After months of preseason speculation and predictions, game week is finally here. Second-ranked Clemson kicks off its 2016 football season this Saturday at Auburn, which means Mondays in the WestZone at Clemson Memorial Stadium are back.
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott and a few select players addressed the media to discuss the first opponent.
Here is what we heard:
Scott has sensed a different level of focus from his team heading into the 2016 season, and he is excited to see how that translates to game day.
“I feel our entire team is more mature and more focused than any time that I can remember in the past,” Scott said on Monday. “There’s definitely a different feeling among the guys in the meeting room and on the practice field. So, hopefully that will continue and translate into success on Saturday.”
Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator believes that part of that focus is a result of having a tangible example of coming so close to accomplishing the ultimate goal.
“A few years ago, one of our slogans was to dream the dream. Now, there’s a difference between dreaming the dream and actually experiencing the dream,” Scott said. “I think the experience these guys returning from last year’s team is very valuable, and you can’t put a price tag on that. I think it’s definitely affected the way they’ve approached the off-season and the season.”
Running back Wayne Gallman said last season put a target on Clemson’s back, but the Tigers are welcoming the challenges that come with that.
“Pretty much for the whole season, we are embracing the target, knowing we are the target,” he said. “We proved last year that we are a team that can come out and do anything to win. Teams want to be us.”
As far as expectations go, quarterback Deshaun Watson will not let anybody else’s words or predictions get inside his head. He is focused on Clemson and what he has to do to win.
“In reality, I don’t really care what other people think about me,” Watson said. “I have my own expectations, and I know what I can do and I know what I can’t do, and my teammates know that, too. At the end of the day, people are going to have their own opinions, and I just do what I have to do. There’s no pressure for me or this team. We just do as we do.”
Linebacker Ben Boulware is glad game week is finally here because he gets to see all the hard work pay off, but also to hit someone who is not one of his teammates.
“Eager to play. Eager to hit somebody else. We’ve been grinding all off-season, so I’m excited to play a football game,” the senior said.
Scott knows he has to build a game plan around Auburn’s athletic defensive line.
“It starts off with Carl Lawson. He’s a premier defensive end,” Scott said. “He’ll be one of the top defensive ends we play all year. Then Montravius Adams in the middle is another guy we recruited very heavily. He’s very disruptive inside, so we have to have a plan for them.”
However, Boulware said he does not get caught up in big-name opponents or players. For him, it is just football and that is the mindset the team will bring into the 2016 season.
“I think if you narrow it down and simplify it the way I do, it doesn’t really matter. It is just football. I think a lot of guys on our team and our defense have come to terms with that and thought about it that way,” he said. “It is just football no matter where you’re playing at or who you are playing, football is the same Xs and Os regardless of who your opponent is.”