ACC Championship teleconference with Clemson players transcript


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ACC Championship teleconference with Clemson players transcript

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. We'll open it up for questions.

Q. What are your impressions of the 2016 game? Coach Swinney said you guys maybe became more focused after that game and might have helped you winning the national championship. Did you feel losing to Pitt might have been a wake-up call in 2016?

HUNTER RENFROW: Yeah. For us, I believe it was a lot like the Syracuse game was this year. They came into our place and kind of took it to us really. We played well I feel offensively. But it's a team game. They stuck it to us. Kind of like Syracuse this year. Syracuse took it to us. We were just fortunate to win this year.

I think those two games were similar from that aspect. Coming down the stretch here, we were seeing how their division was shaking up. We were seeing that Pitt might win it. Us seniors especially were looking forward to kind of getting a rematch against them.

Q. What would it mean to you and to your teammates and the Clemson program to go out there and have the opportunity you have to win a fourth straight ACC title?

HUNTER RENFROW: Yeah, that's something that obviously has not been done before. For us, it would be incredible. I think from here on out kind of we just keep breaking records, especially the senior class. It's something we shoot for, being our best, being the best we can be.

Winning four division titles, then hopefully having a chance to win four ACC titles in a row, would be incredible for us. I know it just shows the hard work and the daily grind and consistency really. It's tough to do it one year, let alone four in a row. That would be pretty special, something that those seniors next year can build upon, the team next year.

Q. Coach Swinney talked last night about there might have been some criticism, fans upset a little bit because you didn't beat South Carolina 100-3. Are there some people upset that you didn't play like they wanted you to play? What was the criticism like?

HUNTER RENFROW: There's criticism everywhere. Even if we beat them 100-3, there's criticism. People are people. They just aren't happy unless it's the best ever.

We obviously didn't play as a team up to what we're capable of. But I feel like we haven't done that all year really. Just try to put a consistent effort together. Obviously we do it for the guys in the locker room. There's a lot of outside noise. We've been through that over the years. We really just try to do it for the guys in the locker room, the coaching staff, just to be able to be accountable to them and try to put our best four quarters on display this Saturday.

If it was all easy and we always played our best game every week, there would be no reason to practice. Just show up and play. Sometimes it's good to struggle a little bit. But we felt like South Carolina was a really good team. Offensively they played well. It's not like we were playing just some school that was 2-8, 2-9, whatever. They're a pretty good team, so some of the credit goes to them.

Q. Coach Swinney last night said you haven't gotten into game prep yet. What have you seen from this Pitt team, how are you going to have to prepare for them?

HUNTER RENFROW: We're going to prepare like we do for every game. It's the biggest game of the year because it's the next game. We haven't done too much. We usually start around 3 or 4 today with game prep, some of our practice. I know some of the guys sit down on Sunday and look at the previous game, the upcoming week, what the team does well.

Pitt, just kind of looking back from a few years ago, they ran a lot of quarters, man coverage. They're athletic in the secondary from a receiver standpoint. We're going to have to play well and get to it.

I know Mondays, mental Monday, that's the kind of day where we get our game plan, start getting that the game plan together. Looking forward to that tonight and this afternoon, kind of get our eyes on them.

THE MODERATOR: Hunter, we will let you go. We really appreciate you joining us. See you in Charlotte.

HUNTER RENFROW: We'll see you, thank you.

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. We'll go straight to questions for Christian.

Q. Pat Narduzzi says he remembers recruiting you, I think when he was Michigan State. What do you remember from that recruitment and how was your relationship with him?

CHRISTIAN WILKINS: He did recruit me when he was at Michigan State a little bit. Just a good guy. We had a pretty solid relationship. I didn't look into Michigan State too much. At the time I did get to know him, get to know the Michigan State staff. It was fine.

But yeah, it was a pretty solid relationship. Just got to know him a little bit. Like I said, it was short-lived because I didn't look into it too much, so...

Q. How special would it be or what does it mean to you and the team, this opportunity to win a fourth straight ACC title?

CHRISTIAN WILKINS: It's definitely something very special. I mean, it's very hard to accomplish. Means a lot to me and my teammates in this program. You don't see this every day, every year, an opportunity for a team to be the so-called top dog in a conference, in a tough conference at that, four years in a row.

That's just a testament to our program, the guys on the team, the coaching staff. What everyone has been able to do, everyone buying into the vision of the program, doing the most they can to make sure Clemson has the most success as possible.

Definitely means a lot to the seniors on the team. We lead the team each and every day. We put it all into the program for four or five years, so it's great to see the results on the field.

Q. How do you assess Pitt? I don't know if you've had a lot of time to look at them at this point, but your preparations for Pitt in terms of what they have.

CHRISTIAN WILKINS: Pitt definitely presents a big challenge for us. Speaking for the defense, what they do on their offense, they have two really good runningbacks, they have good play-makers, they do a lot of good stuff. We're going to have to bring it, be on our toes, be ready for anything.

