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Clemson Expects Notre Dame to Attempt to Take Travis Etienne Away

Clemson OL Matt Bockhorst says opponents have been keying on RB Travis Etienne all season and that with Notre Dame up next, he expects the Fighting Irish to have a similar game plan and force freshman QB D.J. Uiagalelei to beat them with his arm.

With Clemson having such an explosive offense that features playmakers at every skill spot, opponents generally have to pick their poison when deciding how to defend the Tigers. 

Defensive coordinators have to decide do they key on the explosive passing attack led by Trevor Lawrence or attempt to slow down the ACC's all-time leading rusher in Travis Etienne. 

It's no secret that the Clemson offense centers on the inside zone runs and more often than not this season teams have chosen to try and take that away, forcing the Tigers to win through the air. 

With Clemson set to face Notre Dame this weekend in South Bend, offensive lineman Matt Bockhorst says he fully expects the fourth ranked Irish to come in with a similar plan and try to take away the Tigers rushing attack. 

"It's hard to it's hard to say but I mean, if I was a betting man I'd say yeah," Bockhorst said. "I think a great example of that is this past game with Boston College. They schemed us up very well to just stop the inside zone. Teams know we're an inside zone heavy team, and that's kind of our bread and butter, and a staple of our offense."

With starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence officially ruled out for the showdown between top-five teams, Bockhorst says he expects the Irish to try and make the younger guys on the roster step up and make plays. That not only includes freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who will be making his second career start, but also some of the younger wideouts, such as Frank Ladson Jr. and Joesph Ngata, assuming both are back this week

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However, bringing extra defenders up in an effort to slow down Etienne hasn't stopped the dynamic running back from making plays and Bockhorst says the Tigers senior running back is a big reason why the Tigers are currently sitting at 7-0. 

"It is more challenging when they do load the box," Bockhorst said. "When you have a guy like Travis Etienne and you know they're going to try to make our young guys step up and make plays. But Travis has still found a way to make some unbelievable plays."

Rushing yards have been tougher to come by this season, particularly on the interior, with so much focus being out on Etienne. The Tigers are currently averaging 4.5 YPC after having averaged 6.4 YPC a season ago, and Bockhorst says the Tigers offensive line takes opponents stacking the box as a challenge. 

At the same time, he also says that if the Irish choose to make Uiagalelei beat them with his arm that the freshman quarterback has already shown he is perfectly of capable of doing so.

"Just because teams are loading the box doesn't mean we should just give up on the run," Bockhorst said. "I think that it's a challenge and we need to step up to the challenge, but you know it is it is what it is. I think that DJ was, I mean if they stack the box, and they make him throw, he threw a pretty well."

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