Clemson vs. South Carolina: You have to be here to understand it


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Christian Wilkins smacks Jake Bentley last season
Christian Wilkins smacks Jake Bentley last season

CLEMSON – You have to be here to understand it.

Junior defensive tackle Christian Wilkins grew up in the Northeast, and he knows a great rivalry when he sees one. What he didn’t know was how bitter the rivalry between Clemson and South Carolina can be.

"Any of the Boston rivalries, you know Yankees-Red Sox, Celtics-Lakers, any of those really,” Wilkins said earlier this week. “Before I got here I didn't understand what this rivalry was like but you know now I definitely understand it. You get complete bragging rights for the whole year with how much goes into this so definitely have a good appreciation for the rivalry."

Wilkins was part of a Clemson team that traveled to Columbia two years ago. A late score made the final of 37-32 closer than it should have been, but he remembers that Williams-Brice was loud despite not being close to sold out.

He also remembers Sandstorm.

“I remember it got really rowdy and a good environment,” he said. “They just play that one song literally the whole game and it gets in your head. Even after you leave, it's in your head, it's ridiculous. They got their towels going and I'm sure it'll be a lot better environment at night too and I'm excited to see what it's like playing there at night. I'm sure it'll be a great atmosphere."

Is Wilkins a fan of Sandstorm?

"Not much, no."

Wilkins and his defensive line brethren will be tasked with putting pressure on South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley, who has improved since last season.

"You can see the experience. I thought he was pretty good last year, you just saw the potential that he was going to be a good player and he showed a lot more of that this year,” Wilkins said. “He looks a little bit bigger this year too and put on some good weight, strong, thick in the pocket. Just really the leader of the team and the offense goes as far as he'll take them and he just does a good job of leading them. Seems like a good competitor and everything, this a good opportunity this week going against them."

Bentley made waves during the off-season when he said that he feels like Clemson wasn’t that much better than South Carolina, despite the 56-7 differential in last season’s game. Wilkins doesn’t have a problem with Bentley being a leader.

"No, if that's how he feels then that's how he feels,” Wilkins said. “I understand that he has to try and be the leader for his team and even when things were going bad last year like going against us, he still has to be a leader regardless. He has a right to his own opinion he's just going to have now try and prove it this year that they're not worse against us this year."

If Bentley decides to talk a little smack during the game, Wilkins will be only too happy to oblige.

"I'm always going a little bit. I always got something to say, regardless of what it is,” he said. “It's part of playing the game within the game and having fun. I'm the same person in every game."

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