Watkins, defense are hitting their stride at right time

Defensive end Carlos Watkins knows that the NFL is in his near future, but the Clemson senior has not let that become a distraction. Watkins says his final journey is not motivated by his desire to make it to the NFL, but instead is motivated by his teammates and helping them get back to where it all ended last season — the College Football Playoff Championship Game.

“My teammates and I, we train so hard in the off-season for this. Last year was a sick feeling,” he said. “We got all the way to the National Championship and we lost. Our goal this year is really to get back and win it all this time. We fight for each other.”

The third-ranked Tigers, who host NC State on Saturday in Death Valley, have indeed fought for each other. After playing a long and exhausting 99 snaps in their win over Louisville, the Clemson defense proved their indomitable capabilities and head-strong attitude to finish the job.

‘That’s what we train for and condition for. If games have to be hard fought we will be ready in the fourth quarter,” the defensive tackle said.

Being one of the best defenses in the nation, Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) has allowed just 17 plays over 20 yards, the 10th best figure in the country to this point. The Tigers also rank in the top 10 nationally in eight of the nine major categories defensively, while also being ranked third nationally in tackles for loss and are tied for sixth in sacks.

This season Watkins has contributed with three sacks for a loss of 26 yards and four pass breakups to go along with his 32 tackles.

“Coach (Brent) Venables pushes us every week. We want to get better every week. That’s our mentality,” the senior said.

As the Tigers hit the middle of their season with all of their goals still in hand, Watkins feels they are getting back into the swing of things.

“I feel like we are getting in the rhythm offensively and defensively. I feel like if we do our job on defense the offense will go out there and do their job,” he said. “I feel like we are definitely getting back into the rhythm this part of the season,” Watkins said.

Against the Wolfpack (4-1, 1-0 ACC) Clemson’s defense will face a quarterback in Ryan Finley who has yet to throw an interception this season in 128 attempts. Clemson on the other hand leads the ACC with nine interceptions and has had at least one interception in every game this season.

“That’s my job. My job on the defensive line is to put pressure on him to cause those mistakes,” Watkins said. “The secondary has played very well and been very disciplined. When we put pressure on them, that’s when mistakes happen.”

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