Christian Wilkins is one of the few guys on the team that was coached by both Marion Hobby and Dan Brooks. So when Clemson’s two former defensive line coaches decided to leave Clemson a week after the Tigers won the national championship, he admitted it was a little hard to except.
Hobby and Brooks were two of the more favorite coaches on the Clemson staff, and their players loved them and pretty much would do anything for them. Hobby of course left Clemson to be the new defensive ends coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Brooks retired after 40 years of coaching.
“You know those guys since you are 14, 15 and 16 years old through recruiting so when you come here you put a lot of faith and trust in them,” Wilkins said. “You grow with them and now, when you are a 21-year old man, just from a relationship standpoint those guys are just positive male figures in your life. It is tough from that standpoint, but I know Coach (Todd) Bates will get us in the right position to put a good product on the field.”
Bates is the Tigers’ new defensive line coach, hired last month by head coach Dabo Swinney. At least for now, Bates will coach the entire defensive line until Swinney can hire a 10th assistant coach, which the NCAA is either going to approve (nationwide) to start in April or in January of 2018.
“I’m looking forward to going to work with him,” Wilkins said of Bates. “Coach Swinney and Coach (Brent) Venables know what they are doing so I have a lot of trust in them. Obviously, I’m trying to build a relationship with Coach Bates, too. He is new to me and we are new to him and everything. We just have to establish a relationship.”
Wilkins will do it as a defensive tackle. Swinney announced before the start of spring practice on Wednesday that the All-American was moving back inside to his natural position of defensive tackle after spending all of last year at defensive end.
“I’m happy to do it and I’m really looking forward to it,” Wilkins said. “I did not play much of it last season so it is like there are little things that I have to get back to doing, like footwork, technique things, everything happens a little quicker inside, too so I have to be ready for that.
“Obviously, I’m willing to do anything and everything I can to help the team so I’m ready to go.”
Wilkins says he will not have to do anything different to move back inside from a physical standpoint. He basically says he will do what he needs to do to stay in shape and maybe cut a little weight so he is ready for anything.
“I have to be ready to stay versatile and be ready to move outside if necessary,” he said.
As for what he personally wants to get accomplished this spring.
“I really just want to become more of a leader on defense and gain more knowledge of the overall defense and become a better student of the game,” Wilkins said.
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