Christian Wilkins, the freshmen and picking on Dexter Lawrence


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Wilkins works at practice
Wilkins works at practice

CLEMSON – Jordan Williams and Justin Foster walked onto Clemson’s campus, fresh off of stellar high school careers, and wondered what to expect.

After a meeting with defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and the rest of the defensive line, they weren’t wondering any more. They knew exactly what was expected of them.

Wilkins met with the media following practice last week, and he covered a variety of topics, but it started with the freshmen and how they’ve adapted to the collegiate level. The ever-smiling Wilkins grew serious for a moment and said the older players put the young ones to work right away.

“Jordan (Williams) and Justin (Foster) have really been working. We brought them in the first week and we put them to work,” Wilkins said. “I let them know what the standard was and me, Clelin (Ferrell) and Austin (Bryant) had them grinding and sweating and had them really working. I was letting them know it wasn't high school anymore and you had to put in the work. There is a reason why we have the success around here that we have and the D-lines like we've had. They have responded well to it and I've been impressed so far with their mentality and willingness to work.”

Foster and Williams aren’t the only ones on the receiving end of Wilkins’ treatment – Dexter Lawrence is a frequent target, even though it’s all in good fun.

“Yeah, that's what brothers do. I'm the big brother, just let him know that. Anytime he thinks he's big and bad and tries to flex his muscles on me, I have to put him in a headlock or something like that,” Wilkins said of Lawrence. “I have to let him know who big brother still is, no matter how good he is, I let him know I'm better. I don't care how many tackles for loss or how many sacks he has, I'm still his big brother.

“He keeps me humble as well. He's such a beast too and it's like 'Ok, I still gotta work.' We're just pushing each other every day. I keep him humble and he keeps me humble as well. You just see the knowledge he's gained in a year. That's definitely helping him out. He's still a freak athletically and physically, but he's smarter and more willing to lead. You can see the difference. He's so comfortable now.”

Wilkins said that Lawrence brags about being the better of the two at basketball, but that’s simply not the case.

“He has no shot. He's not touching me on the court, I don't care what he says,” Wilkins said. “That's my domain. That's my area because I can handle the ball. He can't handle the ball, he's just the post guy. He's got some sweet post moves, I'll give it to him. Once I take him out and dribble a little bit, he can't keep up.”

Big brother Wilkins is expecting big things from Lawrence this season.

“I think he'll be just fine because he puts in the hard work each and every day. He comes in with the mentality to get better and like I said, iron sharpens iron every day,” he said. “He's pushing me to be my best and I'm pushing him to be his best. That's not even a thought with him. He's just trying to be his best and help the team as much as he can. You always feel like someone’s chasing you here, fortunately, we have good talent and good depth.”

On the mentality after winning the title

“Maybe initially after The Championship, it was obviously a little different. The mentality after you lose a National Championship one year and it's a little different when you win initially. Once we got back to work and mat drills and summer workouts it was all business. Guys are grinding and guys have been working ever since. It's just been business as usual - Best is the Standard Always, we do what we do here.”

Different team, same dream?

“Well yeah. You always want to do your best no matter what. Obviously, we have guys who left so it's a different team this year, but the same dream - always do your best to reach your fullest potential. That's our mentality each and every day. Get better every day and put in the work.”

His weight

“It's a stout 298lb. I wanted to drop a little weight, just to be quicker. My strengths are as good as they've ever been. I've gotten stronger this summer. I just wanted to be a good healthy weight so I could last. Be quicker, be faster and I'm still strong, so I'm comfortable with it. I definitely feel the difference. I don't feel as gassed, I'm like a gazelle or something out there.

“I always end up putting on some weight during the season, so I'm doing it now so I can have a buffer. Hopefully, I'll have some discipline and won't get back up to where I'm too heavy. I would want to be 305 pounds at the most.”

Switching back to tackle

“I've done it before, so I'm comfortable doing it. I just have to put in a lot of work because all last season I was playing full-time man. I've done it before, I just have to get back to the little technical things about the position. It's still an easy transition. I'm just happy to help the team the best way I can.”

The transition to Coach Todd Bates

“Coach Bates, I like him a lot. Good coach and good guy. It really helps that he's played the position and everything. He has a lot of football knowledge for a younger coach. He's just a guy that you connect with and want to play for.”

The offensive line

“The offensive line only really lost Jay (Guillermo.) Those guys are all older and have a lot of experience. The three freshman last year Sean (Pollard) and Tremayne (Anchrum) and John (Simpson) - you can see the jump and tell the difference. Those guys are just workers and they are a tight group. You can tell that on the field when you go against them. They are really tough. If you don't bring it on any given day, you're going to get exposed, so they push us and we push them and it works well.”

Having one coach on the defensive line

“It's a little different, in some ways, it's kind of helpful. I feel like just as a whole d-line, you know what everyone is doing, no matter what position you're at. It's helpful because we're not just focusing on the ends as well. It's helpful for me to see both every day.”

Can they be as good as the 2014 defense?

“They are really the gold standard, being the number one defense. We're not going to compare ourselves to them because that would be disrespectful because of the different guys. They had great talent - guys that we obviously look up to and have the utmost respect for. It's something great to shoot for. We feel like we have the talent to be a really good defense, but it means nothing if we don't put in the work every day and have the mentality of pure and total domination.”

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