the standard that the program has set. Bockhorst knows it, and he says that not playing to that standard led to several sideline outbursts on his part during the game.
“It’s an emotional game. I’m an emotional guy. I try to play the game the right way and play with fire. And at the end of the day, everyone’s got a job to do,” Bockhorst said. “You have to be held accountable when you don’t do your job. If I don’t do my job, I’m held accountable. And same goes for everyone else playing. So, it is what it is and whatever it takes to get that fire out of everybody, then that’s what I’m going to do. And for me, it’s kind of a burn the boats mentality. You know what? At this point, there’s no going back. This is my last year, my last go around, and I’m going to do what I have to do to get it out, everybody. And it’s not about making friends, it’s about winning games.”
What does he think has gone wrong?
“I think there’s a number of things you can point to. I think that there’s also a lot of good things that happen. I think that this group, this offensive line, but this offense, in general, grew up a lot on Saturday because we weren’t able to do what we wanted to do, and we had to go put our hand on the ground and win the game the old-fashioned way,” Bockhorst said. “And I know everyone’s disappointed because it wasn’t flashy or sexy or whatever everyone else wants it to be. But at the end of the day, we did what we had to do to win. And obviously, Marcus Tate is in there as a true freshman. He is a young guy that’s got a lot to learn. He’s going to be a very good player. And you know what? I’m not sure many other true freshmen could do what he’s doing regardless of the mistakes that he’s making. So I’m going to take the guys that we have and we’re going to play the rest of the season and give it everything we have and we’re going to fix the things that need to be corrected. But other than that, I’m not too worried.”
Bockhorst said he knows there will be critics of not only the way he plays, but also the stance he takes in his comments. And he doesn’t care.
“Each person has their own style, and not everyone is going to be like me. And that’s a good thing. We don’t need a bunch of people hooting, hollering, and making a scene,” he said. “But that’s my style. And that’s the way I play the game. And that’s the way I’ve always played the game. And as an offensive lineman, I think that you have to bring that because putting your hand in the dirt and run blocking somebody for 50 plays is not fun, but that’s what your job is and that’s what you signed up for. So if you don’t bring the fire, then I don’t know how you’re going to get through that. But as far as guys being quiet, I don’t really know. I try to just control what I control and be who I am.”
Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has also drawn criticism across the board, but Bockhorst was happy to see his teammate show emotion after several tough runs Saturday.
“Whether or not DJ is a quiet guy, he’s still a competitor. And we all are. And I know we didn’t put up the points that we wanted to put up last weekend, but dudes are out there competing and giving it all they had for the guys around him,” Bockhorst said. “And at that point, that’s all we need. And that’s all we have. You know what? I was very happy to see DJ get into it and show that emotion because like I said, football is an emotional game. And when you’re being challenged on the sideline and being challenged in the locker room during the delay, you know what? You got to go out there and prove them wrong. And I think we responded well in the second half.
"There’s a lot to clean up. I think that the biggest thing is finishing drives. We left a lot of points out there. Obviously, fourth and two don’t convert. Then DJ has the fumble there, and there’s a lot of other things to be corrected as well. So, we did put together drives, though. We had three drives over twelve plays and six drives over eight plays I believe. It’s not like we weren’t moving the ball, but moving the ball doesn’t really mean anything if you don’t convert that into points.
“We only scored seven points in the first half, and this offense has traditionally done a lot better than that. And so I know that there’s a standard here. There’s a standard that’s been set by the guys before us, and we owe something to that standard and I’m not going to relent on that. And I’m not going to let those guys down because I know what they gave. The guys that came before us I know what they sacrificed, and I know what that looks like. And I’m going to bring it out of everybody someway.”
Bockhorst was quick to defend his quarterback, saying he would “ride with 5” until the end.
“First off, we’re all human, DJ included. So that’s the biggest thing. And nobody’s immune from mistakes. But that kid comes in here and works as hard as anybody else, and his dedication and commitment and drive are unmatched,” Bockhorst said. “And I know that they see maybe a misthrow, or I know that there’s throws from Saturday that DJ wants back, but DJ is improving and DJ is a proven leader. And we have faith in DJ. I’ll ride with five until it’s over. I don’t care...Like I said, we’re here to win football games, and that’s what I’m going to continue to try to do. Well, if the rest of the ACC wants to come out and play an odd front with two cloud coverage. Then let’s spot the ball and play because we’re ready for it.”
ON WATCHING THE TAPE AND CRITICISM OF ELLIOTT
“I think that there’s a time and place for everything. I think obviously during the game, bullets are flying. You don’t really know truly what has gone on until you get the chance to watch the tape. And it’s funny because a lot of people have opinions on things, but they don’t really look at the tape. They just have an emotional reaction to what they perceive to be what happened during the play. But on Sunday, we take the chance to look at the tape to correct the things that need to be corrected and come back in here on Monday and evaluate that and then we close the book and move forward. And I’ll tell you, if you look at the tape, it’s really not that bad. But I think everyone’s got this preconceived notion that it’s just the offense is falling apart, that Coach Elliott needs to go and DJ isn’t this and isn’t that and those things are wrong. And we know that here and we just have to keep doing what we need to do and continuing to improve and will be just fine.”
