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January 7, 2017

Ben Boulware

Tampa, Florida

Q. A lot has been made about this being a rematch from last year. What do you think is going to be the biggest difference between last year's game and this year's game?
BEN BOULWARE: I think guys are just that much more acclimated to this situation, this environment, this experience. Kind of going through the same type of season last year, a lot of those same guys are on this team this year. Guys are just ready for it. They're not overwhelmed by anything that comes along with playing in the National Championship. At the end of the day, it's another game for us on Monday.

Q. Do you have to prepare any differently for the offense, knowing that someone else is going to be doing the play calling since they had an offensive coordinator switch?
BEN BOULWARE: We don't focus on that. It's not in our control. So we're controlling what we got to control.

Q. If you had to change offensive coordinators a week before the National Championship, how would that affect you?
BEN BOULWARE: I'm not worried about that, it hasn't happened to us. So that's not something for me to worry about. So I'm not going to comment on it.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I'm not sure. That's for Coach V to worry about. I'm just going -- I'm the one out there trying to make plays. He's got to put us in the right position to make those plays. So ask Coach V.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Very satisfying. Just because we put in so much work, we prepared so hard, and I don't think we prepared any more than we would have in the regular season, we just had a little extra time. Those extra couple weeks definitely helped us out and we were just ready to play, ready for the environment, feel completely comfortable in our game plan, and it showed.

Q. Teams all season have been calling for Alabama as the team they wanted to face in the National Championship game. You're one of those teams. Now you guys get to do it. What kind of challenges do they bring to you and why are you guys so willing and wanting to play them?
BEN BOULWARE: The present a lot of challenges. They're the standard in college football, they're the best, they have created a dynasty. We, obviously, want to take that role, and I'm sure as every other team in college football does. But Alabama is the standard. I think Clemson's coming a close second. But right now they're the best team in the country, they're the best team last year, they're the best team so far now. Hopefully, we'll change that label come Monday night.

Q. Dabo and Nick, very different personalities. And, of course, nick seems a little bit more angry, Dabo a little bit more uplifting personality. Do you think you could play for someone like Nick Saban, who seems to be a little bit more angry than your head coach?
BEN BOULWARE: Absolutely. I think Coach Venables kind of fills in that role a little bit. Coach Venables is a very focused, locked-in coach on a daily basis. So they probably have similar coaching styles. And our coach has done very well over the past four years, so I definitely think I could, I would perform well in that situation if I was playing under Coach Saban.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: A good bit. Just because he was there for the beginning of his career. He learned a lot as a player, learned a lot as a coach, learned a lot as a man. Just being in that environment. So you hear it probably a good bit, just because of that. Being at Alabama, as a player and as a coach, affected him a lot in his life, everything that happened there. Our team definitely hears it a lot.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Coach Swinney addressed it. We're moving on, focusing on Alabama.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: No, yeah. Their team, as Coach Swinney as called it, has scored a lot of NOTs, non-offensive touchdowns. So we would definitely love to do that as a defense. Their defense has played unreal this year. And special teams put a lot of points on the board and helped their offense out. So, yeah, it's definitely something we would love to do, to help out our team in any way as possible. A shutout definitely helps out. The Ohio State game. But if we can score some points on our side of the ball and on special teams, I mean, points are points and the guys with the most points win. So we would love to do that.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Coach Swinney addressed it and we're moving on, focusing on Alabama.

Q. I asked some Alabama players if they were surprised at the way you handled Ohio State, being able to shut them out that way. A lot of them said yes. Does that surprise you at all the way that team went down?
BEN BOULWARE: Not really. I know how hard we work as a team. I know how hard our leadership put guys in a position to prepare throughout the couple week, so I'm not surprised. I know how hard we prepared, how hard we worked, and it was very pleasing to see the fruit of our labor. A shutout against anybody is very difficult, especially Ohio State. So to go out there and do that is a very satisfying feeling.

Q. People say sequels are normally not as good as the first time around. Do you have a particular sequel movie that you like or that you can think of?
BEN BOULWARE: I want to give you a good answer. I completely drew a blank, I apologize. That was a bad answer. I didn't give you an answer. I don't know. I can't really think of anything at all. I want to give you something different. That's what everybody would probably say. I watched something the other day that was pretty solid. I'm stupid. I'm sorry. That was terrible. Let's just don't put that in there. That was nothing at all. That never happened. I can't give you anything. I drew a blank. I'm sorry.

Q. Why do you think this sequel will not be as bad as the first time? Why do you think it's going to be better than the first time?
BEN BOULWARE: I don't know what's going to happen. Honestly, it's going to be a great game. It's a great matchup with a lot of talent on the field, two best teams in the country. I don't know if it will -- I'm hoping that we don't allow 45 points again. I'm hoping it's not as high scoring of a game. Especially as a defense, you don't want to allow 45 points. It's hard to win if you do that. So I don't know what's going to happen. Low or high scoring, who knows. I know it's going to be a great game though.

