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January 7, 2017
Q. What's it mean to be back here again?
CARLOS WATKINS: It's truly a blessing to get back here. To get this opportunity again, I mean it's unbelievable, man. Guys worked hard. We knew we had a chance to get back, but it's truly a blessing.
Q. The performance you guys put up against Ohio State shut them down, can you talk about that?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. I mean I didn't see it coming, you know. Ohio State, can't take nothing away from them. They're a great team, a very talented offense. But the guys, we really locked in on defense, you know, really focused in. Ben did a great job of handling everybody, the linebackers and the secondary, making sure they was getting extra film. But yeah, guys just focused in and it showed.
Q. What makes this defense stand out here?
CARLOS WATKINS: I mean we always find a way to have a chip on our shoulder, you know. I feel like we don't get the respect that we deserve. But you gotta earn that. But we always seem to find a way to have a chip on our shoulder.
Q. The Alabama has always been the power game and everything else.
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah, it starts with us up front. They present a great challenge. Always been a physical team, always had a great O Line and been able to run the ball. So our job as the D line, if we stop the run, it makes things harder on offense.
Q. What is it you guys have to do?
CARLOS WATKINS: Just continue to do what we're doing, just being aggressive. Coach Swinney going to put us in the right play call, even though we just gotta trust and believe what he calls and just 110 percent effort, just try and be dominant up front.
Q. Having been here before, knowing all the stuff you gotta deal with, how big a help is that?
CARLOS WATKINS: It was good. Last year was a great experience for us. So I mean we really kind of knew what to expect coming into this game. Last year was a big advantage.
Q. How bad do you guys want this, especially after last year?
CARLOS WATKINS: This is big, you know. It's been a while. I mean it's not only for this team, but community and fans as well. I know they've been dying to have one, and we definitely want one since we were so close last year. These opportunities are rare. So I mean this is something that you dream about as a little kid, man. But I definitely want this big time.
Q. I know you guys were talking about (indiscernible).
CARLOS WATKINS: We just do what we do, play Clemson football. We know that Bama is a great team. They earned that respect to be the elite program. So we're trying to get on that level, trying to be that elite program that everybody knows about. But just gotta play consistent football, continue to do what we're doing.
Q. Talk about last week, you dominated Ohio State.
CARLOS WATKINS: We're going to carry the momentum from last game. We just can't think the last game is definitely not going to determine the next game. We just need to continue doing what we've been doing up front, just being disruptive and trying to create the line of scrimmage.
Q. Do you expect any changes from them with the change in their offensive coordinator?
CARLOS WATKINS: I don't think too much because they got a freshman quarterback. I don't think they can just change up all the tendencies and all that. He's done got adjusted to the offense, so I don't think they can hit us with anything crazy.
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. I mean we knew last year once we walked on the field we had to get back. We had to get back. But I mean we knew Bama is a contender every year. We knew it was a good chance they was going to be back, but it really didn't matter who we play. But I like the rematch. I like the rematch.
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. Ohio State they continued their style of things. The run game. They have a lot of great runners in the back field, Alabama does. So it's our job, as defense, we can slow down a run, it makes it a lot easier because Alabama is definitely a run team. They make a lot of plays off the run. So if we're able to stop the run, it'll make it a lot easier for us.
Q. You guys just shut out Ohio State. (Inaudible).
CARLOS WATKINS: Always. That's what gives us our edge. We always try and find something to motivate us. But the game last year defense did not play well at all. We had a lot of busts, made a lot of big plays. So this year guys I think there's a lot more focused in, ready to play.
Q. Been a long journey since last year when you were walking off that field. How gratifying is it just to have the opportunity to get another shot?
CARLOS WATKINS: It's rare that you get to go back-to-back years. I just been soaking up this moment just thanking God, because moments like this don't happen. So this time we definitely need to seize the moment.
Q. How would you rate the last game?
CARLOS WATKINS: It's up there. Ohio State is a great team, has a lot of great talent, and if you would have told me we would have went in there and had them at zero points, I don't think I would have believed you. It's just guys were so locked in and focused.
Q. Knowing how many points their defense has put up this year, is there any kind of expectation? How much would you guys love to get in the end zone?
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh, yeah. We definitely would love to get in the end zone. It's our job to create turnovers. So when we get the turn over, we just gotta make a play. They're very good at returning interceptions. So hopefully our guys on secondary or whoever catches it can return it back.
Q. Sark is calling the plays now for Alabama. Are you prepared for somebody else to be the play calling knowing that there's a new offensive coordinator in there now?