ON THE CRITICISM OF THE OL
“I mean, the narrative is going to be what it is. I’m an offensive lineman and offensive linemen eat criticism for breakfast. I’m not really worried about the criticism. We here in this facility we’re inside out and everything else is noise. But at the end of the day, we’re here to get an education and win football games. And we’re winning. Yes, but we’re cutting it close. And there’s a standard like I said, that has been set and needs to be met. So when we come and talk about execution, football, it’s a game of execution. The scheme can only take you so far. And so we need to finish drives. We need to get all on the same page, get all the young guys on the same page, make sure the receivers are getting the signals, everything, all the little details it takes to be successful as an offense. That’s what we need to improve.
“You’re looking at a lot of guys in different positions myself included. You got a true freshman there at left guard who is going to be a great player. As I said, Marcus is going to be a very, very good player. And there’s just a lot of things to learn as a true freshman. To go and play offensive line as a true freshman is really, really hard. And I think as a group, we’re bringing the physicality. Walker Parks had seven knockdowns on Saturday like we’re putting dudes on the ground. But there are communication aspects and various details that are the difference between losing drives and not converting and scoring touchdowns on every drive. And so, whatever that is, we need to figure that out. But I think that we’re just fine. As I said, I’m taking the guys we have and we’re going. So, I’m not worried. And we’re going to come in here on Monday and have a great Monday, and we’re going to have a great week. Play the game this weekend, next Monday, we’re going to do the same thing. We’re going come in here and work hard because that’s what we’re here to do. And that’s what we signed up for. No, I’m not worried. We just need to keep playing and keep winning games.”
ON THE EFFORT OF THE OFFENSE
“Yeah, I think if you look at the tape, if you look at the film, the effort is unbelievable. I mean, there were plays down the stretch in that game where DJ just fought to get those extra yards and the receivers are making the blocks, and all these things, like the effort and the buy-in, I think, are there. But there are various details that come down to the little things and the details. And that is what separates good teams from Championship level teams. We know we have the talent, we know we have the ability and we just have to go out there and execute as coach Swinney says we need effort with technique. That’s a very critical aspect of all of this. So I think that there is buy-in. I think if you really watch the tape, the effort is off the charts.”
ON HOW HE WOULD GRADE HIMSELF
“Well, I’m my own biggest critic. So I would say first off, there are things that I need to improve. I think that any position change comes with being a little uncomfortable, but my snaps have been good outside the one versus Georgia. I think that I’m trying to be a good communicator and push the tempo of the offense and get set quickly. So, I think there’s a lot of good things and positive. You know, Saturday I was challenged every single play with the head up nose. The whole game was I perfect? No, but I felt like I competed every play and down the stretch when it mattered, I think that when we had to have it, we got it. And I know I graded a winner. Like I said, perfect. Absolutely not. But I’m not satisfied with where I’m at, but I’m giving myself a little bit of room for improvement, and I’m expecting that out of myself down the stretch. But where I’m at right now, I think, is pretty good considering the change that happened in fall camp and really just trying to improve moving forward.”
ON SEEING ODD FRONTS FROM HERE ON OUT
“I think that Georgia Tech, in its normal sense, presents a little bit of odd (fronts), about 20%. So I think for the first couple of plays, it was not what we expected, but not atypical. It’s not like they have never shown it before, but you get into the second drive and a third drive, and it’s very evident that they are sticking with this. And this is their game plan. And quickly we realized that they were just going to force us to run the ball the whole day and see if we could and see if we could stick with it and do it. And like I said, sometimes you just got to put your hand in the dirt and grind it out the old school way.”
ON THE LITTLE DETAILS
“Coach Elliott talks a lot about when you’re playing offensive football you need all eleven guys on the same page. You can’t have ten out of eleven. You can’t have nine out of eleven. It’s got to be eleven out of eleven because when one person of the eleven makes a mistake it can ruin the whole play. And it’s frustrating because you watch the tape, and it’s not like everyone’s getting beat every play. It’s a wrong step here or miscommunication here. Or maybe someone didn’t get the correct signal and they run the wrong route. So there are so many little details that add up to big things during the game, like, on the fourth and two, it was hatted up. The puller just pulled a little too wide. Don’t convert. DJ on that fumble balls in his right hand, not his left hand. There’s a lot of things that go into the chemistry, and I think that we’re really close, and we’ve had some great weeks of practice, and we’ve competed, and obviously, we get challenged every week against this defense in practice. So I think that we’re really close, and we just need to take that next step from being a good team to a championship level team.”