Q. What's the difference in this year compared to last year's team?
BEN BOULWARE: I think a lot of guys treated last year as a bowl game, both games as bowl games. This is not a bowl game at all. It's a business trip. Curfews a couple hours earlier. It's very difficult to get out of the hotel. There's not much to do. That's the way it should be. It's not a bowl game. Our bowl game was last week. Or not, well, whenever it was, two weeks ago -- bad memory. Bowl game was last week. All those activities were for the Ohio State game. This is a completely different experience for us. It's really just a longer away game. So all the fun and activities for the last week, this is straight business. That's how we have treated it all week.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Got to beat them. If you want to be the best, you got to beat the best. And that's Alabama right now. So we're definitely, in my opinion, at their heels. But they're the standard, and they have been the best for awhile, but we want to get up there, too. So I think if you want to be the best, you got to beat the best, and that's Alabama.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Being in that locker room crying, walking off the field with the confetti falling on you for all the wrong reasons. So really those two things. And as a defense, just felt like crap because we felt like it was on our shoulders when we lost that game, giving up 45 points. So, obviously, want to change that this year. We're going to try to play a much more clean game. All the guys have been focused this week, in their watching film this morning before we came here, so I'm expecting a lot more clean game. I'll be upset if we give up 45 points again. Hopefully, our offense will score 46, if we do. I know they got just as talented an offense as they had last year. But, hopefully, we can do some things to slow them down.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I don't know. It's going to be difficult. I don't think he's acted like a freshman all year, the way he's played, the way he's carried that team, the way he's led. All them dudes, for him to be 18, 19 years old and win Player of the Year, get them back to the National Championship, that just proves that he is not acting like a freshman at all. He's mature beyond his years. Alabama fans have a lot to look forward to with his next couple years playing there. So he makes it difficult on you. A lot of freshmen, you can kind of exploit and make them uncomfortable in the pocket, but Jalen Hurts makes it difficult. He's a very mature young guy. So we, obviously, have our game plan, things that we want to try to do to slow him down, but he's a great player, very talented and can do a lot of things with the ball. So he makes it difficult in planning a defensive game plan.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I don't think, that's definitely not the only motivation. I think it's just being a football player and being a man you, obviously want to go out there and dominate every game. Losing in the National Championship, obviously, leaves a pretty big chip on your shoulder that might carry you throughout the season. But there's also other motivation that allows you to play at a high level on a daily basis. But that definitely played a big role in it. Being on that field as a defense and not playing at a high level and losing that game for us, it definitely adds a little fuel to the fire. But there's other things that definitely that go into it.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Hopefully it sinks in after the game. I'm completely focused on this game, I'm not worrying about the future. I know no one else on this team is. We're focused on Alabama. We're focused on winning the National Championship. When that time comes, I'll soak it all up and remember all the things that have happened here. But right now, it's all ball.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Offensively we hung with them. Defensively we played like crap. So I think as an offense, it gives our guys confidence. Defensively, it kind of, remember that game, watching that tape, kind of pisses you off a little bit, because we didn't play at a high level. So I think on one side of the ball, I think Deshaun and them guys have confidence, because they played at a high level. But for our guys, it's a little extra motivation, we got to play better. That was not championship football last year. That was not us playing to the Clemson standard. So watching that film, we corrected a lot of things. We'll be watching a lot of tape this week. We got our game plan, obviously, don't want to give up 45 points again.

Q. What did you learn last year and what stuck out during the game that you didn't see necessarily until you looked at tape?
BEN BOULWARE: Really nothing special. A lot of guys, just stupid mistakes. Very easy mental errors that guys on our defense screwed up on. Missing a gap on a run fit where Henry had 60-yard run, the three busts on OJ Howard where he was wide open, not even a contested play. I mean, he's a great athlete, has had a great year. But, if anything, you want to at least have a contested play, have a good matchup with two of your, one of them guys on him to at least attempt to make a play. And he was wide open on, I think, like three or so plays. And then the kick off. So I think probably four or five plays that were huge plays that weren't even contested at all where guys just completely busted that are very easily correctable. So to correct those things, I feel like if you take away some of them big plays, it was a -- I thought we played at a somewhat decent game. You can't do that. The plays are there, we earned those plays, so you correct them, you move on, you learn from it. Hopefully, we won't do it again come Monday.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I feel like he definitely did some things well. Obviously, some things he would probably like to take back and do over again. I think he's played very consistent all year. Obviously, guys are not going to play perfect every game, they're going to have their ups and their downs. Things we have done this year we would like to take back, too. I think they definitely sense some pressure a little bit sometimes just to kind of get him on his heels. I think, as a whole, Washington played very consistently. We're very disciplined.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Yeah. I think that Washington played very disciplined for four quarters. I think it was two big runs they gave up and some missed tackles. But other than that, they were locked in. I know that they were going into that game and they believed that they could win, they played at a high level. There were obviously a couple of plays that they would like to take back, but they're very disciplined, very gap sound, had great eyes for the entire game. I think a couple plays they just had a couple missed tackles that they would like to take back. But I think Washington has played a really disciplined game on defense.

Q. How would you compare the celebration last year to the one that you had this year.
BEN BOULWARE: The celebration last year? There wasn't one, we lost.