CARLOS WATKINS: I don't really think so. He's a freshman quarterback. I don't really think they're going to change up too much. That would be a lot of pressure on him. But I think they're going to probably keep it the same, same play calling. They're really a run team. Quarterback is in the run game heavy. So I don't think anything really is going to change as far as that.
Q. How would you have to adjust if you had a different coordinator coming in to prepare for a National Championship game? What kind of challenge would that pose?
CARLOS WATKINS: It definitely would be a challenge, you know. He's the best defensive coordinator in the game right now. But I guess I would treat that like kind of adversity almost. I couldn't tell you how we would adjust without coach V. But I know Alabama, their offensive coordinator is gone, so I'm pretty sure they're making adjustments.
Q. Were you pretty surprised at all that you shut out Ohio State.
CARLOS WATKINS: I was. I mean if you told me we were going to hold them to zero points, I wouldn't have believed you. I at least thought they would have got a field goal. But our guys were just zoomed in, ready to play. They just gave everything they had.
Q. So with that being said, what would be the expectations against Alabama? Are you going to try and shut them out?
CARLOS WATKINS: The goal is not to let nobody get points. So if it just turns out that way, it turns out that way. I know it's our job as a defense to hold them from scoring. So if we play like we're playing, we can do it.
Q. Are coaches getting tired of Alabama?
CARLOS WATKINS: I don't know.
Q. Are you?
CARLOS WATKINS: I don't really get tired of it, you know. That's the program. That's what they do. Clemson is trying to get to that point, you know. Hopefully one day somebody will get tired of us winning. But Alabama, right, people are going to hate because they win, but I respect them because of that.
CARLOS WATKINS: Who, Clemson? I definitely believe so. I've already heard somebody in the hotel, they're from Alabama, but they're just rooting against them. I think they just want to see Alabama lose.
Q. In what ways do you think this game this year is going to be different than last year? Do you think we'll see the same amount of points being put up?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah, last year I think it was a total like 85 points scored between both teams. That's a lot of points in a National Championship game. I don't think it'll be that close to points being scored. I know Alabama has a great defense. But we made a lot of mistakes last year on defense. Gave up a lot of big plays, but I don't think it'll be like that this year.
Q. When you see your quarterback in practice. Is there any comparison you can make between the he and Jalen, similarities, differences?
CARLOS WATKINS: I know Jalen, just like Deshaun, he's real good on his feet. Really can't compare the two. They're two different types of players. But both of them are really good on their feet.
CARLOS WATKINS: The experience itself was a great experience. It's a National Championship game, but you don't need to put that much pressure on yourself. It's a football game. That's how you gotta look at it. I understand the prestige of the game but at the end of the day it's football, and we don't need to add any more pressure to us at all. Just need to go out there and play Clemson football.
Q. Why do you guys want to go up against Alabama?
CARLOS WATKINS: The best. You know, they're the best. You know, they've earned that right to be called the best team in college football. So in order to be the best, you gotta beat the best.
CARLOS WATKINS: Probably just walking off the field. I was so hurt last year, just walking off the field, seeing the confetti come down on me and the team and we ain't holding up the trophy. It was tough. That's probably one of the things I remember from last year.
CARLOS WATKINS: Last year, I don't want to say -- but last year, I think guys really weren't as focused in as this team is now. I mean last year we had guys, you know, who I don't think -- I'm not going to call anybody out. But they started looking ahead, you know, trying to get ready for the NFL process and all. But this year, man, it's only one goal and that's to win the National Championship. And we're not worrying about any of that until the game is over. So I think guys are really a lot more focused in.
CARLOS WATKINS: I guess just the experience with last year, being so close, like three or four plays away from winning it all. I'd just say last year's experience. Plus we didn't have like Mike Williams and Deon Cain last year. We didn't have all our weapons on offense.
Q. Jalen Hurts looks pretty good. How are you going to deal with him?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah, Jalen Hurts, he's a great player, got great poise. He don't panic in the pocket. So that's what I really like about him. He's really fast is what a lot of people don't know about him. He really have some wheels. So that's what really makes him a threat.
CARLOS WATKINS: I knew it was headed in the right direction. My guy like Stefan Anthony, the guys that came in the year before me clearly turned the program around. Clemson won like ten games in 2011 season before I came in. But I just knew it was headed in the right direction and Coach Swinney had a great coaching staff behind him and I just knew where they were heading.
Q. Your position is one that really shows the evolution on the program. How different is the competition from when you started to now?
CARLOS WATKINS: It's the same. When I first got in, we had Grady Jarrett, DeShawn Williams, guys who really work hard, just nasty guys up front. Really set the tone for me. I'm trying to do that for Dexter and Nyles, Jabril, Albert, all them guys. But it's still the same way.
