Third-ranked Clemson is in a groove on both sides of the ball heading into the seventh game of the season against N.C. State on Saturday.
Defensive tackle Carlos Watkins — who has posted 32 tackles, three tackles for loss, three sacks and six quarterback pressures for the Tigers’ top-10-ranked defense — said he can really sense that the team is hitting its stride and building momentum.
“Definitely. It looks like we’re getting in a rhythm, offensively and defensively,” Watkins said. “I feel like if we do our job on defense, the offense goes out there and does their job. So, I feel like we’re definitely getting in a rhythm in this part of the season.”
Watkins discussed this, the upcoming matchup with N.C. State and more in his interview with the media on Tuesday. Following is an edited transcript of his comments:
Question: What’s the challenge like this week trying to disrupt an offense with a quarterback in Ryan Finley who doesn’t make many mistakes?
Watkins: “I feel like that’s my job and our job as a defensive line to put pressure on him to cause those mistakes. The secondary has been playing well, very disciplined, and I feel like if we put pressure on them, that’s when mistakes happen.”
Q: Does N.C. State’s win over Notre Dame last week get your attention as far as hey, this is a good football team?
Watkins: “N.C. State has always been a good team. Last year we struggled with them a lot. Defense, we gave up a good bit of points. So, we don’t take anybody lightly. But they’re a very tough team. Great quarterback. Good running back, as well. A couple threats at wideout, so I really think they’re a pretty good team this year.”
Q: How good did it feel to have a dominant defensive performance at Boston College after a high-scoring game against Louisville?
Watkins: “That was big for us. Lamar Jackson, he’s a great player. That quarterback wasn’t quite like him, so it kind of made it easier for us, but it felt good. Guys really showed what kind of defense we are, and offense, as well.”
Q: Coach talked about this group wanting to become a “three-headed monster” — offense, defense and special teams. Do you feel like the defense is holding up its end of the deal?
Watkins: “I can say that right now we are, and we want to keep it that way until the end of the season. Coach V (Brent Venables) pushes us every week. We want to get better every week. That’s our mentality, so hopefully it says that way.”
Q: What have you seen from Albert Huggins the last couple of games, and how much will his emergence help the interior of the line?
Watkins: “He really has been performing good these past few games. His confidence is up. That’s a good thing. He’s matured a whole lot as a player. He finally wants it. That’s what coach (Dan) Brooks says, and I just continue to try to push him in practice and try to get better every day. But it’s good to see him performing now.”
Q: Players who have aspirations for the NFL call their last year their “money year.” Talk about your performance and what’s driving you this season because it’s clear you’re in line for a payday.
Watkins: “It’s my teammates, the guys. We train so hard in the offseason for this. Last year was a sick feeling to end with. We got all the way to the national championship and lost, so our goal this year is to really try to get back and win it all this time. We fight for each other out there, so I don’t really think of it as money. I’m just doing my job.”
Q: You were a different guy after the accident, too. Does that drive you, too, knowing that life is precious?
Watkins: “Definitely. You can’t take this life you have for granted. It kind of opened my eyes a whole lot after the incident. Just made me love the game a lot more and cherish every moment I get with it.”