During a seven-minute interview in the WestZone on Tuesday, Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins used the word ‘discipline’ five times.
And with good reason. This is the “week of discipline” for Clemson’s defense, as Wilkins put it, with the Tigers preparing to face Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense on Thursday night.
“It’s a way different offense, and if you’re not disciplined, you really can get exposed,” Wilkins said. “Everyone’s going to have to key in on doing their jobs and focus in to make sure they do their jobs to the best of their abilities.”
As for Wilkins, who will line up at defensive end in the game, his job is much different than it was when he played defensive tackle against the Yellow Jackets last season.
Instead of focusing on stopping the inside run, which is one of the main responsibilities of the interior defensive linemen, one of Wilkins’ primary responsibilities will be setting the edge.
In other words, Wilkins will be tasked to contain the quarterback and running backs on plays to his side and not let them get outside of him. Discipline will be key for Wilkins, who can’t get “sucked in” or bite on inside running plays if they’re not truly inside running plays, but instead fake handoffs or pitches to the outside, for instance.
The quick turnaround from Saturday’s game to a Thursday game has made it even more difficult for Clemson’s defense to prepare for Georgia Tech, but Wilkins has taken extra measures to make sure he’s ready.
“I watched a little more film this week than I usually do because it’s a shorter week,” Wilkins said. “My whole week is altered because of the short week and getting ready for the triple-option. But I think as a defense we’ll be fine. We’re all working really hard this week so that we can get a good result on Thursday.”
Clemson knew this week would be tough on the team, so the Tigers spent three days in fall camp preparing for Georgia Tech.
It was around the time that defensive end Austin Bryant fractured his foot in August, so Wilkins was playing a lot of defensive end then.
Wilkins said he took good notes during that time, and it has helped him retain what he learned. He has also revisited film from those practices so he knows exactly what his alignments and duties are.
“It was real helpful, now with it being such a short week and having a day less to prepare for it,” Wilkins said. “I retained a lot of what we learned over camp. It was good and helpful going into this week.”
Wilkins said he and the defense will also have to be disciplined against Georgia Tech’s specialty — cut blocks on defensive linemen.
“Especially with things like the cut blocks, you have to be disciplined,” Wilkins said. “If you’re worrying about the cut blocks, you’re not going to play fast and not going to be as physical as you are. You kind of have to not really worry about that, and then the physical part will take care of itself.”
Georgia Tech’s offense will be a challenge for Wilkins, but Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has full confidence that his sophomore will get the job done.
“Christian Wilkins can play against any offense on the planet,” Swinney said during his call-in radio show on Monday night. “He is an outstanding football player. … He is a very, very smart, instinctive, savvy guy. He is athletic with a great change of direction. He has a little suddenness to him. He sees things, and he studies.
“He can handle all of that. He has already demonstrated that.”