Clemson nearly won at Notre Dame despite losing nearly half their starters by the time the game reached double-overtime. On the whole, the performance is hardly discouraging. However, one issue that has been persistent for several weeks was fully exposed: run blocking.
Against Notre Dame, the greatest running back in school history, Travis Etienne, was held to just 28 yards on 18 carries. The Irish were able to completely take away the run game. It forced the Tigers to beat them almost exclusively through the air. The Tigers nearly did it, and if not for injuries on the defense likely would have.
The offensive line issues probably don’t need to be solved to beat Notre Dame in a potential ACC Championship rematch. They likely don’t need to be solved to overcome Florida State, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech to earn that rematch either. To beat Ohio State or Alabama, though, potentially a required task to earn a national championship, it must be remedied.
So far, Clemson is averaging 4.1 yards per carry. That’s down from 6.4 in 2019. Much of this year’s average should be credited to Etienne’s greatness. Compared to the three other running backs with at least 44 carries (Dixon, Rencher, and Mellusi), Etienne is average 1.4 more yards per carry (5.2 vs. 3.8).
TigerNet’s David Hood suggested a shake-up along the offensive line that could include Walker Parks starting in the interior or a change at starting Center. Perhaps an overhaul in strategy and an open-date to implement that (perhaps more or fewer guards pulling, H-back looks, etc.) could do the trick. Either way, the Tigers will hope Matt Bockhorst, one of the stalwarts on the inside of the line, can return for the FSU game, or at least by Pittsburgh, and the Tigers can make whatever changes are necessary and have some time to gel before the postseason.
The Tigers will heal up during the open week and are already good enough to make the playoff and probably the National Championship game. To beat Bama though, though this may be the final piece of the puzzle they need to find.