Q. The new facility, kind of is a trophy of what you guys have accomplished. Have you walked through it, do you have a favorite part of it?
CARLOS WATKINS: It ain't quite finished yet, but it's going to be amazing though. I hate that I ain't gonna really get to have my experience in there, but it's really going to be a great place, really has everything you want. Like I said, I really hate I'm going to miss that.
Q. Have you let this set in that this is your last ride here at Clemson?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah, I've sat down and thought about it, because I really try to cherish this moment with all my boys because I know I won't get this opportunity again. I try to tell them guys that, you know, things like this don't happen too often. So I try to get them to soak in the moment. But I try not to think about it too much because I'll get emotional. But just really ready to play and let them boys go out there and play.
Q. Have you had a chance to sit back and think about the journey?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. I do all the time, you know. I just thank God. I just be riding in the car, just sitting down, you know, and I just think about it. I wouldn't be here without Him, you know, so but I definitely reflect on it. It just motivates me more, just letting me know where I came from, and I got a story to tell, because the car wreck, you know, I really suffered a lot from that. But it's just truly a blessing to be in the position I am now.
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah, they did have to cut me out of the car. It was the telephone pole that had me trapped in. So they had to cut the pole up and then they pulled me out through the trunk of the car, through the back.
Q. How much of coming back was mental versus physical? Obviously there was some physical things you had to go through. How much of it was the mental side of it?
CARLOS WATKINS: The mental side didn't really play an effect until I actually got back on the field again. I really had to regain my strength and all, but when I stepped back on the field, I just wasn't myself again. But I think that was the toughest part, you know. I was like, am I going to be able to get back to where I was? You know, I was getting playing time at the time, a good bit of playing time, and when I got back out there, I just wasn't the same, and I had to tell myself like it's going to take some time to heal from this. So I didn't want to discourage myself, but my teammates did a great job of encouraging me, just keeping me motivated, as well as the coaches.
Q. Being a small-town guy, what would it mean to bring a National Championship back home?
CARLOS WATKINS: It'll be huge, man. I think, man, the fans, they really deserve it. It's been a while. I mean not only the fans, but us guys, we really worked hard for this moment. But it would be huge just for Clemson, you know. The fans, they really show their love and support. They really genuinely care about their players. It would be huge.
Q. How big is that going up against Taj in practice? Preparing you guys for last weekend and this weekend?
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh, we've had a great look. Taj, he definitely has a lot more speed than Coach Venables does. So he has to give us a better run look. Taj is physical, too, so he actually run up in the holes and is physical. You know he can throw the football. So I think Taj really did a great job this week in preparing us.
Q. Did you feel I guess more prepared when you went up against Barrett all week after facing him all week in practice?
CARLOS WATKINS: I did. Kind of the same players almost, you know. We definitely got a great feel for it in practice.
Q. What about Jalen Hurts? What makes him special? How can you stop him from doing what he's done all year?
CARLOS WATKINS: We gotta keep him in the pocket. He's good on his feet. He's got great poise. A lot of people don't really pay any attention to that. I mean he don't panic in the pocket. That's what makes him the great player he is.
Q. What about Scarbrough, those runs that he had last week? Do you take notice of that?
CARLOS WATKINS: You definitely gotta take notice in that. That guy's a beast. We're just going to have to wrap up, man, play physical. Talented backs like that you gotta wrap them up. They break tackles easily and then he's that big and can move that well, so really gotta get them down.
Q. Seems like this Alabama offense is not just one guy, three different backs, plus the quarterback and the receivers. How do you handle all these weapons that are everywhere and you don't know where it's going to come from?
CARLOS WATKINS: It's kind of like Ohio State almost. They had weapons all over the field, you know. That's why Coach V is who he is. I don't really see all that's going on, but I know he's going to put us in the right call when he sees the formation.
Q. Last year a lot of their guys came off of what he said were self inflicted mistakes. Does that give you confidence that now we've corrected our mistakes, we like where we are?
CARLOS WATKINS: Almost definitely. Yeah. Ben is exactly right. It's like three or four plays that we hurt ourselves last year that gave the game away. But this year this team is a lot more focused. Last year we had a couple of guys that was highly NFL prospects that kind of got unfocused. But this year, man, we know how valuable this opportunity is, and I think we don't want to take that for granted. This is rare, man. We got an opportunity of a lifetime.
Q. What was your biggest take away from last year that you can look back on and think about this year?
CARLOS WATKINS: I think just the experience of the game itself, which is big. Guys, we know what it takes. We know what we can do. Going against Alabama last year, too, we know what they do. So I mean we really should know what it takes now to win.