Q. No, last week.
BEN BOULWARE: Oh, I'm sorry. Similar. Obviously, we felt like we deserved to play in this game, so we were probably -- we were a lot more sure of ourselves that we could beat Ohio State and get back here. Our guys were probably a little more excited last year, because it was the first time we had done it in 30-some years. But still a National Championship is a National Championship. So, obviously, guys were super excited. But come the next day, we're watching film. So you enjoy it for the night, but after that, you're moving on, focusing on the next game.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Absolutely. I think if you want to play at a high level and you want to be a very consistent and dominant football team you got to expect to win. I think if our guys would have went into the Ohio State game scared, and worried about the Ohio State brand, like, oh, God, we're playing Ohio State, they're going to smack us around the field, rather than focusing on what you got to do to play well, what you got to do to help your team, and wanting to dominate every snap. Doesn't matter if it's Ohio State logo on their helmet or a Troy logo, you want to go out there and play at a high level and dominate. So I think our guys had a respect for Ohio State, but we also we're aware of how talented we were as a team. So we're going into that with the same mindset against Alabama. We are -- trust me, we are aware of what Alabama's done. We completely respect their entire past couple seasons and this year, all the success they have had. We realize and respect the talent and success they have had at their university. But we're also aware of how good we have been, too. So we're looking forward to a great matchup Monday night.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I don't know. I know Alabama fans -- I know they love being at the top. Clemson fans, obviously, we would love us to be up there. I can't speak for the rest of the country. We might have a little more support, just because they have been there for a long time. And so maybe, I don't know, I'm not going to speak for the rest of the country.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: We're probably picking up some fans. Probably a couple. I don't know. Alabama deserves everything they've gotten. So they have got a respect from everybody across the country, including Clemson.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Not really. We can if we need to. We went to the mall last night, like eight o'clock, for like 30 minutes. I was in bed by nine o'clock. So, I mean, there's things you can go do. But guys just are very mature about the situation, responsible about what we have to do and what we have to take care of, so they enjoyed the bowl last week. But I think all our guys from top to bottom realize that this is not a bowl game. So there's -- guys aren't going to be staying out late. The only thing there really is to do is go to the mall, and it closes by nine o'clock. So we'll be in bed by 9:30 most nights, and that's the way it should be.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: No. I've been doing the same thing ever since I was in middle school, same routine. Might be a little more mental now than it was in high school and middle school. For the past four years, every game, I got my same routine. I'm not changing for nobody, no opponent, no experience, or no game, doing the same things that got me here. I think if you stick to your roots, and then stick to the things that have made you successful, you continue to be successful. I don't think that you change for any game or any opponent. I think when you prepare too much or get too overly fired up or scared, I think that's when things start to fall apart. Keep it very simple. Really, all focused on the mental side of it and my game plan. Watching film. The defense -- we were up watching film at 8:30 this morning before we came here. The game's so much more mental now than it used to be. So, really, just guys getting locked in on what we have to do to play at a high level. So, before the game, just really I'm going out there stretching and warming up. But looking in my notes a lot. Because there's a lot of things that me and Kendall have to do out there to manage the game. Me and Kendall are the quarterbacks of the defense, we got to get guys lined up, get everybody on the same page, it's -- a lot weighs on me and Kendall's shoulders. So if me and Kendall aren't ready and aren't prepared on the mental aspect of it, then we're probably going to play like crap.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: It makes it difficult. He's, obviously, one of many talented players they have. So I think any, if you're in a one-on-one or even in a phase with him running a route, I mean, he's a big dude and can fly. So it's difficult to win those one-on-one matchups with him. So guys just really having good eye discipline, having good leverage on him, having good depth, and just locked in. There's a lot of other guys on that team that we have to be locked in on. It's the most talented team we'll face all year. So, really, just guys just locked in on their game plan, locked in on each call, having great eye discipline, not letting the motions and its fly by stuff mess with your head, focus on your man and that's it. I think if you do that for 60, 70, 80 snaps, it will be a good game for us.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Guys are just busting, I don't know. I don't know if some of our guys weren't prepared or this that and the other. There's four or five plays that we wish we could take back. I think it really comes down to eyes, seeing each formation, seeing the down and distance, what they like to do with each formation in down and distance, and recognizing personnels. So I think it really just comes down to bad eyes, guys were looking in the back field, didn't see there was two receivers out there, couple plays we had really bad tackling. So it was a pretty sloppy -- especially with the back seven. I think our front four played pretty well and held their own against their offensive line. On the back seven, guys just weren't locked in, it was a very sloppy game.

Q. What have you seen of Jalen Hurts just being so successful as a freshman?
BEN BOULWARE: I think he's just an all around great football player. I think he's very similar to JT Barrett. Obviously, he's not as old and experienced as JT Barrett, with him being there for three or four years. But he's definitely not acting like a freshman. He's very mature, he's a great leader. You can see him managing the game, getting guys lined up, communicating, and making a lot of throws, and making a lot of plays with his feet, too. So all around, he's just a ball player. He makes it difficult on us, as do the other 10 guys on the field. So it's going to be a matchup. We're aware of the talent that they bring to the table, especially Jalen Hurts.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Yeah, no, he runs behind his pads. He's a thick dude and he can fly. I think he surprises a lot of people how quick he is. He gets out on the edge and outruns a lot of defenders. So we're aware of that. He makes it difficult on us, honestly, but we got our things that we want to do to slow him down. But the best way -- but he definitely make it's difficult.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: He's got talent, man. They got talent all across the board. Their offensive line is who they are. I mean, they always have a great offensive line. Usually with Alabama, they have quarterbacks that just kind of manage the game, make probably 15 to 20 throws, not really that athletic, but then they bring in a guy named Jalen Hurts who can do a lot of things with the ball. And then they got an All-American, Minkah and OJ Howard. And then you know the dudes that they got at receiver. So on all three levels, they're very talented. They got some of the most talent in the entire country. And they're scheme's not easy. They do a lot of motion, a lot of fly by stuff to mess with your eyes. So I think in every aspect they make it difficult on you, just how talented they are. Schematically, it's not easy, and that's why they have been so successful, that's why they got a dynasty, and that's why they're Alabama.