They definitely present a good challenge for us. They're a good team. There's a reason they won their division, because they're obviously very talented and do a good job. We're going to have to be ready for anything they throw at us.

Q. What do you remember from the 2016 game? I think that was your only home loss during your career at Clemson. Do you think that was a wake-up call for you guys?

CHRISTIAN WILKINS: I just remember they just out-executed us. I just know they're going to be ready for this game this coming Saturday. We're going to have to be ready, do a good job of getting prepared.

They had a good plan for us, a good scheme for us, and they executed it well. Definitely have a lot of respect for them after that game. They were just fearless coming into Death Valley, they just did a good job. We're definitely going to have to be prepared.

Q. Do you think the game in '16 might have helped you guys win the national championship? Is it helping you prepare for Pitt this year because you know they're not going to be a team that's going to be easy to walk over?

CHRISTIAN WILKINS: Every team any week, especially in this conference, is capable of beating everyone. It's a tough conference. If you don't bring it, you can definitely get beat.

I feel like then, at that time, 2016, playing against them was a bit of a wake-up call. I feel maybe at that point in the season, things might have been a little relaxed. We might have taken our foot off the throttle a little bit. That was definitely just a wake-up call for us. They really brought it that night.

Definitely a mindset they're going to bring it this time around, they're going to be ready to play. We have to make sure we execute the game plan and do a good job.

Q. What is it like when you do something that Dabo is not thrilled with, like the Heisman pose yesterday, he gets into you on the sideline? What is that conversation like?

CHRISTIAN WILKINS: Really with something like that, he just is holding me to a high standard. He's challenging me not to get out of who I am, what I stand for, what the program stands for.

I definitely understand his frustration, his disappointment, things like that. Really you just got to take it and own it as a leader on the team. Hear what the message he is delivering, not how he's delivering it. That's all you can do in that situation, maybe think about, Was I wrong? Really take it on the chin.

Q. The splits you did after the national championship game a couple years ago, did you plan that out in advance? What has been the response for it? Do you continue to see the highlights of it on social media?

CHRISTIAN WILKINS: Yeah, definitely it's still everywhere. I can't help but see all the GIFs, all that. Things like that. That was a spur-of-the-moment thing. Spur of the moment had some fun. We just won the national championship. I was going to express my excitement, so...

Q. People talk about your athleticism. Was that sort of a good early indication of what a good athlete you are?

CHRISTIAN WILKINS: Maybe a little bit. That wasn't my intention, but that's definitely something I've heard people say since that moment.

Q. Do you have any favorite uses of the video?

CHRISTIAN WILKINS: Not really, no. None that I can think of.

THE MODERATOR: Christian, we will let you go at this time.

CHRISTIAN WILKINS: Thank you so much.

THE MODERATOR: Our final participant today is Travis Etienne. We'll take questions for Travis.

Q. Although you're not a senior, the opportunity that Clemson has in front of you, how rewarding would it be to have this opportunity to win a fourth straight ACC championship?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: It's a great opportunity to even be in this situation. It goes to what Coach Swinney has been doing here for a long time, the tremendous job he's done recruiting, keeping the program up on the rise.

Q. Tell me what you know about Pitt's front seven.

TRAVIS ETIENNE: Pitt, they're a great team, great defensive team, great offensive team. I mean, they're going to be a tough team, very physical. We're going to have to bring our A game, be ready to play each and every play.

Q. Have you seen any video of Pitt so far this week?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: Yes, sir. I kind of watched a little film yesterday. I started watching film on them. Just seeing the way they get off the ball, you rarely see missed tackles, stuff of that sort. We're going to have to be very fundamental, just do our jobs to the best of our ability.

Q. Anybody stick out, maybe a linebacker, one of the D-linemen?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: Linebackers to me are very physical, bringing it every play, being able to diagnose the run real fast, things of that sort.

Q. You lead the ACC in rushing yards. Pitt's Qadree Ollison is second behind you. As a runningback, how excited are you for this game in terms of two great rushing offenses going against one another?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: I mean, I'm very excited for this game, just to have two of the best rushing offenses in the ACC, just going out there and being able to showcase that talent.

If the run doesn't work, we have a great quarterback that will be able to just find ways to do different things. I mean, it's a great opportunity for each team to go out there and showcase their running ability.

Q. What would it mean to be the ACC rushing champion this year?

TRAVIS ETIENNE: It would mean a lot to me. I definitely credit that to the O-line. Without them I wouldn't be in this position with receivers blocking downfield. It would be great for all of us, the offensive line, me, the receivers, just something we can credit to our whole team, the other backs that we have keeping me fresh throughout the game, really making me compete throughout practice, the week of practice, stuff like that, forcing me to continue to get better.

THE MODERATOR: Travis, we will let you go at this time. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you in Charlotte.

TRAVIS ETIENNE: Yes, sir.

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