Q. You mentioned seeing Alabama, seeing Scarbrough do well against Washington. Really, for the rest of that game he did not play very well on offense. I'm sure you noticed that as well. What made Washington so effective?
CARLOS WATKINS: It really was physical up front. Watching film, the guys, I know they let Scarbrough break out that one little run. He had two good little runs, but the guys from Washington they played very physical up front. I think their defensive line did a pretty good job. But they had another offensive touchdown. You know, Alabama, they're good at that. They don't have to have the offense to put points on the board. They can win in different ways. That's what makes them Alabama.
CARLOS WATKINS: It's been fine. But he's been giving us a great look. He's got good speed. I think he might have tore his hamstring. But yeah, he gave us a great look. It was fun running around, chasing him around.
CARLOS WATKINS: I ain't gonna say he's fast as Jalen, but --
Q. Not after 28 plays.
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. Definitely not. But he moves well, though, poise in the pocket. We try to emphasize standing in our rush lanes, not giving Jalen a lot of room to run. To Taj, he really expose us in that area in practice. When the rush lanes became available, well, when we got out of our rush lane, he would expose us to show us what possibly could happen if Jalen was to break out and run.
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh, most definitely. That's what we wanted to do with J. T. We really just wanted to keep him in the pocket, don't let him make a lot of big plays with his feet.
CARLOS WATKINS: Not really. They've been doing it all year, so -- and they've been winning. So I really don't see why they would want to change anything. It's a freshman quarterback. I don't think they will try to come up with a new scheme or anything like right away. I'm pretty sure Jalen is comfortable with the offense they have now. So I don't think they'll change up anything.
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh, most definitely. We were just excited. Like last year, you know, we were undefeated. You get to the National Championship, you know, when nobody on the team had any experience except for like the coaches. No player had any experience with that. So we was just enjoying the moment, like not really -- I ain't gonna say we weren't focusing on the game. But I think we were enjoying ourselves a little too much.
Q. The celebration in the Orange Bowl last year, the Fiesta Bowl this year, do you think it was similar?
CARLOS WATKINS: I think it was similar. Well, last year probably celebrated a lot more. But this year, man, I mean I think we were just ready to get to the National Championship. Once we got the win, everybody was excited. We were just happy to get back.
Q. Is there a feeling of revenge in the locker room for this matchup?
CARLOS WATKINS: I don't necessarily call it revenge, but you could say redemption almost. They got us last year, but the rematch.
CARLOS WATKINS: It was a sick feeling, you know. We was riding high last year, undefeated, you know. We was riding high. We fell all the way to the bottom, you know. But I feel like that was a great experience for us, just to let us -- you know, we got a taste of it. It might have been a bad taste. But we got a taste a little bit of a National Championship. So we know what it takes now.
Q. Did you focus on how good of a season you had after that game?
CARLOS WATKINS: I don't want to say it does, but that was the goal. That would have been the ultimate goal to go undefeated and then win the game. But you go undefeated all through the year and then you lose the last game, you know you it really don't sit right with you because you're not used to it. We had become like used to winning at that time. So that's why it didn't sit right with us.
Q. Didn't face the real Alabama defense. Do you guys feel the same way?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. I feel the same way, we didn't show our same defense, you know. We gave up a lot of big plays. 88 was wide open half the game. So we definitely didn't play our best performance as well.
Q. Is it kind of gratifying to have Alabama again, to give you a second chance?
CARLOS WATKINS: That's what I say, in order to be the best, you gotta beat the best. So that's how I look at it. Alabama has earned that right to be called the best. They beat us last year. So like I said, in order to be the best, you gotta beat the best.
Q. Were you saying earlier that containment is a big deal with Jalen.
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh, yeah. Definitely. He got great wheels. So it's best that we just keep him in the pocket and don't let him run and make plays with his feet.
Q. It looked like Washington kind of got to him a little bit, bringing pressures. Is that something, things you can do against a freshman maybe?
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh, yeah. I mean you definitely want to put pressure on him. Our job as the D line men is get to the quarterback, make him throw uncomfortable in the pocket.
Q. I know it wouldn't matter who you play ultimately. It happens to be Alabama. And you were so close last year. What does that mean?
CARLOS WATKINS: It's just really a blessing. Like you said, it really wouldn't matter who we play, but Alabama, you know, this is history right here. Both teams go back-to-back years. So this is almost like a legacy, you know. Both teams just getting back. So hopefully we're able to pull this one out.
Q. Is that one and the fact that last year you didn't know. Now you know you were so close last year. How different does it feel?