Q. Were you guys defensively -- knowing that they scored 45 on you last time, does that push you?
BEN BOULWARE: It pushes you a lot. To go out there and play pretty solid throughout the entire year, to be a Top-10 defense, and lay an egg, and let them put 45 on the board. And a lot of those plays aren't contested at all. So it pisses you off. It motivates you to get that much more locked into the game plan, have that much better eyes, have that much better gap discipline each play. We feel like within a couple of five or six plays that weren't even contested at all, we thought it would have been a closer game. So, obviously, as a defense, we felt all that weight on our shoulders that we lost that game. It is what it is. I honestly don't like saying that, but we laid an egg out there and we're, hopefully, looking for a different outcome come Monday.

Q. How happy are you that it's Alabama again?
BEN BOULWARE: I mean, obviously, I had a bunch of respect for Washington. I know they were a great team, but everyone knows that Alabama's the best. They have been the standard, they have a dynasty, and they're Alabama. Their brand's their brand, and they have earned everything they have gotten. So I think that, for us, we want -- if we wanted to be the best, we had to beat the best and that's Alabama.

Q. Has that pressure been there all year to get back to this game?
BEN BOULWARE: No, not really. We knew that time would come. But we focused in on each week, that's why we have been so consistent. We treated every week like it was a National Championship. We prepared that way and we played that way come Saturday. So I think that that mentality, that mindset, that each practice, each film session, and each game is the biggest game of the season, because, obviously, if we didn't beat Troy or we didn't beat SC state, I probably wouldn't be talking to y'all right now. So I think those games were just as important as the Auburn games, as the VT games, as the Florida State games. So we have had that same mindset all year and I think that mindset and mentality has kind of gotten us back to this game. But, obviously, losing in the National Championship gives you a little more motivation, but the mindset mentality has always been there.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Probably won't know until after the game. I'm trying not to focus on that too much. I'm completely locked in and focused on my game plan. Focused on getting guys lined up, putting guys in the right position to play at a high level. So Monday night when we get back to the hotel, it will probably hit me that my time's over here, but I got one more game. So I'm going to try to make the most out of it.

Q. Are you going to shave on Tuesday?
BEN BOULWARE: No, that's disrespectful. That's blasphemy. This thing's here to stay. Come on. It ain't going nowhere.

Q. What would it mean to you to be the guy that kind of helps bring the National Championship?
BEN BOULWARE: It would be huge. But it's definitely me and company. It's me and Deshaun, Wayne, Leggett, Jay, Carlos, Tootie, there's a bunch of moving pieces that are part of this puzzle. Some guys might be a little bigger pieces than the other, a/k/a Deshaun, we're all pieces of the puzzle. One guy can't do it all, and he needs the help of his teammates. But to be a part of the class that brings back the National Championship to Clemson would be huge. It would be a very gratifying and satisfying feeling just to kind of see the fruits of your labor and to see all the hard work pay off.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: It would be huge just because it's been 35 years? 35, I'm pretty sure, since there's been a National Championship back in our state. So I know a lot of South Carolina fans aren't rooting for us, but I know that there's some that obviously want us to bring it back for the state, because I think it's definitely a South Carolina thing. And at the end of the day, we're all one people. So I know there's a lot of fans out there rooting for us that may not be Clemson fans, but are South Carolina State fans. So we might have a little more fans going into the game, but I think it will be huge for our state and it would bring a lot of respect back to our program.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: It's very satisfying and I'm very grateful just for all the hard work we put in, all the ups and downs of the season. So I'm definitely going to embrace it. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that I play at a high level, I'm controlling all my input goals. Like I said a couple weeks ago, and I know the output will take care of itself if I control the input. I know that's what the rest of the guys on our team are doing. We're controlling the input by watching film, having a great mentality, having a great mindset going into practice, that each practice is the most important practice. That our film session at 8:30 this morning was the most important film session of the entire year. And I think that mindset, the mentality of controlling the input and doing everything that you can control will allow the output goals to take care of itself. So me, and the rest of our defense and offense have done that, all season, all bowl season, and for the past week. So we're controlling all the things we got to control and, hopefully, Monday night the output will take care of itself.

Q. You shut out Ohio State. It seems like the national media is all about Alabama's defense. You guys don't need to play the disrespect card again, but do you feel like you guys are getting disrespected at all?
BEN BOULWARE: If you look at the numbers, at what Alabama has done on defense, it's pretty impressive. All the touchdowns they have scored, just how dominant they have been. You can't help but respect what they have done and acknowledge and give respect where it's been earned. I think our respect's definitely getting there, especially since we shut out Ohio State. But to see the things that Alabama has done on defense and as a team, it earns respect. So that's all they have from us. That's all they have from a lot of other people in the country. But I think our respect's definitely getting there, slowly but surely.

Q. Do you think people around the country are rooting for you guys on Monday night because maybe they are getting a little tired of Alabama?
BEN BOULWARE: Yeah. Someone asked me that earlier. We probably might have a little more fans than Alabama, just because we're the underdog. We have been the underdog for a lot of games this season, and I'm sure a lot of people are looking to see a new face at the top. But Alabama's earned everything they have gotten, they have earned their success, they have earned their brand for the way they played over the past couple years. But I'm sure we might have a couple new fans, hopefully, all of the support is welcomed.

