Wilkins shrugs off questions about injury, says Tigers are hungry for playoff win

by - Senior Writer -
Wilkins wants to erase the pain of last year's loss to Bama
Wilkins wants to erase the pain of last year's loss to Bama

CLEMSON – Christian Wilkins walked out of Tuesday’s practice sporting a cast on his left arm. Wilkins laughed off the questions about the cast and instead focused on Ohio St. and the Tigers’ upcoming game against Ohio St. in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

Second-ranked Clemson takes on third-ranked Ohio St. at University of Phoenix Stadium in the College Football Playoff Semifinal, and Tuesday was the Tigers’ second practice in preparation for the bowl game.

Wilkins told the media these practices would be the cornerstone of a potential win.

“It’s really critical right now. We just had all last week off,” Wilkins said. “So getting back into it is really critical because you don’t want to come back after we get a few days off for Christmas and not really have the game plan together. We want everything to be set in stone, so when we go to Arizona, nothing’s new. We all know what we have to do.”

As Wilkins wiped the sweat from his head, the cast was visible, but he told the reporters it was a remnant from baking cookies for Christmas.

“Nothing (Is wrong with the arm). I was baking cookies before practice,” he laughed. “This is my oven mitt. I just left it on because it was stylish.”

The questioning quickly turned to Tuesday’s practice, and Wilkins said the Tigers wouldn't change the way they practice just because it’s Ohio St.

“We got after it today. (Monday) was a little slow, but I felt like we competed at a high-level today,” he said. “We’re nowhere near ready to play on the 31st, but it was a good first day of pads.”

“We prepare every game like it’s a big game. The difference is you have so much time off. You hopefully play your best football by the end of the season, and now you have two or three weeks off before you play again. That’s really the toughest part. We have to stay locked in and not grow weary.”

Clemson defeated Oklahoma in the semifinal Orange Bowl last season and lost to Alabama in the title game in Glendale, and Wilkins said the Tigers would use that experience this time around.

“It’s really important. All the guys that were there last year know what to expect this year,” he said. “Some of the guys that may not have performed to their best last year, they know what they did and didn’t do right and wrong. Hopefully, they can correct it and play well this year and bring those younger guys along.”

Walking out of University of Phoenix Stadium following the loss to Alabama is something that Wilkins says he will never forget, and he hopes to leave in a better mood this time around.

“There was a lot of pain. Honestly, I felt like last year,” Wilkins said. “I felt like we were the better team and we were in the position to do it, but they made the plays they needed to make. As a defense, we’re hungry. We’ve always been hungry. We’re going to have to compete to win this time in this stadium.”

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