SAN JOSE, Calif. – This is not Amari Rodgers’ first trip to the state of California, the Clemson junior has made dozens of trips to the state visiting his father, Tee Martin offensive coordinator at the University of Southern California.
But, Friday marked the first time Rodgers has visited northern California and he’s not there for vacation but to play on college football’s biggest stage.
Second-ranked Clemson is gearing up for its third College Football Playoff National Championship Game in four seasons with familiar foe No.1 Alabama.
Last season the Tigers played Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and fell 24-6 but this year Rodgers’ team is entering the game with a new mindset. And, they hope for a different outcome when they take the field Monday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
“Our mindset going into the game will be different,” Rodgers said. “I feel like we are more prepared too, our coaches have put together a good plan for us now we have to go out and execute,” he said.
Rodgers has put together a solid season after battling with nagging injuries for the majority of the 2017 campaign. He caught 53 passes for 545 yards and four touchdowns, while returning the majority of punts for the Tigers on special teams and earned honorable-mention as an All-ACC all-purpose player.
He feels prepared for the cross-country trip because it’s something he does regularly and has been giving advice to his teammates on how to adjust to a new time zone and atmosphere. Rogers is excited to play on the west coast with all eyes on the title game.
“It’s the biggest stage, everybody is going to be watching. I’m excited for that, it gives me more motivation knowing everybody will be watching,” Rodgers told The Clemson Insider at Clemson media day Wednesday. “It’s going to be an awesome experience I’m looking forward to going out to California.”
Alabama presents the same challenges as always, a team that is just as disciplined as it is talented. The Tide have rolled opponents the same way Clemson has this year winning by an average margin of 31.4 points compared to the Tigers’ 30.6-point spread.
The sophomore wide receiver is well aware of the Crimson Tide’s dominance this season and the challenge the No. 1 team presents but is still confident in his team’s ability.
“They are very fast and have a lot of athletes, their safeties are long and their corners are long 6’ 1’’ 6’ 2’’ all across the board,” Rodgers said. “They are very disciplined and so was last year’s defense, but the biggest difference is they don’t have as much depth as they did last year,” he said.
The game kicks off Monday at 8 p.m. EST on ABC from Levi’s Stadium as the Tigers chase their third national championship win.