Q. Why do you think you guys, when it gets to these kind of games, Clemson is always the underdog?
BEN BOULWARE: I think we're just now building our brand. I think for a long time we haven't been that good. We were very inconsistent. We weren't ever really a part that have National Championship conversation up until the past couple years. So I think it takes awhile to get the respect. But I think it's just, it's slowly but surely getting there. But the way we played, especially for the past two years, playing very consistent. Obviously, the loss last year is not the way we wanted it to be. And, obviously, we wish we wouldn't have lost to Pittsburgh, but we're very grateful for it and the things that that game taught us. I think the respect's getting there. I think it's very well deserved, especially for the way we have been playing.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Absolutely. I think I'm a man of my word. I said it last year, that we would be back in Tampa, and I didn't lie and here we are. So I know how hard we worked all year, all season, fall camp, spring ball, winter and summer workouts, to get us back here, grinding on a daily basis each week. It's very -- it's a very satisfying feeling to see all your hard work pay off. But it's not over yet. We got one more game. So, hopefully, it will pay off Monday.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Absolutely. No, I feel like me and Deshaun, obviously, have a huge weight on our shoulders, being the two leaders on the team, being the two leaders on each side of the ball, being the quarterbacks on both sides of the ball, we have a lot to do. There's a lot more that goes into it that people don't see. The game is probably 85, 90 percent mental and there's so much that goes into the game plan and getting ready and seeing their formations and adjusting and anticipating each snap, getting guys lined up, and make sure guys are communicating on the right page. And Deshaun has to do the same thing. So for being the two leaders on the team, you feel a lot of responsibility. But I realize that and I've embrace that had role all year, and it's worked well. I think me and Deshaun have done our part, along with a lot of other guys, along with Carlos and Tootie and Jadar and Jay and Leggett. But I think there's a lot of weight on me and Deshaun's shoulders and we're ready for it. We embraced all of that pressure, because I know we're ready for this opportunity.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: It sucks. It wasn't a good feeling. To be undefeated, to be the best team in the country, and to go out there and lay an egg in the National Championship on the biggest stage, especially as a defense, it's not a great feeling. Especially as a leader and as a man, they kind of just challenges your manhood, and to go out there and just get smacked around, especially defensively. So we have -- I've kind of felt that way all year. I'll never forget the way I felt in that locker room, walking off that field with the confetti falling on my head for the wrong reasons. So that and a lot of other things have been a motivation this year. And here we are. So, looking to change that label and hoping for a different outcome come Monday night.

Q. Will there be some extra emotion, just knowing this is the last time you're putting on the uniform or will you be emotional --
BEN BOULWARE: No. I think that brings enough emotion as it is. The emotion might hit me after the game, realizing my sand's ran out, but I have one more game left. So I'm going to play the way I've been playing all year, all for the past four years, I'm not changing nothing. I think the intensity and the passion that I bring to our defense with a lot other guys, has allowed to us play at a high level. So I think I got to find that balance and find that medium and not overexert in any area. I just got to be me. Hopefully, if I do that, we'll come out with a win Monday night.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Absolutely. No, that experience, just being through all the -- or going through all the National Championship stuff with the bowl game and all that stuff, this year, just we're so much more acclimated to it, we're so much more ready for everything that comes along with it. I think guys are treating this game so much more like a business trip and like a regular in-game season rather than a bowl game. Much more than we did last year. I think some guys weren't locked in last year, kind of got overwhelmed by playing in the National Championship. And the difference now, we expect to be here every year. That's the mentality and the mindset that we go into each season that we feel like we're one of the best teams in the country, and we should be playing in the National Championship every year, if we work hard enough for it. That's what we have done all year. So our guys are very mature and ready for this experience. So I don't think anything that comes along with this will overwhelm them at all.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Yeah. They're about identical. I mean, absolutely. It's not something I'm looking forward to, tackling. It's, he's I'm going to be pretty sore after the game, along with a lot of other running backs. But it is what it is. It is what it is. It's what I signed up for. You, obviously, would much rather tackle some smaller backs, but then you got Bo Scarbrough. But it's going be fun. It's going to be a great matchup, along with a lot of other great talented running backs. But I know that come Monday night I'm going to be pretty sore.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Coach Swinney addressed that whole situation, we're moving on. Focusing on the game.

Q. What does it mean for you and some of these other kids from South Carolina to play in this game? Obviously, very good high school football in that area. What's it mean for you?
BEN BOULWARE: It's huge. I think there's, obviously, we definitely have a lot of talent that comes out of our state every year. The recruitment might not be as big as some areas. But just for the guys going into high school right now and the whole recruiting process, and seeing guys from their home state, from around that area, playing at a high level, being a big part of our success, I think it's just motivation and reassurance for them that anybody can do it. If you work hard enough, you put your mind to it, and you have your goals, and you work for that every day, that is possible for anybody.

