Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins spoke with the media earlier this week as No. 3 Clemson gets set to visit No. 14 Florida State in Tallahassee, Florida on Saturday.
The sophomore, who has a team-high 8.5 tackles for loss, spoke about his personality, the defense, his abilities and the primetime ACC Atlantic Divisional matchup with Florida State.
Question: Coach (Dabo) Swinney was just telling us Wilkins stories about the time you told him you were going to elope and step away from football for a while. Do you pull similar practical jokes with any other coaches and players?
Wilkins: “Whenever I have the opportunity, I always like to mess around with guys, I like to have fun, I like to be funny, I like to joke and prank. About that story, I just found an opportunity to mess with him a little bit.”
Question: Is there one extended joke or prank you pulled on a coach or player that stands out?
Wilkins: “The day I committed. When I called Coach V and Coach Swinney, I went on for like 5 minutes and made it seem like I was going to turn them down, and at the last second I told them I was coming here.”
Question: Did you watch the Clemson Florida State game two years ago and what are your recollections of that?
Wilkins: “I did watch it. We dominated that whole game, we just let our chance go, really. We had opportunities to win the game, and like I said we dominated the whole game, and then just lost it late. Personally, I’m looking forward to playing in Florida State, they have a great environment. Top 25 matchup, 2 really good teams going at it. I love going on the road and playing in hostile environments so it’s going to be a great opportunity for us.”
Question: Going into this year, you hadn’t been to Auburn, Georgia Tech, and Florida State. Those are three places that Clemson has really struggled. Have the coaches talked about that and as a team have you guys enjoyed reversing some of that history?
Wilkins: “Yeah, definitely. I know it was big going into Georgia Tech earlier this year and getting that win after 13 years, a while since we beat them last there. That was obviously a goal for us. Coming into season, Coach Swinney had a goal of winning down in Tallahassee, it’s been a while since we won in Tallahassee last, so that was a really big goal for us at the beginning of the season, and we look to accomplish it.
Question: Of all the things you guys have accomplished, especially in the last 5 years of this program, is this the one thing you feel like you haven’t done? Beating the giants at their place?
Wilkins: “Well, yeah I guess you could say that. We’ve accomplished a lot as a program, and like you said that’s something we haven’t done in a while, and that’s what we look to do this week, come out with a big win.”
Question: Could this be the toughest team, this year or last, that you guys have played in their own stadium?
Wilkins: “Thinking about it, it’s definitely up there. They’re a really good team, they’re going to have a great crowd. We’re going to really have to prepare this week and come ready to play.”
Question: This is your fourth night game, how much does that help just coming from a preparation and routine standpoint?
Wilkins: “You have a lot of time during the day to prepare. We’re used to it as a team, we’ve played almost all of our games at night time so it’s going to be good for us as far as preparation.”
Question: All the talk coming into this season was how this game would probably decide the division. Does it change anything at all that they’ve had a couple losses now?
Wilkins: “It doesn’t really. We know we’re going to play a really good football team. Yeah, they have a couple losses, but they’re a really good, talented team. They have more than enough talent to beat us. So, if we don’t go down there ready to play, we could possibly get a loss.”
Question: Tell us about how your role has adjusted since you’ve been here.
Wilkins: “I’m definitely fortunate to be in the position where I can play a lot of different positions and be as versatile as I have been.”
Question: Swinney sys you’re the kind of guy who believes he can do anything. Is there anything you think you couldn’t do on a football field?
Wilkins: “Coach Swinney’s pretty much right. I like to think I can pretty much do it all. It’s just confidence, believing in myself.”
Question: What do you like best about that jumbo offense?
Wilkins: “Just being back there with big Dex and at the point of attack, just blowing guys up.”
Question: What’s the challenge like in trying to stop Dalvin Cook?
Wilkins: “It’s going to be a big challenge. Dalvin Cook is such a good, dynamic player, such a good runner, makes great cuts, really fast. We’re just going to play tune defense; everyone is going to have to do their job. We’re going to have to be solid, big up front, and dominate at the point of attack.”
Question: Matt Dayes was able to run the ball effectively especially in the second half. How much did that prepare the front 7 with hat you’re going to see with Dalvin?
Wilkins: “Now we know what we have to do so that won’t happen this week. We learned a lot from that game, really, because we left some opportunities out there, he got a lot of yards that we should’ve been able to shut down. We learned a lot from last game and we’re going to use it to stop Dalvin.”
Question: Dabo said earlier he thought Jadar Johnson was the player of the year so far on defense, also he commented on Marcus Edmond obviously making big plays. What are your thoughts on what those guys have meant on the back end, being a little bit under the radar in the start of the year?
Wilkins: “The things that Jadar has been able to do is really big for us. He’s really stepped up and got a lot more serious about what he has to do. He’s embraced his role as a leader now and as a starter, just been really effective for us. Marcus is a really quiet guy, really low key, doesn’t need to be in the spotlight, doesn’t get enough praise but he works just as hard as anybody and he loves to play football. He’s made two really big plays for us to ultimately save our season and keep us from getting two losses.”
Question: Jadar is usually a quiet guy, but when he says something it’s got a lot of meaning to it. Can you talk about that and how he does that on the field?
Wilkins: “Exactly. When you hear somebody like Jadar speak up, which he’s usually pretty quiet and low key, he’s saying something for a reason. For him to say stuff, you really just have to play attention and listen to him because it holds a lot of weight.”
Question: Is his leadership back there, his ability to get everybody lined up the difference in why you guys aren’t giving up as man y big plays this year?
Wilkins: “I definitely think that has something to do with it. I know from a preparation standpoint, he’s making sure all those guys in the film room are on point, knowing their jobs. I don’t hear Jadar get called out too many times in practice for not knowing what he’s doing, so that just shows that he’s taking his job seriously.”