By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- With their season opener versus The Troy Trojans just four days away, linebacker Corico Hawkins couldn’t be more excited to go up against and put pressure on a quarterback that isn’t Tajh Boyd.
How has working against Clemson’s spread offense prepared Hawkins for Troy’s spread offense?
“I think to a certain extent practicing against our fast paced offense has helped us get ready to face Troy,” Hawkins said. “We know how to match up against them and how the blocking schemes go and how they try to zone this way or that way. What helps us the most is the fact that we’ve been going up against a fast tempo offense all offseason, it helps us get the calls quicker from the sideline and getting everybody lined up quicker.”
Compared to Clemson’s spread, how different is the offense run by the Trojans?
“Our offense is definitely different from Troy’s,” Hawkins said. “Coach Morris has a lot of things he does, Troy is more of a zone read, stretch the ball down the field type of offense.”
Although Hawkins was hesitant to give a prediction of what he felt the outcome of the 2011 season would be for the Tigers, he did say that the attitudes in the locker room were very positive and that he and the rest of the team were ready to put the 2010 season behind them.
“I think everyone is excited to get out there,” Hawkins said. “It’s been a long grind, a lot of sweat and running, a lot of talk about what the season will be like, it’s going to be exciting to get out there on Saturday. “
What is the biggest thing that Clemson’s defense is working on improving before Saturday’s opener?
“Just being there mentally,” Hawkins said. We’ve got to know their plays and know what is coming at us by what formation they’re in. I’d say that’s the biggest area where we need improvement. “
Hawkins compares the guessing game that he plays with quarterbacks to chess in that the quarterback will never know when he is planning on blitzing or staying put.
“Playing my position is kind of like playing chess with the quarterback,” Hawkins said. “I’ve never played chess but since our defense is known for blitzing a lot, I like to confuse the quarterback by moving around, making it look like I’m blitzing when I’m not. Or I could blitz and kind of throw the quarterback off a little bit. Coach Steele only asks that we’re in the right place at the time of the snap.”
According to Hawkins, the several youngsters at both the linebacker and secondary positions have progressed well throughout fall camp and he feels as if he can depend on them to step in during a game situation and make plays.
“I think the coaches have done a great job preparing those guys to get ready for the season,” Hawkins said. “Once they get in the game, whenever that may be I think they’ll perform well.”
Hawkins, whose backup is highly recruited linebacker Stephone Anthony, took Anthony under his wing during the offseason and has given him advice on how to learn Steele’s defense and take what he’s learned in practice into game situations.
“I tell him just to learn as much as you can learn, take it one day at a time,” Hawkins said. “Don’t get so enamored over making mistakes and know that you’re making the same mistakes that I’ve made and that everyone who’s played defense under Coach Steele has made, come each and every day ready to work, and take it one day at a time.”
Hawkins believes that the freshmen linebackers have progressed quickly, even quicker than he did when he first started learning Coach Steele’s defense.
“They’re some pretty smart guys,” Hawkins said. “Personally, Stephone is working behind me and for an 18 year old, he’s very mature. When I hosted him on his official visit I knew that he was going to be a special player. In a lot of ways he reminds me of myself, he’s come in willing to work and learn from day one so it’s been fun working with him.”