Tigers ready for open date, Wilkins ready for 280-pound running back


by - Senior Writer -
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Wilkins knows the Tigers need to finish strong before the open date

CLEMSON – Everyone in the Clemson program knows that if they can get through Friday’s road game at Syracuse, a welcome open date and a few days off are next.

Head coach Dabo Swinney told the media Tuesday that he’s instructed his team to “empty the tank” Friday, and several players have said they want to sprint and not limp to the open date.

Clemson plays at 7 p.m. Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, and have 15 days before they play again on Oct. 28th at home against Georgia Tech. But they have to take care of business first.

"Yeah I just feel like the mentality of the team this week is that it's the biggest game of the year. Obviously we want to sprint into the bye week. Guys are obviously excited for the break but we've got to take care of business first,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said Tuesday. “Syracuse is a good team and are not going to be an easy team to beat especially at their place and with their team. We've got to the have the mindset to have preparation and focus and that sort of thing and it's up to the leaders on the team like myself to make sure guys are focusing and putting their best feet forward and preparing like we do every game."

Wilkins said the Tigers need to send a message to the rest of the nation with their play Friday.

"You definitely want to go into your bye week sending and message and playing a complete game,” Wilkins said. “After this game, no one's going to see us play for two weeks so you really wan to send a message to everyone and just really play a complete game. I feel like we haven't played our most complete game yet as a team and what better time to do it on the road right before our bye week too as well. It's up to the leaders and the veterans on the team just to have that leadership and get those guys ready to play."

Clemson defeated the Orange 37-27 in Syracuse two years ago, a game that Wilkins remembers as “weird.”

"It was a lot of fun. I liked their dome and everything, it was pretty cool,” he said. “They have a nice venue and just know that it was kind of a weird game though. It got loud and everything too even though it's pretty small. It was just a weird game. We started off 14-nothing and then fumble, couple turnovers and then we knew we had a fight and to me they're even better than they were then. We've got to go up there ready to play and prepare on a short week and be ready to put together a complete game."

Syracuse features 280-pound running back/tight end hybrid Chris Elmore, who has carried the ball 17 times for 47 yards this season, and Wilkins says he is looking forward to that matchup. It also gives him ideas.

"I think it's a lot of fun. It's a good opportunity and I don't think of it as a challenge, just an opportunity,” Wilkins said. “It'll be fun and gives me ideas that I'm thinking maybe I'm only 300 pounds and only 10 pounds heavier so maybe we should incorporate more me in the offense carrying the ball. I'm always in coach's ear about that but anyway, that's what I think."

"The coaches been hating on me a little bit. I've been lobbying to the coaches since my freshman year to get more touches on the offense and be a big part of the offense. Our offense has been fine fortunately, so they haven't needed much of my help. I'm always ready to go whenever they need me. I lead the team in percentages of catching and 10 yards a carry behind Hearn in my career so. It's all good so it works and I'm happy."

The defense was upset after the backups allowed two late touchdowns to Wake Forest in the Tigers’ 28-14 win over the Demon Deacons.

"Yeah. We were pretty upset about that because we know how hard we work,” Wilkins said. “The older guys and leaders of the team, we just put in a lot of work and take pride in what we do, and we play to a standard no matter who's in the game and if we do a good job of keeping them to zero all game and then in the second half and the fourth quarter, why did we let them score? Guys who don't get as much of an opportunity to play, that's your chance to keep them out the end zone. As leaders, we've got to do a better job of making sure everybody's ready to play and preparing like a starter, so there's no drop-off."

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