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January 5, 2019
Santa Clara, California
CLELIN FERRELL: Two different teams, obviously schemes are pretty much the same. Obviously with different players you can do different stuff so they going to call different stuff but mainly different personnel, that's what it comes down to. Both teams are built the same, inside out, good trenches. It starts with the line of scrimmage and that's basically -- the mindset is always the same but different players, different personnel, that's all you have to account for.
Mostly we just got to be ready for the type of game it's going to be. The way those running backs are built, they built physical. That's the biggest thing and I feel like that's how we built, too.
It's going to be a really, really good matchup for us because obviously we played a lot of good teams but you know this team is clearly they are the best team we played so far, so it's mostly just being ready to come with the right mindset. You know they are a very physical team but so are we so it's really going to come down to who wants it more.
CLELIN FERRELL: I would say it's more so, obviously it's different because it's not the type of rivalry where it's a guaranteed game every year, you know what I mean. You've got to get to this point. Obviously for us we've got to get to the playoff and the National Championship to play each other. I would say more so -- usually it comes with some hardware whenever we play them and that's the biggest thing. Is I wouldn't say it's just because it's them.
Obviously we know we're playing them, it's because it's for all the marbles. Whenever we play them, there's a lot at stake for the game.
CLELIN FERRELL: It starts up front, the trenches. That's all it really is, man, both of us are built from the inside out. The closer you are to the ball, the more value that you have. It starts up front. If you can't win a line of scrimmage, you're not going to give yourself a chance to win or a good chance to win at that.
Obviously we have great receivers, so do they. They have great DBs, we have great DBs, great quarterbacks but if you can't win up front, then you're not going to have a great day. That's where it starts at. I feel like that's the reason why we've had such great success for both teams over the last couple years.
Q. Your scouting report --
CLELIN FERRELL: Good player, I see as a great opportunity, not so much as a challenge you know what I mean. Obviously when you play for a program like Clemson you want to play against the best and he's considered the best. I want to have a great showing come Monday night. It's going to be a tough challenge.
Obviously it's for all the marbles, so I know they going to be playing hard, as well. Just a really, really good player, quick, athletic, strong. It really checks all the boxes what you want as an offensive lineman. It's going to be a good game, good matchup.
CLELIN FERRELL: I wouldn't say good measuring stick. I would say it's a good matchup. I feel like regardless of me playing somebody who is projected to be a high first round pick, I feel like I've showcased my talents as far as can I play the next level but that's going to be a good challenge for sure.
CLELIN FERRELL: I feel like last year, they just whooped us up front. Ain't a whole lot into that. I feel like it's a defense we play well but we didn't really win the battle up front on both sides of the ball.
And that's what it really comes down to. Your quarterback -- obviously quarterback has to play well but if the protection isn't well and you're not getting to the quarterback like you'd like to and if you're not containing the quarterback like you'd like to -- it starts up front with those guys but it comes down to like you said Trevor the throws he made and the types of plays that he can make with his feet, it just adds to another level. But we've got to protect him up front and we've got to get to the quarterback up front.
CLELIN FERRELL: I mean, yeah, any time every quarterback is different and just, you know, a lot -- Coach Swinney wouldn't say quarterback position is very important but I feel like obviously quarterback is the most important position on the team.
Every team regardless who is in there, every quarterback brings something different to the table. Kelly brought that atmosphere, but Trevor has that special arm talent and just that easy go flow with him, that vibe, regardless of whatever is going on, we feel like everything is going to be all right just because of his demeanor. We going to be fine regardless, and I'm excited to see him play in this game. I feel like he's going to have a great game.
CLELIN FERRELL: I would just say my preparation man, for real. This is my fourth year, my third time playing, third year playing. I just feel like as a veteran, as a leader I feel like I've kind of taken on a role of not just preparing myself but having to prep for the rest of the guys in my meeting room, other guys on the defensive line and defense.
I'm now starting to learn what everybody is doing and I feel like I've done a good job of kind of doing checks and balances on making sure everybody is being held accountable for everything they are doing. Obviously that goes back to my preparation because it's helping me focus more on the tendencies.
I can learn scheme now pretty quickly. I've been around a couple years and I've seen most of the things that people are going to throw at us so this has been good.
Q. Pass protection schemes, getting used to the chips and the double teams and everything that comes with being you --
CLELIN FERRELL: Oh, yeah, for sure. Obviously those are things that offenses do, obviously when you have a good defensive line like we do. You've got to be ready for those things.
It just comes with experience because a lot of times if it's a younger player or someone who is not as experienced as us, it can kind of derail their mindset as far as they are kind of worrying about that as to worrying about the matchup. I feel like we've done a really good job of honing in on things we need to focus on. Not so much worrying about the things people try it do to affect us.
CLELIN FERRELL: Ecstatic, man. He was going to play in both games a lot regardless, so I mean, I don't really know how much he feels like this is a wig opportunity for him other than just he running on the field first.
Obviously I've been happy for him because he hasn't let all of this really affect him. Everybody over there trying to talk to Dexter and it's like, everybody thinking about -- it's like he can't show like Dexter shows, he can't play like Dexter play but I seen him go out there and beat him and he's been out there bawling. I think it's going to be the same. I think we're going to have a good game for sure.
