By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Although the pain is still lingering for Clemson’ s center, Dalton Freeman, he reassured members of the media on Wednesday along with Clemson faithful that the Georgia Tech loss is already behind the team and they’re moving forward with their 8-1 season.
“The pain is still lingering,” Freeman said. “But I think that’s a good thing, it’s something that should never escape us. We’re moving on though, every goal is still in front of us.”
As far as the offensive line is concerned, Freeman believed they played fairly well on Saturday night against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
“They threw a lot at us that they hadn’t shown earlier on in the year,” Freeman said. “I guess that was their plan to not do lot earlier on in the year and then when we play them throw a lot of blitzes at us to try and catch us unprepared, but for the most part we did a pretty good job.”
Without Andre Ellington in the lineup, Clemson’s running game took a hit against the Jackets; something that Freeman knew would be the case.
“Anytime you lose an All ACC caliber player it’s tough,” Freeman said. “Our young guys showed a lot of talent but it’s just the experience factor, something you can’t coach. You can drill ball security into their head all week at practice but until they get into the game under the lights it’s a different ball game. DJ and Mike did a great job for us though and they’re going to be great backs.”
Freeman believes that the team was humble going into the Georgia Tech game and left even more humble and hungrier to regain their spot atop of the ACC.
“We’re four quarters away from securing our division for the second time in three years at home on Senior Day,” Freeman said. “It’s all you can ask for, if our guys can’t get fired up for this then something’s wrong.”
As for the fan support this season, Freeman finds it funny how differently Clemson’s football season is being treated by the fans this year than it was last season when the Tigers’ went 6-7.
“It’s funny, this year our fans are living and dying with us,” Freeman said. “Last year after a few losses, I would just kind of walk around campus and nothing was really said to me about the game, like the fans expected us to lose and that ticked me off more than anything. This year, we were 8-0 and now they’re acting like the world is coming to an end all because we lost one game. That just goes to show you that the culture at Clemson is changing and we’re making strides. We just have to continue to get the right guys, and these coaches are doing such a great job preparing us.”
Freeman told the media that he had been downtown Clemson eating at Subway and a few distraught fans came up to him and asked him what happened.
“It’s a good thing that they’re getting upset over one loss,” Freeman said. “People should expect us to win because that’s what Clemson does.”
Freeman hates to lose more than he loves to win, so naturally he was upset after the loss on Saturday. But knowing that there were several young guys in the locker room that looked to him as a leader, he knew he’d have to step up and help the younger guys move past the loss.
“The loss was very disheartening,” Freeman said. “But at the same time I knew that the younger players would be looking to us to see what we would do and how we would handle it, we’ve still got three games left so us older guys tried to be a positive influence and show them that one loss isn’t the end of the world.”
As for the bye-week coming after the Georgia Tech loss, Freeman believes it came at the perfect time, but only wished it came after their 9th win.
“We’ve got a lot of guys banged up and exhausted on this team,” Freeman said. “We’ve been going at it since May, I think for our bodies to heal it’s coming at a good time, but I don’t want to sit around and mope about the loss, I’d like to go out and do something about it.”
For an offensive lineman, practicing and playing for 12 or 13 straight weeks, Freeman said is difficult.
“It feels like someone sneaks into your room and beats you with a baseball bat every night,” Freeman said. “It’s mainly little nagging aches and pains, like when you’re trying to tie a tie and your hands hurt so much you’ve got to get someone else to tie it for you.”
On Tuesday, the Tigers’ traveled to a prison for their yearly community service trip, something that Freeman believed to be an eye opening experience for the team.
“It was a great experience for us,” Freeman said. “Some of our guys come from a troubled past or neighborhood and for them to be able to see these guys and what they’ve gone through there’s a chance for them to see that it can happen to any of us. There are a lot of guys there that look just like me and you, that made a split second bad decision that changed the rest of their life. We’ve met guys that have been there for 30+ years, it was heartbreaking. You wish some of those guys had a second chance, they go in there and have learned the bible forward and backwards, they’ve completely changed their lives and it’s disheartening but at the same time it’s a good lesson for some of our young kids.”