CARLOS WATKINS: Just that we got guys with a lot of experience this year. Last year that was our first year. A lot of guys had no experience with it. But this year, you know, we got leaders who had experience last year, and so we know what to say to the young guys and let them know not to take this opportunity for granted.
Q. Second game of the season, what do you remember about that game?
CARLOS WATKINS: I think we got like booed that game. We definitely wasn't playing good, playing Clemson football at the time. I mean we still won the game. A lot of people had a lot of high expectations for us, coming back out with the season we had pretty much having the same team. But I think we were playing more for the fans than us at that time. I know Deshaun, you know, he said that he was trying to make other people happy, but when the focus is on the team, I think things really turned around, you know. We started playing for each other. So things changed.
Q. What is it that made that team such a tough challenge going into the second game of the season?
CARLOS WATKINS: I mean Coach Swinney said it. Our motto this year is to embrace the target. We were going to get everybody best shot. And I know Troy. They really probably worked hard that week, probably had it down as their ultimate goal to beat Clemson. And they came out there and they fought hard. I can't take nothing away from Troy. I think they only ended up losing one game. A lot of people they sleep on Troy, but Troy was a pretty good team. But I think that game right there woke us up though.
Q. Other than the obvious pressure you gotta get on Jalen to kind of rattle him, is there anything else you can do with a freshman quarterback?
CARLOS WATKINS: It's hard with a guy like him with such great poise. I really couldn't tell you. Like nothing really rattle him up, from what I've been seeing. But if we just continue to put pressure on quarterbacks, or you know, just Jalen, I think that alone will kind of mess him up a little bit.
Q. Is there a mental aspect of it, you kind of like try to get into his head during the game?
CARLOS WATKINS: No. I don't really say too much, unless they say something to me. You know what I'm saying? I don't really say too much. I just go out there and play. Shout out to my scout team boys out there. Pat Guy, Logan, Tubby.
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. I feel like this year, man, we have a lot closer bond as a team. Everybody gets along. It ain't only just like offense hangs out with offense, defense hangs out with defense. It's really like a brotherhood. It doesn't matter, like you could be a walk-on, scout team guy, you know, we're brothers. I'm going to treat you just like I treat my D linemen. It really don't matter. It's a brotherhood. I love all my teammates.
Q. You guys, this is a rare chance, it never happens in college sports, like having a rematch, get this chance for revenge. How much is revenge -- I mean you don't go out and play with revenge on your mind, but it's gotta kind of be exciting to have that rare chance at revenge.
CARLOS WATKINS: I mean it is, though. I mean Alabama, you know, like I've been saying, they're the best, and in order to be the best, you gotta beat the best. That's how I take it. They've had the respect for a while, and they've been on the top for a while. So that's why it's good to get back and get another shot.
Q. William Perry, Michael Dean Perry, no D tackle has ever had more sacks than Carlos Watkins. What does that mean?
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh, man. It's really a blessing. Last year after the game I was having doubts about coming back for my senior season. But I thank God I made the right choice to come back and play. But I really didn't even know that it was the brothers that held the record till after the game last week when Coach Swinney announced it. But that's a big honor, those two guys right there, to have that many sacks, it's just truly a blessing.
Q. Did you do something in the off season that made you better at sacks?
CARLOS WATKINS: I really -- ain't nothing really too much that I changed. I know that coach Brooks really focused on us winning one on one, so anytime I was able to get a one on one I just try to win. We worked really hard in the summer, just working on pass rushes, just trying to work with our hands a lot. But just really winning one on ones was the biggest difference.
Q. What a great redemption story you are. Take me back to 2013, how hard that was for you and where you are now. Was there a pint where you felt helpless back then?
CARLOS WATKINS: Honestly, it was. It got to a point like that. It was just I wanted to get back for that season, but my body just wouldn't allow me. But finally, once I got back on the field, I just wasn't myself for a while. And I kind of got discouraged. But I stayed on course. My teammates and my coaches did a great job of encouraging me along the process. But once I got back in the groove, you know, I started to gain a little more confidence. And that's really key, just gaining my confidence back.
Q. When you experience such lows, does that allow you to appreciate these highs right now as a team and as an individual? Are you able to appreciate the highs even more now?
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh, most definitely. Especially like opportunities like this. I know young guys don't -- I know they don't realize how they should be very grateful for this opportunity. They're just enjoying the moment right now, but we have to let them know like this is rare. You might not ever get to this again in your college career, and I'm fortunate enough to go back to back. But it's really just a blessing.
Q. Was there a time you didn't think you were going to make it? Was that real?
CARLOS WATKINS: After the Pittsburgh loss, you know.
