By Gray Gardner.
CLEMSON, SC – Starting linebacker Corico Hawkins sat down with members of the media this week to discuss his thoughts on the defense, his role in making sure everyone is in position, and the Tigers’ next game against Virginia Tech.
Q: How do you keep the hype surrounding the team from affecting the way you play this week?
Hawkins: There are a lot of older guys on the team keeping us on the same page. They know from experience – they don’t want us to get too hyped.
Q: The offense – Sammy Watkins, Tajh Boyd – they’re all getting a lot of praise. Do you wish the defense were getting the same amount of attention?
Hawkins: We’re a team, regardless of who’s doing what. We’re a team. We win as a team and we lose as a team. I’m not going to get into assessing the offense or the defense or the offensive and defensive coaches or even Coach Swinney. We’re a team. We win as a team and we lose as a team.
Q: Are you satisfied with the way the defense is playing?
Hawkins: That’s not my call to make. That’s for the coaches to do. I just line up on Saturday and make sure everyone else is lined up and I give it all I’ve got.
Q: Are you aware of the environment you’re going to in Blacksburg this weekend?
Hawkins: I’ve heard about it. I haven’t been to Virginia Tech. I’ve heard it’s a pretty hostile place. But at the end of the day, the game still has to be played.
Q: What challenges will playing in a hostile environment like that present to the defense?
Hawkins: Well from a defensive standpoint it’s not going to be hostile because their offense is going and it’s supposed to be quiet. For guys on the offensive side I could probably give them a little bit of advice here and there. But for the most part, from the defensive standpoint it’s not really going to affect us.
Q: Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher said after last week’s game that they stopped trying to run the ball after halftime. Is there something the defense did differently to make that happen?
Hawkins: I can’t put my finger on it. It’s kind of a way of assessing the defense again on what we did and didn’t do. But basically when guys are doing what they’re supposed to do and everyone’s on the same page, we can be pretty successful.
Q: As the middle linebacker, are you responsible for whether or not the guys on defense are all on the same page?
Hawkins: Not necessarily, because I can tell you something right here and you might not understand it. You might ask me to repeat it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t say it correctly. You probably just didn’t hear it.
Q: So miscommunication and guys playing out of position isn’t your fault?
Hawkins: There’s mistakes in every game. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not clear in every game. But when you’ve got guys and everyone’s on the same page, you’re going to be hard to beat against any team.
The same formation they line up in on Saturday we’ve seen probably 60 times in practice. So everybody knows when they line up in that formation, everyone will know each call – you do this and you do that. Communication only goes so far when you get in a game because of the noise and all the extra stuff that goes on during the game, so when goes see the formation they know what they’re supposed to do. My job is to basically reiterate what has already been taught – the signal that has been called.
Q: Last week you played against a team that primarily works from the I-formation. Is it easier to prepare for that style of offense?
Hawkins: Well this is the first time all year we’ve lined up against an I-pro team. The first two games were in spread formation, so a lot of the calls on Saturday weren’t calls we had against Auburn, Troy and Wofford.
People can do some crazy stuff with the I-formation just like people do with the spread. It just goes back to repetition and our coaches do a great job of letting us see everything that offense – that particular team – might throw at us on game day.
Q: What do you know about Virginia Tech?
Hawkins: They’re a very good football team. They’ve got some good players. The quarterback is a very good player, the running back is a very good running back. They’re going to come to play. We’re going to get their very best – we expect nothing less than their very best. It’s going to be a very good game. It’s our first road test, so it will be a good one.
Q: What will they do offensively?
Hawkins: They like to run the ball. Whatever they need to do – if we go in there and stop the ball, they’ll try and pass it a little bit. Whatever they need to do to win the game.