Clemson defensive end, Clelin Ferrell spoke to the media during media day in Clemson earlier this week as the Tigers get set to play Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff at the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29 in Arlington, Texas.
Question: I was just asking Austin (Bryant), tell me a little bit of what you’ve seen out of Xavier Thomas this year.
Ferrell: “Obviously I saw a freshman who came in and didn’t feel like anything was owed to him. I felt like he wanted to work for everything he’s achieved and accomplished. His progression throughout the season is really good to see. Just a guy who is a humble kid, a hard worker, and isn’t entitled even with all of the accolades he came in with.”
Question: What stands out as far as physicality? What does he bring to the table?
Ferrell: “Well I mean he still has a lot to develop. Obviously, a lot of things with playing at this level, like the physicality, that takes time to develop but I would say he came in ready to take on those things with the right mindset and attitude. He was ready to embrace that challenge that comes with being a freshman and playing at the game speed this one plays at. I would say that obviously his natural given ability, just his intensity is something that gives him an opportunity to come in and play.”
Question: I guess the next question would be you know this defensive line is losing a lot of talent and leadership. Do you think he’d be ready to take that next step and be one of those leaders next season?
Ferrell: “I mean it’s all on him. Anybody, depending on whoever is going to be here next year, whether I stay, Dex (Dexter Lawrence) stays, obviously Austin (Bryant) and Christian (Wilkins) have no chance. But all of those guys, K.J. (Henry) X (Xavier Thomas), Logan (Rudolph), Justin (Mascoll), Justin (Foster) all have a chance to come in and help lead this group because obviously they’re another year better. I told them at this point in the season they’re not freshman anymore, they’re sophomores. Most of them won’t get a chance to play this late in the season so it’s a different mindset they have to have in their development. They can’t be thinking like freshman anymore. It’s the next level of play they have to take their game to. I think they can do it for sure. It’s all on them. We’ll put them in the right position to make plays and to lead guys. They just have to want it.”
Question: Do you enjoy your role in trying to raise the young kids to be the next guys?
Ferrell: “I mean it’s all about what you leave behind. I don’t really care too much about the outside sources. You know the media, the fans. Well I do care about the fans but not as much as like the college football media thing and what they say as far as me but it’s more so about the people in this facility and the people who I’m with every single day say about me when I leave here. It’s all about, ‘Am I going to leave a legacy where I don’t have to be here for people to talk about the things that I cared about, the people that I cared about.’ Hopefully those guys can say, ‘Cle did it this way and Cle held himself to this standard.’ And that is important to me because you want to leave things better than how they were when you came in.”
Question: You obviously already have the legacy on campus but what’s the ultimate legacy that you’d like to leave? What is setting this year apart from others?
Ferrell: “It’s always different every year. We set new goals obviously and we just want to be the best ever. That’s what I feel like as far as just this team you know there’s never been a 15-0 team. We have a chance to be the winningest class in the history of college football. This senior class has a chance to win two national championships. That’s something no other team in the history of Clemson has done. It’s all based on our standards and our goals. We don’t try to compare ourselves to anybody else. It’s all based off of what we want and the things we set for ourselves is good enough to get us over the hump.”
Question: That must be a lot of pressure though. How do you handle that over the course of a season?
Ferrell: “I don’t see it so much as pressure. When you come here you expect those things to happen. My 2015 class, I remember we said we wanted to be the group that kind of set the new standard here as far as we wanted to be a championship team every year. Our freshman year we were surprised by how good we were. We went to the national championship and lost but when you expect greatness to happen and you put the work in, the pressure comes off and really you’re just excited for the opportunity and a chance to go out there and achieve it. It’s not so much seeing it as a challenge but more so an opportunity. That’s kind of how I see it. It can be pressure if you let that seep in but you really just have to look at it and not be afraid to fail.
How do you feel like you matchup with Notre Dame having now gotten a chance to study them and comparing them to other teams you’ve played this year?
Ferrell: “I feel like we match up well (with Notre Dame). They do some things that make them a really, really good team. They don’t have a weakness, I would say. They are good at all levels of football, both sides of the ball, offensive line, running back, quarterback, receiver, tight end, so we really just have to be on our game at all levels of defense. It’s not just going to be a thing where you really just have to win the trenches. You have to win the trenches first and then the back seven have to take care of things too. They really have no weaknesses as a team and that’s really tough to go about because as a defense and as a team in general you try to exploit weaknesses from other teams that you look at. But when you find one that doesn’t (have a weakness) it really just comes back down to the fact that you have to play better than they play. That’s what it really is. They’re a very, very good team and if we don’t play well we’re going to get beat. That’s the main thing.”