Q. I mean going back a couple, three or four years ago. Was there a point where you didn't think you would be here?
CARLOS WATKINS: I couldn't tell you. I really honestly didn't know, especially after that incident, you know. I probably wouldn't tell you I would be at a National Championship, especially not two years. But the guys and the coaching staff around here, man, it's just great to be around. Hopefully we have started a little dynasty here.
Q. We hear so much about Alabama.
CARLOS WATKINS: That's why, you gotta earn it, though. Alabama has earned that right. They're putting out -- I mean how many defensive touchdowns they got this year?
CARLOS WATKINS: 11 defensive touchdowns. That's crazy. That's why they get that kind of credit. Not taking a back seat or anything, but stuff like that get you recognized, you know. But I mean we're still going to play Clemson defense, though, regardless.
Q. I heard you say something about embrace the target. Where did that come from? Where did those words come from?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. We had a shirt. Coach Swinney. So we came back, once we got back from football and everything, he told us our motto this year is embrace the target. We know we was going to get everybody's best shot.
Q. Did he mention the Cubs? Did you know that was their motto?
CARLOS WATKINS: I didn't know. But he did go to a Cubs game. And he was talking about -- he was saying Maddon. Maddon had a shirt on that said "try not to suck." That's what he said. If we don't suck, we're going to win.
Q. With what's gone on in your career and coming up in this next game, how emotional are you going to be?
CARLOS WATKINS: Gosh. I've just been thinking about that moment, winning the game and the confetti start coming down, it's going to be very emotional. I really just sit back -- I sit back and think about it all the time. This opportunity is rare, and I just really just try to be as grateful as possible for this opportunity.
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh, yeah. Most definitely. That was a very good choice for me to come back.
Q. Carlos, you've had so much success in Florida, bowl games, ACC Championship, Florida State. What is it about this state that brings out?
CARLOS WATKINS: I really couldn't tell you. We're just trying to play Clemson football, regardless of where we're at. I don't know. I guess we got a lot of games in this state. So it looks like it, but it really don't matter where we play. We just try to play Clemson football.
CARLOS WATKINS: That is very true. Somehow he stayed open the majority of the game last year. Nobody have really knew who he was at the time. But he made a name for himself in that game with a lot of big plays, though. But see, a lot of that was on the defense, you know, just missed assignment. He was wide open the majority of the game.
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh, definitely. He's a great player. Physical and fast. He's got great speed. But yeah, he definitely has our attention now.
Q. Alabama was trying to say that they sort of feel like the underdogs, even though you guys are the underdogs.
CARLOS WATKINS: No. I ain't really heard nothing about that. I'm pretty sure they're just trying to find the edge.
Q. How much is it still in your mind that they got 45 on you?
CARLOS WATKINS: It's crazy. I mean it was given. It was given to them. O.J. had like two touchdowns when he was wide open. Then he caught one that he took for like 65 yards. He didn't score, but he pretty much had 21 points by himself. But yeah, that just wasn't Clemson defense last year. Think guys are locked in and ready to go.
Q. What's the edge you got in the game?
CARLOS WATKINS: I don't know. I really don't know the edge I have this game.
Q. What are you most concerned about?
CARLOS WATKINS: Stopping the run. Honestly. They're a great run team. So I feel like we stop the run, it makes it a lot easier on the defense. They do have a bunch of running backs and a running quarterback as well. So it's going to be a challenge. But we don't back down for nobody.
Q. What do you take away from playing the second National Championship game? You've already done it once. How different is this time?
CARLOS WATKINS: I don't want anybody to think it's different. It's still just a football game. I understand how big the game is. But just experience itself. A lot of guys don't get this opportunity, but last year was big for us. Just to have that experience, going undefeated, getting to the National Championship and losing, it wasn't what we wanted, but I think the experience really helped this team out a lot in getting back.
Q. To do it twice.
CARLOS WATKINS: It's a blessing. You don't get the opportunity like this. There's some people in their careers that have never been, and I'm fortunate enough to go back to back. So it's really just a blessing.
Q. What do you want to talk about? Talk about the game? Anything.
CARLOS WATKINS: No. I'm just ready to play. Ain't nothing that I really want to talk about too much.
Q. Here in Tampa, National Championship, media day, everything that's gone on this week. What's the experience been like?
CARLOS WATKINS: It's definitely fun. But you don't want to have too much fun, you know, because we treat this as a business trip, not a bowl game. But you gotta soak in the moments because you're not going to get times like this. So you tell the guys to soak in the moment but don't enjoy it too much.
Q. Is there any social thing you want to ask you to do, selfie style, describe the week and the rematch.
CARLOS WATKINS: I really suck at things like this. So I gotta record myself?