Q. How much does the being a Top-10 program every year, whether it's the Rock Hill area where you're from?
BEN BOULWARE: I'm from the up state. Up state. Yes, sir.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I don't know. I mean, high school football all around the country definitely brings in a new thing. With Texas ball, that's a different league. That's -- we're pretty close to college football in Texas. We, obviously, have our athletes in South Carolina, and we have a great, great matchups and great talent down here. But I think each state presents a different type of ball, a different type of players, and South Carolina has their own guys. I can't really put a word to it or what we bring differently to the table. I think we got our guys that work their butt off, just a bunch of grinders, blue collar guys, that respect and are willing to do anything to get that scholarship and play at a high level and play at the Clemson's and play at the Alabama's. So I think, really, just the guys at South Caroline are just blue collar guys that just go to work on a daily basis.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I really haven't. My first couple years, I really wasn't a big rah rah guy, talking guy. I'm not really one to -- I don't like talking. I usually like keeping to myself. I realize going into this season -- last year, I would try to motivate the guys and lead them. But having the Shaq's and BJ's and Travis Blanks, I definitely was kind of in their shadow a little last year, let them do their thing, them being the older guys. But really just realizing my role this year and embracing it, knowing that I was the few returning guys on this team. And I realized that Carlos and Tootie aren't ones to really ever talk at all, and I know I'm a little more comfortable than they are, so really just embracing my role, man. Realizing that there's not many other guys that will get in a guy's face and cuss him out. And I realize I'm probably the only one that will do it. So, really, just embracing that role and running with it. When you do it every day -- I, obviously, don't cuss everybody out every day. I know everybody's probably going to put that as the title of the article, that Ben cusses everybody out now. But I definitely find each situation, whether motivating a guy by getting in his face and letting him know this is what we're going to do and you're going to abide by it and get on the train or you're not going to be a part of it at all. Or taking a guy aside like, you know, dude, just talking to him like a man-to-man conversation. So in the beginning of the season, realizing that Carlos and Tootie probably weren't going to say that much, because that's just how they are, that's just their personality. So just realizing that it's really just up to me and Jadar, are the ones that are going to be the most vocal guys. And with Deshaun, Deshaun's not really one for big speeches or communicating to a lot of -- he definitely communicates, but not one to just give motivating speeches and somebody that can get in a guy's face. So realizing just the Lord put me in this position and I'm going to embrace it and run with it.

Q. How do you learn that?
BEN BOULWARE: You don't. You really just go off the top of the dome and hope everything sounds right. That's kind of my whole plan that I've been doing all season, and I don't know, ask some of the guys. I hope some of the speeches have been solid, I don't know. I really just kind of go just -- I don't know, I just kind of black out and just go up there and yell at everybody. And it's worked pretty well, we're back in the National Championship. I mean, that's, obviously, not the whole recipe for everything, but you definitely need that guy, a big rah rah guy to get everybody on their heels and ready to play. And I'm the guy, so.

Q. Early in the season with all the expectations, it seemed like you weren't really playing quite where you wanted to be. Why do you think it played out that way?
BEN BOULWARE: Well, I think that throughout the season, I feel like our numbers are pretty similar to last year's. I think a lot of times the media pushes their own label. There's, obviously, some things we would like to correct. And I think we had a just extremely high expectations going into this season with Deshaun coming back, and everybody thinking he was going to be perfect every single play and throw for 800 yards and 20 touchdowns a game. And just realizing that he's a human being, he's going to make his mistakes. And then everybody returning Mike back, and all the talent we had at receiver. And Wayne. I just think that the media and everyone outside of our program put way too much of a high expectation on us and expected us to win every game by 50 points and Deshaun throw for 8,000 yards this year and it's just not possible. I think he's played great all year. I think he's done a great job of managing our offense, being a great leader, and just being Deshaun. So I think offensively, I think people just put way too high of an expectation. So I think we played very consistent. You play Auburn and play in a close game at Auburn and everybody thinks we're going to go out there and dominate them. I mean, honestly, you guys saw how good Auburn was all year. And playing at Auburn. And then winning a close game at Troy. And then everybody -- Troy finished I think 10-3 or something like that. And then Louisville is obviously Louisville. And then the Florida State game. So I think all of our close games were -- we, obviously, wish we would have played a little better. We felt like we could have pulled away from some of those games. Pittsburgh we played like crap. Obviously, Pittsburgh's a great offense, they put up a lot of points all year. So we knew they were going to score some points against us. NC State, we should have done some things better. But at the end of the day, we're not perfect. I think some people put way too high of an expectation on us and thought we were going to win every game by a hundred points. At the end of the day, it's college football and on any given day you can get beaten by anybody.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Very confident. Obviously, both teams are very talented, they bring a lot of different things to the table with their schemes and the talent they bring. But to go out there and get a shut out against a very good Ohio State team, it gives you a lot of confidence. But we do realize that Alabama's a whole different animal. We, obviously, have a bunch of respect for Ohio State. But Alabama's Alabama. So, we realize that that confidence will only last so long. You can have all the confidence in the world and go out there and play like crap Monday night and still lose. So the confidence only motivates you a little bit. You still got to go out there and work and prepare and play at a high level and we realize that.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Absolutely. I think we have known what he brings to the table all year. He's very similar to James Connor. Y'all saw how difficult it was to tackle James Connor. I felt terrible after the Pittsburgh game, just beat up and bruised because that was a big dude. And Bo Scarbrough is the same type of animal. So we're looking forward to that matchup. I know I'm going to be very sore after the game Monday night, dealing with that offensive line and dealing with Scarbrough and the rest of their backs, because they're loaded in that back field. Me, Kendall, and the rest of the guys that are back there are ready for that matchup.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I can't give you any -- Jay's the best at it by far, it's not even close. Because if I give you mine, I'm going to sound stupid, just because Jay's just so good at it. So I'll leave -- Jay's by far the funniest guy on our team. He can do a bunch of impressions, so I'll leave all that to Jay. I don't want to sound stupid and try to do something funny that's not funny at all. So just I'll let Jay handle that.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I think that says that we focus on us. We focus on Clemson. We focus on our game plan, how we work. We focus on our mindset, our mentality, our attitude, every day. And I think if we do that, like I was telling you, you control the input goals, you control how hard you work, you control the attitude you have at practice every day, you control your mindset, you control your preparation, that the output goals will take care of itself. That's kind of what we have done all year. We have been the underdog for a lot of games, but we have been controlling the input every game and we came out on top. So we know if you control the input, that the output will take care of itself. So I think that's why we have been the underdog, but we have came out on top almost every time. So, we don't really worry about that. We know Las Vegas has their deal and they have to do their job and this, that, and the other, but we're focused on Clemson. We focus on how hard we work and just focused on playing to the Clemson standard, no matter who we play. That's why we played so consistently.

