When someone is deemed important, they’re considered significant to the overall success of the company, family or team.
To succeed in team sports it takes a group of players to come together for a common goal. The goal for every team is to ultimately win a championship. At first it is a region, division or conference championship and if things progress it can be a state championship, national championship or even a Super Bowl.
To win these championships there are certain players that are considered important to the overall success of the team. In this series, The Clemson Insider takes a look at the 10 players we feel are important to the Tigers’ chances of winning a second national title in three years.
No. 6 Christian Wilkins
Where would Clemson be without Christian Wilkins?
I know with all the talents the Tigers have it sounds crazy to ask. How can one guy mean that much? But think back. There was a moment when Wilkins made a play that sparked Clemson during its current run to glory.
Think back to his freshman season against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers were trailing the Sooners, 7-3, early in the second quarter and the offense had bogged down again just inside Oklahoma territory.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney called for a trick play on the punt. Andy Teasdall threw a pass to Wilkins along the near sideline and the 6-foot-4, 300-pound defensive tackle not only made a good catch, but he tip toed down the sideline for a 31-yard gain, setting up the Tigers’ first touchdown of the afternoon, a 5-yard Deshaun Watson run.
Oklahoma could not stop the Tigers after that as Clemson rolled to a 37-17 victory and advanced to the national championship game.
Wilkins versatility as an athlete, not just as a football player, has come in handy for Clemson the last three years and it is sure to show at some point again in 2018.
Clemson’s All-American defensive tackle can line up and play defensive end and become an All-American, like he did when he was a sophomore after Austin Bryant broke his foot in fall camp. He can also lineup and run the football for a first down, like he did against NC State in 2016 on a fake punt to keep a Clemson drive alive.
He can also catch touchdown passes, like he did against Troy in 2016. He even played safety for a few plays in the spring game this past April, and did a good job doing it.
Wilkins is a man of many traits and many talents, but what he does best is get after the quarterback. For his career, the Springfield, Mass., native has played in 44 games and started 30 of them the last three years.
Wilkins has 193 career tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 43 quarterback pressure and 14 defections. He has been a First-Team All-American in each of the last two seasons and was a Freshman All-American as well in 2015.
As a defensive tackle last year, Wilkins had perhaps his best year as he tallied 53 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He also had 11 quarterback pressures and broke up four passes.
The senior especially shined on the biggest of stages. He led the Tigers with seven tackles in the ACC Championship Game against Miami, including 1.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and assisting in a sack. He also broke up two passes.
In the Sugar Bowl against Alabama, he tallied six tackles. Wilkins also had big games against Georgia Tech, NC State and Florida State last season.
“There are a lot of intricacies to the position I need to pick up on, unfortunately I haven’t taken it as seriously as I should have,” Wilkins said. “Now I know exactly what my weaknesses are and I’m going to attack them while being the best leader I can be.”
At the end of the year, he won the Bill Willis Award, which is given annually to the nation’s best defensive lineman. Wilkins also earned First-Team All-ACC honors and was named First-Team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, Rivals and The Sporting News.
The biggest honor Wilkins received was being voted permanent team captain by his teammates.
Clemson’s 10 Most Important Players for 2018
Hot off the press. ‘Back with a Vengeance’ is now available for online orders. TCI takes an in-depth look at the upcoming season as the Tigers march towards another national championship. Order your copy today!