By Heath Bradley.
Greensboro, NC – Center Dalton Freeman knows that everyone will be trying to dethrone the 2011 ACC Champion Clemson Tigers, and he and his teammates are determined to try and not let this occur.
“We are going to have an X on our back, the target is always going to be there as the defending ACC Champion. We are the champion until someone takes it away from us, and we are not going to give it away that easily. It is going to be a challenge each and every week and we are excited about that opportunity.”
Clemson won their first ACC Championship in 20 seasons in 2011 and Freeman was a key factor. The Clemson offense under first year coordinator Chad Morris set multiple school records in help leading the Tigers to the championship. While many players stepped up from game to game making plays, one thing was constant, Dalton Freeman. Redshirt Senior Dalton freeman played 1,044 snaps in 2011 a school record. As a team Clemson totaled 1,055 snaps, this means that Freeman was on the field for all but 11 plays the entire season. That is impressive given the physical play of the offensive line.
Being on the field is nothing new for Freeman; entering 2012 he has already appeared in 2,402 snaps for the Tigers over 40 games. Freeman has started the last 36 games consecutively for the Tigers, giving the offense a leader on the field in time of need. If Freeman were to play over 1,000 snaps in 2012 he would become the leading player in career snaps by 300 snaps. If Clemson were to average 75 snaps per game again in 2012, it would mean that Freeman will have played in almost 4 more games in snap average than any other Tiger.
Freeman a finalist for the Rimington Award in 2011 knows the important of team. Younger players gaining experience for the future will be a key for the Tigers. This means that Freeman will likely sit out more often in games, giving younger players the chance to gain key experience.
“We have to develop depth, which is kind of an area of concern going into this camp. We have the talent but the experience is not quite there. You can have all the talent in the world but if you do not have that experience or that cohesiveness of going out and playing under the lights you are not going to be successful.” Freeman understands the need for him to help along his younger teammates using the experience he has gained in his time as the starter. “I am looking forward into taking a step back and helping these guys in a leadership role.”
Freeman also understands that the past is the past and the only way for Clemson to be successful is to move on from the excitement of winning the ACC in 2011.
“Last year is last year; we are excited about this year and a new beginning. We haven’t done anything to talk about this year.” This mindset will be key as opponents will look to dethrone the champs every Saturday, if Clemson can stay healthy and hungry they have the talent to repeat as champs in 2012.