Bowl Coverage: Adams Seeks Perfect Ending To His Senior Season

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The last month has been a whirlwind of emotions for Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams.

After sitting on the sidelines and watching Jad Dean’s last-second field goal miss to the left in a 31-28 loss to South Carolina four weeks ago, the Greenwood native has had very little opportunity to reflect on what will be his last game in a Clemson uniform in Friday’s Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.

Since the South Carolina game, Adams has been flooded with trips to award show dinners and post season honors, including being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and as a unanimous First-Team All-American selection.

“He has had a very productive career,” Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said Wednesday. “They have had some great defensive players here in the past and most of their history here has been of great defensive performers and performances and Gaines in his last year has come close to the performances they have had here in the past.”

Adams numbers have been dominant. It’s hard to imagine what the Tigers’ defense would have been like had the 6-foot-5, 260-pound senior bolted for the NFL a year earlier like everyone thought he would. But he did not and he has a chance to finish his Clemson career as the most prolific pass rusher in school history.

This year alone, Adams had 10.5 sacks, which led the ACC, while also recording 15.5 tackles for a loss and 25 quarterback pressures. He also had 56 tackles and a caused fumbles against Wake Forest and South Carolina. When it was all said and done, he became the first Clemson player since Terry Kinard in 1982 to be named a unanimous selection to all five major All-American teams.

“I’m staying humble,” said Adams, who will be playing in his final game against Kentucky on Friday. “I’m taking all this in and staying humble.
“God gave me this ability to perform at the highest potential I can. I’m just trying to stay humble and treat people how I want to be treated.”

With two more sacks people will treat him as record holder. He needs just two sacks to tie former Clemson great Michael Dean Perry as the Tigers all-time sack leader with 28.

“It is just an honor to be up there with those great players that have that record,” Adams said. “It will be a great feeling and it is a goal I would like to achieve, but I’m not trying to put too much pressure on me by trying to get those sacks, but I would love to break that record.
“I’m just going to go out and play.”

That’s exactly what defensive coordinator Vic Koenning wants to hear. Adams has been at the mark for the last four games, but some questionable non-calls and solid strategy by offensive coaches have kept the record just out of Adams’ reach.

“He doesn’t need to go try and make the record,” Koenning said. “Part of the reason we have had such a hard time stopping the run is because everybody is trying to sack the quarterback.

“They do pass sets, and then they hand the ball off because there are cavities in there that most NFL linebackers could not cover. They need to do what they are supposed to do (up front) and the sacks will come.

“That is something we have to get through to their heads.”

And it might be someone other than Adams that needs to step up and make a play. Ever since Adams closed in on the all-time mark against Virginia Tech on Oct. 26, Clemson has had very little pass rush and only one sack in three games. If they struggle to get to the quarterback against Kentucky, then it could be a long afternoon for the Tiger defense.

“I’m not going to say someone has to step up because the whole defense has been playing as a unit the whole year,” Adams said. “Things didn’t workout this year, but we had a hard schedule. I’m not trying to say anything about that, but guys have been working hard.

“I didn’t get any sacks the last couple of games. You can’t point fingers like that. We just have to come out, work hard and hope for the best.”

And Bowden hopes that results in more of a pass rush. The Clemson coach says it will all start with Adams.

“He will have to do pretty good because we have not been too productive in that area the last four games,” Bowden said.

Though the last month has been hectic for the Clemson senior defensive end and with the NFL combines just a couple of months away, plus a possible record waiting in the balance, Adams is focused on the real goal this week --- the goal of beating Kentucky and ending his Clemson career on a high note.

“It has been a little hectic, but at the same time I know I have to stay focused,” he said. “I know what is at stake. The season is not over with. I’m trying to get the sack record. I’m trying to put all that past me.

“All the award ceremonies are done and over with. We have to go out and play hard against Kentucky and hopefully get a win.”

And that would be a perfect end to what has been a perfect month for a guy who has had a perfect year.

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