Q. Same thing you've been saying all day, how the rematch feels, what it's like to have your second championship game.
CARLOS WATKINS: Hi, this your boy Carlos Watkins, happy to be back here at the National Championship game against Alabama it's been great down here in Tampa, having fun with my teammates. I'm ready for Monday, though. Let's go Tigers.
CARLOS WATKINS: I think we just needed to refocus. We were still riding high. Undefeated. I think we just needed to refocus. That game, that really humbled us, I would say. It got a lot of our guys' attention, which was big. But I think that was the main thing, you know, just getting guys refocused again.
Q. What's difficult about preparing for the game with a new offensive coordinator for them?
CARLOS WATKINS: I don't know. Wasn't he the guy at NC State last year? He always give us problems. I don't know why. It's just a lot of different things he hit you with. One thing about Pittsburgh, I remember having linemen, a lot of switching, you know what I'm saying. Just stuff that would just throw your defense off because you wasn't used to seeing it. But I think that game right there got us pretty much prepared for anything.
Q. Is that the best game you all played this year?
CARLOS WATKINS: Defensively? Probably so. We've had a couple good games defensively. That being Ohio State and the team that they are with a lot of talent, that really shows a lot.
Q. Did you guys use Taj again?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. He practiced with us this week.
Q. How helpful is that to have a guy who's obviously (indiscernible).
CARLOS WATKINS: It's been a big help, because Coach Venables was normally our scout team quarterback, but he's a lot more athletic than Coach V, throws the ball better as well. But he also understands like -- he understood what we was trying to work on. He gave us a great look, especially like the D line, like standing in our rush lanes because a guy like Jalen will expose you. He got an opportunity to run because he got great feet and Taj was doing that. Anytime we get out of our rush lanes or anything, he would just take off running and really expose us in a way. So it really showed us things that we could get corrected.
Q. So he helped you against Ohio State, too?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. He did.
Q. Did he teach you guys at all during the course of that? Did he make any plays against you guys?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. He made some plays, great throws, good runs. Yeah. He definitely made some plays.
Q. Facing a guy like that in practice, how does that help?
CARLOS WATKINS: Deshaun, he gets you ready for anything, like there's no quarterback out there like him. He can beat you on his feet and with the arm. He's prepared for anything, honestly. He's got great poise. He don't panic in the pocket. Even when I'm getting out there in practice, he's still able to make plays and throw the ball down the field.
Q. Jalen is a guy who's been pretty unflappable all year, but against Washington he had (indiscernible). How important will it be to kind of get him out of his comfort zone?
CARLOS WATKINS: Just like with any quarterback, you gotta put pressure. You put pressure on the quarterback, it kind of -- you kind of get them discombobulated a little bit. And a couple of hits, quarterbacks don't like being hit. But I'm pretty sure a guy like Jalen who runs the ball a lot, I don't ever see him sliding or anything like that. He used to it. Normally like big hits and stuff like that kind of mess up a quarterback, but that's the thing. He's different. He got great poise. He don't really let anything get to him, but only thing I say you can put pressure on him, you could throw him off a little bit.
CARLOS WATKINS: I think we're very motivated right now. I think we're just grateful to get the opportunity again, but I think the guys realize like this is rare, so guys been doing just a little extra. Coaches don't have to tell them. Just doing like extra stuff on their own because I think we realize how important this is to us.
Q. Coach has said this has been a year-long process to get back to this moment. How have you guys used last year's loss to inspire you for this year?
CARLOS WATKINS: It was just stuff like that we were so close. And that was our first time being there. And playing against Alabama, one of the great teams. But last year it was just a great experience just to get there. But I think this year we got a lot of leaders on this team who got to experience it last year. Actually a lot of guys who got to experience it last year. So we know what it takes. That's the main thing.
Q. The experience of been there, done that. How much is this team different?
CARLOS WATKINS: I think the growth, the leadership growth. Had a lot more guys on each like position, you know. We have a senior leader. So guys really, like myself, Ben, Jadar. We're really hard on each other. We're really hard on the younger guys. We just gotta let them know, like you don't get this in your life. So just seize the opportunity, take advantage of it.
CARLOS WATKINS: I don't want to -- J is a character, though, man. I don't think I really have one right off the top of the head. I'm pretty sure J I know has a couple.
Q. What do you think about his?
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh. What did he say?
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh. He's funny, man. I'm pretty sure he got more than that. He just didn't open up to you all.
Q. Talking about the experience of last year, a lot of guys are talking about (indiscernible)?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. It's really big. Coach Swinney believe like last year we kind of limped our way to the finish line. But this year we understood what it took to get there, and we knew not really to kill ourselves or anything like that. Coach Swinney did a great job on just taking care of us this season, just making sure, you know what I'm saying, we're healthy in the right spots so we can finish strong.
