When Clemson begins winter workouts and gets ready for spring practice, Mike Jones Jr. will remember how he felt walking off the field at the Superdome last Friday following the Tigers’ 42-28 loss to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal – and use that feeling as fuel to drive his work ethic during the offseason.
“You use these moments right here as motivation,” the redshirt sophomore linebacker said after the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. “The way you feel walking off that field after a heartbreaking loss, that’s got to be what drives you. That’s what drives me. I hate this feeling, and I never want to feel it again. So, I’m going to work. The whole team, we’re going to work… We’ve just got to feel it right now and maintain it, hold onto it and think about this moment as we go into this offseason and on this journey.”
Defensive end Myles Murphy, who made a significant impact as a true freshman this season with 41 tackles, including 12 for loss and four sacks, echoed Jones’ sentiments and expects the Tigers to carry a chip on their shoulder into winter conditioning and throughout the offseason.
“Kind of the same thing Mike said – use it as motivation, just something to keep in the back of your head, almost like a chip on your shoulder to bounce back into MAT drills, just carry it on,” he said.
Despite allowing seven touchdowns, 26 first downs and 639 total yards, including 254 rushing, in a disappointing defensive performance against the Buckeyes, Jones remains optimistic about Clemson’s future on that side of the ball with all the talent, and young talent, the Tigers will have returning next season.
“I know the guys we have, man. We’re really deep, and this year was a huge step for us,” said Jones, who forced Ohio State’s only turnover of the Sugar Bowl with an interception of Justin Fields in the third quarter. “Guys matured, learned the game. We got a lot of guys who got to play a lot of football. So, we’ve got a lot of talent, man, and I’m excited. It’s going to be a fun year.”