Q. A National Championship is a big deal. But a National Championship for Alabama is kind of expected.
BEN BOULWARE: Right. That's huge. I think it's very simple. I think if you want to be the best, you got to beat the best. And that's Alabama. They have earned everything that they have got their past couple years. They have earned their brand. They have earned their dominance by the way they played on the field. But we want to be the best, so we got to beat them.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Coach Elliot? It sucked. I think both days, walking off that field and having the confetti fall on you for all the wrong reasons, being in that locker room, crying, you get on the plane, on the bus ride to the plane, nobody saying a word. You just lost the biggest game of your life. As a defense, I think that it just challenges your manhood to go out there and get smacked around the way we did, especially defensively. It's very difficult to grasp so that we definitely felt that hurt for a long time. I'll never forget it. It's definitely a motivation for me. I got to go out there and play at a high level on Monday night so I don't feel that way again.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: The next day, after Ohio State. That night. We realized how -- the Monday was our first meeting, but the Sunday with the players kind of watched the tape. A lot of guys were watching it on the way home on the plane. We, obviously, enjoyed our win against Ohio State, but we definitely realized our end goals, and we, obviously, realized that we want to win the National Championship. So that feeling's very temporary. So Sunday morning, watching game film. Ready for the next game.

Q. What's it like to look at that tape?
BEN BOULWARE: You just respect them. You realize how good of a team they are, how talented all across the board. You realize why they have been so dominant for the past couple years, just because you see it on film. I mean. I think the proof's in the pudding. They put it on tape, what they have done as a team. So we just got a bunch of respect for them. We respect the talent they have, all across the board, all three levels. We respect Jalen Hurts, Howard, their offensive line, Ridley, all their receivers. But we're also respecting and are aware how talented of a team we are and how talented of a defense we are. So they got their All-Americans and so do we. So the respect's there, but there's no fear. We respect the hell out of them, but we're not scared of them. So we'll see what -- hopefully, we come out on top come Monday. I know it's going to be a great game.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: No. We respected him last year. We knew how talented of a player he was. Really just four or five plays, one play, or two plays, had crappy tackles, were just literally terrible attempts at a tackle. And it's really just bad, you got a corner who is 170, and you got OJ Howard, so that's kind of not really a good matchup at tackling somebody. I think three or four plays, guys just had bad eyes, weren't locked in on the play, weren't locked in on the play call, weren't locked in on their formation, and weren't anticipating it at all. So if you -- we wish we could take back five or six plays. He, obviously, balled out against us. Hopefully, we can do some things Monday night to slow him down though.

Q. The Ohio State game was won in the trenches. Do you expect the same thing with Alabama?
BEN BOULWARE: Obviously, each game starts in the trenches. There's a lot of weight on our D-line's shoulders. There's a lot of weight on their O-line's shoulders. This is going to be a very physical game. Just watching the tape from last year, I mean, it was grueling. It was pounding every single snap. So we know this game, more than others, will be won in the trenches. I think our D-line did a great job against Ohio State. But Alabama's a different animal. They, obviously, present their challenges, they present different kind of talent, but we're ready for it.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Multiple times. A lot this year. Example of the Syracuse, Boston college, I mean you name it.

Q. Has the WWE approached you --
BEN BOULWARE: No. I saw where -- no, after the Syracuse tackle, which I thought was a textbook, I thought it was a pretty awesome tackle. I thought it was awesome. Some people probably thought I was trying to, like, injury somebody or hurt them, because I don't know, whatever. But Ric Flair posted something on Facebook, like he, like, tagged me in that Syracuse video, which is pretty cool. Nature Boy Ric Flair, so it was pretty sweet.

Q. Does Alabama remind you of anybody you played offensively?
BEN BOULWARE: They, obviously, I mean, they have their similarities to V Tech, to Ohio State, but they also have their variations. I think the talent is at a new level and their Alabama, so they, obviously, bring some of the best talent in the country. But I mean schematically, obviously Jalen Hurts can do a lot of things with the ball. So similar to Ohio State, but obviously, not exactly identical. So, they present a challenge. And they have -- there's similarities that we saw on tape to other teams. Obviously, not going to spill the beans right here, we have our game plan, things we want to do to slow them down. But they definitely have some similarities to other teams.

Q. Dabo gets off the bus first, Deshaun comes in last, there's not a sound. First thing I thought of, this is business trip, not a fun trip. Since Pittsburgh, you guys have been really crystal clear on what you want to do.
BEN BOULWARE: Yes, sir. No same mentality. Obviously, with the bowl game last week, guys are going to be a little more laid back and enjoy that whole experience. But you also got to find that balance. And I think we did a great job that last week and enjoying Phoenix, enjoying everything that comes along with being in a bowl game. But also when it's time to work, it's time to work. I think the leadership on our team and Coach Swinney did a great job of finding that balance of giving us our off time, letting us enjoy every place we visit, but when it's comes a day or two from the game, we're locked in, focused on business. So I think we took care of the whole bowl game experience last week, and it's just straight business. Our guys realize that, we're aware of that, we respect everything that Alabama's done, and we realize that this is not a bowl game, this is a National Championship, it's a whole different animal, so you obviously want to have fun and enjoy your teammates at the hotels, but if you find that balance, you get up early before you come here and watch film, realize there's a lot of things that come along with it. But you got to stick to your roots. You got to stick to watching film and preparing the same way you have been all season and I think that mentality and that mindset has kind of allowed us to play at a high level and be very consistent and successful all year.

Q. When will it sink in for you that you went down the hill at Death Valley for the last time?
BEN BOULWARE: Probably after the game. I don't want to put too much thought in that and let that whole thing overwhelm me or let me get in my emotions about it. I'm completely focused on Alabama, completely focused on going out there and playing a great game and helping my team in any way to get out with a W. Probably on the plane ride home might get a little emotional. So that time will come. I'll worry about that after the game.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: No, I definitely think we're gaining that respect. I think that Alabama obviously has a dynasty, they have earned everything they have gotten, I think we're definitely nipping at their heels. I think we're starting to create a dynasty, I think the respect's starting to get there, because we have been playing at a high level for so long now. Ever since Coach Swinney's gotten here, so hopefully we start getting into that conversation with Alabama, but you got to earn it. You got to earn it on the field, you got to earn it in your lifestyle and your preparation and your practice. That's all Alabama's done. But we're hoping to get up there with them and share that same label with them.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Not too happy about it.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I don't even want to comment on it because it just pisses me off. Because I'm not going to get to enjoy it. I'll honestly come back and hang around a little bit, just because it's unreal. I think they're just now putting the finishing touches on it right now. But I think everything about it is unreal. I think there's nothing even close to it in the entire country. But I think our football team's earned that for everything we have done on the field, all the respect and attention we brought to Clemson football, with the way we played and the way we carried ourself outside of football. So I think it's completely earned. I'm not happy about it that I'm not going to get to really enjoy it that much and experience it. We have like a slide or something, like, I don't know, probably yeah, like mini golf, we literally have everything. I mean, you got like a haircut place, like it's like stupid how much stuff we have. Like it's ridiculous. So I know our young bucks will have some fun in the next couple years.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I don't know. I'm not focused on -- I'm not focused on that at all. I'm focused on us. Whatever mentality or mindset they want to go into the game, all for them. It's all good. Technically, we're the underdog. I mean, look at the numbers, we're the underdog. That is what it is. We have been an underdog for a lot of games this year and we have taken care of business. So they can have their mindset, it's all good. But we'll have ours, too.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: I think it just allowed us to respect college football and our season and respect each opponent that much more. I think we had a lot of respect for each opponent. I just think defensively we just played like crap. I don't think we were lackadaisical or not ready for that game, I think they just went out and beat us fair and square. I just think it probably allowed us to realize, like that's our one mulligan, if it happens again, our season is going to be over. So, really, just respect for each opponent, respect for how fragile college football is, that you can get beaten any day of the week by any opponent. So I think that carried over to Wake Forest, to South Carolina, to VT, and Ohio State and y'all saw what happened on those games.

Q. (No microphone.)
BEN BOULWARE: Very important. We had a couple times when we had Tajh in there slinging it around. We definitely bruised him up a little bit. He said he pulled a hammy the other day. No, no, no, this is Tajh. So two of the days we had Tajh come in and mimic Jalen Hurts. But I think that's only two of the days, so the other two or three days, I mean coach, ole Green Beans has done great job. I mean, obviously, he's not near as talented as Tajh, but just I think the focus, the discipline and just us being locked in every snap, that's just kind of what he brings to practice every day. He sees everything. He's throwing it to one side of the field and seeing what that boundary corner's doing. So when Tajh is in there, he can definitely see everything now, so kind of just puts us on our heels, you respect every play, you're trying to embrace it and make the most out of every single play because you know you're going to get cussed out if you don't. So Tajh really just brings a whole new aspect to the game. He brings definitely a -- he's a lot more talented than Green Beans as he probably won't want to admit.

Q. Your brother went to Clemson, did you kind of grow up being a Clemson fan?
BEN BOULWARE: Yes, absolutely. My grandpa was a walk-on football player here at Clemson. My mom graduated from Clemson. About everyone of my cousins came to Clemson. My oldest cousin played linebacker here at Clemson. So I thought it was definitely my destiny to come here. I was just really waiting on Coach Swinney and the rest of the staff to pull the trigger for me and offer me a scholarship. But I knew my whole time this is where I wanted to be, just had to wait on Coach Swinney.

Q. With your heritage, what would it mean to bring home a title for Clemson?
BEN BOULWARE: No, that would be huge. It would really show that Clemson's back. It's been 35 years, we have been waiting patiently, just grinding and going to work every day, it's about time. For the past two years -- we got close last year, but at the end of the day we didn't finish. I think that it's our time. I think Clemson, our team, our fans, our program, our university, I think they want it so bad, I think it's, that the trophy and the National Championship's for us we earned that, but it's for our fans, too, it's for the Tajh Boyd, the Stephone Anthony's, the Sammy Watkins', all those guys that kind of laid the foundation for us, we're a family here. So, hopefully, if we get the opportunity to hold that trophy up come Monday night, it's not just for us. It's for all our forefathers, like the Boyds, like the Hopkins and all those guys that laid the foundation for us, so it's a family thing and hopefully we can do it and go out there and get the W for the family.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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