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. That's true. Hey, at this point of the season, you know, a lot of guys are banged up. You got one more game to go. I don't think it takes any beating up on each other anymore to get ready for a game. I think if you're not motivated for it, you're just not going to be ready to play. You know what I'm saying? Like a game like this should just motivate you itself. If you don't let this motivate you, I don't know what will.
CARLOS WATKINS: Well, this is the last game of the year. I know Coach V is going to put us in the right call no matter what. But it's the last game of the year. I don't think they will throw anything crazy out there. Jalen is a freshman. I don't think they will want to change any kind of their tendencies. The offense really has gotten adjusted. I mean they're a run-first team. So I mean when you got great backs and quarterback that can run the ball, I don't think anything is going to change. I think they're still going to run the ball and let Jalen make plays with his feet and still do what they do.
CARLOS WATKINS: It'll be a great match up. Watching film, the guys they will be a great challenge. They're very physical. They move well. So it'll be a great challenge for us interior linemen.
Q. How would you describe the advantage you think you have here?
CARLOS WATKINS: I don't really want to get into a lot. But I guess guys, I mean we're kind of deep in that position. I don't know how they rotate their guards or whatnot. But we got guys that can come in and continue to put pressure on the quarterback. It don't have to be me and Dexter. Scott and Albert can come in and still do the same thing.
CARLOS WATKINS: I ain't a big fan of the media, man. Like I'll do it, but I don't really like getting in front of the cameras and microphones and all that.
Q. This is gotta be particularly uncomfortable.
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. It is. It is.
Q. How do you feel about Monday?
CARLOS WATKINS: Feel good about Monday, man. Feel real good, real, real good. I am hungry. I'm ready to eat.
Q. In the days of college football, good defenses hold the team on the 20. Great defense is holding them in the teens. Urban Meyer and Ohio State. How proud are you of that?
CARLOS WATKINS: That was really cool, especially confidence wise just letting us know we can play at a high level. It really showed us like when we really play Clemson defense, what we're capable of doing.
Q. How good a tackle is Robinson?
CARLOS WATKINS: Oh, he's the best in the game. He's definitely the best in the game. Watching film, he runs really well, very strong. He's definitely the best in the game.
Q. When you look at Clemson, everybody talks about elite programs. They don't throw you in. Does that bother you guys a little bit?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. Of course. We got here back to back. I still don't think we get the ready we deserve. But that's why we need to win it. You gotta earn respect, you know, and that's why I'm kind of glad we're playing Alabama. In order to be the best you gotta beat the best, that's how we look at it.
Q. Nobody's going to accuse you of backing in beating Ohio State and Alabama; right?
CARLOS WATKINS: They really can't say too much about that after that. That's two great teams. If we pull that off beating Ohio State and then Alabama, I don't think can't nobody say too much about us then.
Q. The Ohio State game is living proof that games are won or lost in the trenches. Do you expect it'll be a war Monday night against Alabama?
CARLOS WATKINS: Of course. They're a heavy run team. The coaches have told us it starts up front. So it's my job to get these boys ready on the D line, just try and be as disruptive as possible, put pressure on Jalen and really contain that run.
Q. Coach Venables is like the mad scientist. We know you got something ready. But you guys have taken stemming to a new level. It's almost like the count before you guys are moving and set. That really causes the offense defense, doesn't it?
CARLOS WATKINS: Yeah. It definitely does. It messes with them a lot because once they got down, they see us in a certain defense or whatever. But when they get down and look up, you know, we probably done move or adjusted something real quick. It definitely gives the offense a fit.
CARLOS WATKINS: I throw him a Scooby Snack. No, no. Just trying to be that big brother for him because guys did me the same way when I first got in you had guys like Deshaun, Grady and Josh who took me under their wing. But I just want to do the same thing for him, man. He's worked hard. He's challenged me. So I just want to take him under my wing, show him the ropes, and the guy is capable of doing a lot.
Q. If you could change one thing about college football, one thing, what would you change?
CARLOS WATKINS: We get paid. Yeah. We definitely should get paid. But that's one thing I would definitely change.
Q. Also, outside of yourself, who's the most important reason you're here? What person?
CARLOS WATKINS: Besides God?
Q. Besides God. That's a great answer.
CARLOS WATKINS: I guess my dad, you know. The sacrifices he made for the family. It was real big. He showed me a lot through the sacrifices he made and everything. So I would definitely say my dad.
Q. Besides God is the best answer I've heard today.
CARLOS WATKINS: All right.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports