Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell made the most of his first action in a college football game. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound redshirt freshman had three total tackles to go along with one for a loss.
As he looks forward to Saturday’s tilt with Troy in Death Valley, Ferrell discusses his first experience on the field, his relationship with Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd and much more.
Q: What was it like being in that atmosphere on Saturday night?
Ferrell: “It was a blessing. I haven’t played in an actual football game the last two years. It’s crazy because you work so hard just for that one moment and when it actually happens, it was a time that I just had to soak up the moment. It was crazy, but I was ready to go, I worked hard for it. The moment wasn’t too big for me and when you work so hard for something like that you can’t fail at it. I feel like I did a good job and I was excited for it.”
Q: Have you had a chance to talk to coach Hobby yet and evaluate your performance?
Ferrell: “We had meetings this morning. I had a graded percentage on the game and I graded well. The main thing I had to do was clean up some stuff. I had more than a couple of missed opportunities to make a lot of big plays. It was just things with jitters, being my first time playing in a long time. It’s something that I’m going to take into consideration while preparing for this upcoming game.”
Q: How did it feel for the defense to be such a big part of that win after people had so many questions about whether you guys could fill the shoes of the people here last year?
Ferrell: “For us as a whole, it was really big. It was a confidence booster for us. Coming into the season, before camp even started, we had a chip on our shoulders. We knew that we lost a lot of guys but it’s college football, so it’s all about the next guy up. People come in and people go out. We want to be those guys that are known as guys that make the best out of our opportunities. We want to be known as a great defense for this coming year.”
Q: Coming into this year, the defense has become to be known as an NFL pipeline. Knowing that you’re the next man up, does that put a lot of pressure on you?
Ferrell: “It doesn’t put a lot of pressure on me. You play for Clemson and you’re expected to produce early, but we know that when you come here, you come to be great. I feel like the guys in that meeting room want to be great. Coach Hobby asks us once a week to raise our hand if we want to become great players and go to the NFL and we all raise our hands. So yes, there might be a little bit of pressure because nobody wants to fail, everybody has that small fear in the back of their mind. It’s something that we want and we’re going to go for it everyday.”
Q: What was your first thought when Kevin (Dodd) and Shaq (Lawson) went off to the NFL?
Ferrell: “For most people it was a big surprise, especially Kevin’s departure. We knew, talking in the locker room with those guys, looking at their season, we kind of saw it coming. We were hungry, so when those guys left it was time to go to work. We don’t want to be those guys with excuse of where were just being young guys and not producing. We were the next guys up and we’re going to produce. We want to be great just like they were.”
Q: Were there any kind of concerns or butterflies stepping onto the field?
Ferrell: “There was a bunch of butterflies. There were no worries and I definitely wasn’t scared but as a group we were definitely nervous. We had been working for this moment and it was finally here, so it was time to put on a show for them. Once we got into the game I felt like we did a very good job of putting ourselves in an opportunity to win. It was a great experience to play down there in Jordan-Hare. Auburn put on a great show. The crowd was loud and it was great to play in that atmosphere.”
Q: How did it feel to get into the backfield and get that tackle for a loss down near the endzone?
Ferrell: “I actually missed that play so I don’t take credit for that. I had a tackle for a loss in the first quarter on (Jeremy) Johnson where I just blew up the play and he just fell down. That was a good feeling but I need to improve on tackling. We don’t tackle a lot in practice but that is definitely something that I have to clean up. It was great helping to disrupt that play and just knowing that we can play at this level. A lot of our guys don’t have a lot of experience but we are really in the game, we know we can play at this level and we can thrive at this level if we work hard enough.”
Q: What did you learn playing with Shaq and Kevin last year that you carried over to this year?
Ferrell: “They’re two completely different guys. Somebody like Kevin who took advantage of the process, coming in and not having a lot people have faith in him, even coach Swinney tried to move him to offensive line. Coach Hobby stuck to it and taught him thru the process. Yeah, his time came late with him being a redshirt junior. He was a guy where you watched how hard he worked in practice and how well he took advantage of his opportunities. Watching the attention to detail he took into the game as well as his technique was really cool. For Shaq, he was a very hard worker. He loved practice but it was more of a mentality thing with him. He always had a good attitude about things. He gets a little annoying sometimes because he talks a lot but you love that dude because you admire his passion for the game and how much he loves to play. That was something that I really took from those two guys. They’re just big brothers. They were very good teachers to us. They knew that their time here was going to be short, so they wanted to leave their legacy with the younger guys. That’s how I felt about those guys. They were very big in my development as a player.”
Q: If there was one take away from Saturday night what would it be?
Ferrell: “I definitely learned that I could play at this level. The coaches really put us in a good position to win if we listen to what they tell us to do. I didn’t understand this at first but the coaches really know what they’re talking about. I didn’t understand that coach Venables was that smart. He would say that they are going to run this play, and they would run that exact play. We would watch the film a hundred times. I didn’t understand why he would be so on edge about it. Just buying into what the coaches said, they’re going to put us in the best position to win games out there.”