Q. What challenges does Tua and his style of play, his arm talent, present to you guys on the defensive line?
CLELIN FERRELL: It's kind of crazy because he's a special arm talent and I feel like it starts up front because the offensive line does such a great job with not only pass protecting but they set up the run game so well. Like he talked about those special running backs, so it's really I don't want to say nice because I've got to play against it but it's really cool to see teams who impose their will because you want to play against teams like that.
As a competitor you want to play against people who can impose their will on teams with heir run game and physicality. That's really nice to see.
But as far as how Tua reacts off of that, the throws he can make is really quite special. Other than Trevor, you know, I ain't seen too many quarterbacks that can really make them throws like that, man, and with the poise, you know what I'm saying, throughout the game, it doesn't seem like he's streaky.
He seems like a next play mentality. Doesn't focus on if he has a bad throw or not, he's a gun slinger. I told somebody the other day, usually other than Jalen Hurd, he's not in the same category as this, but other than Jalen Hurd and Tua, usually the persona of 'Bama quarterbacks has been game manager but those guys have been game changers for them in the past year. Program changers, that's how people prepare for them for sure.
Q. What do you think sets you apart from the other pass rushers in college football this year?
CLELIN FERRELL: Kind of what you just said right there, man. Obviously I haven't declared yet but as far as in general as a player, I'm not just a pass rusher. I feel like I rush the passer, you know, at a very, very high level, but I feel like my game is overall, you know, just complete as a player.
I feel like I stop the run very well. I play the pass very well and I feel like I can drop into coverages well and I wouldn't say that came with me, you know, working on those things. I kind of was just thrown in those position through Coach Venables and our defense, how multiple we are and he forced me to really learn those things and I had to take on that mindset of, I can do any of this stuff.
I've really got to focus and try to get better at it and that's what I feel like over the course of my career that I've done. Hats off to him and everybody that's put in those positions to get and become the player that I am. I feel that's what sets me apart, just how virtual I am and my mindset, as well.
I've played against the best of the best and I've done it consistently, I've done it at a high level. It just goes back to that, you know, nothing really too crazy.
Q. So much to talk about, you're a Top-10 pick and your family and friend bring it up, do you shut that out?
CLELIN FERRELL: I don't really think about it too much, man, like I said, I haven't decided on if I'm leaving or not yet. But there was talks about that last year.
I was pleased to be in a position to where I had those talks last year. But I can't really focus on it too much. I can only control what I can control, man.
It's such a long process from the Draft, so-called, and no point of really thinking about it now, there's so much that can happen in between.
Like I said, I'll make a decision after the season and I'll just focus on what's right here in front of me and that's just the Championship Game because that's what I came here to do, is to win championships and I feel like I owe that to my teammates to be a 100 percent focused on that for sure.
CLELIN FERRELL: Smith (ph). I know his career didn't pan out the way people wanted it to be but that's the reason why I wear 99. I feel like I could be -- and I don't know if it's still in the works.
But I feel like I can be, you know, what he really should have been as far as just the progress he should be at right now in his career. I know he's had some setbacks and I always pray and hope he gets back to the level that he was, but I just always look up to him and his game and it was really nice to see, especially coming from Missouri.
I liked Missouri growing up, too, so it was good.
Q. There's a lot of attention on the line of scrimmage when you two teams play.
CLELIN FERRELL: Oh, I love that, man, because you know, a lot of people don't really understand this, and it's sad to see, but the closer you are to that ball, the more value you get.
People don't really know that and people just see the wide receivers making the catches or the DBs making the interceptions or the quarterbacks making the pretty throws but you know, the quarterback don't get that ball off the D-Line hitting them in the face or the O-Line can't block.
So it starts up front, man, if you don't have good trenches, man, you can't really function as a team and I feel like that's where it starts up front.
As far as that being a big factor in the game, you love it as a competitor because you understand that the game is somewhat in your hands and any time you want that, any time that's the case, you want to go out there and play your best and I feel like that just takes our game to a whole other level for sure.
Q. Can you give us examples of what they do differently?
CLELIN FERRELL: I mean, I feel like as far as the running game, I feel like it's not the same type of typical college run game that you usually get, man. A lot of college run game is kind of finesse -- not finesse but like, it's a lot of zone reads and kind of like making it like one-on-one with the quarterback and the defensive end and stuff like that, influences, stuff like that, but Alabama and some other teams run this, too, but it's more of an NFL type, just kind of matchups on matchups.
So the stretch, zone blocking schemes, stuff like that, man, it's really just physicality, player on player and just move your man and the running back just kind of finds a way throughout all of the madness that's going on up front which is why you need good backs to have the type of offense that they run. I feel like that's the best way to do it because at the end of the day you want to put the game in your players' hands for sure.
Q. You want to get pressure on them --
CLELIN FERRELL: We never going to play scared, man. We're an attacking defense. Always putting pressure on somebody but you've got to contain them. Obviously last year, we all kind of led the quarterback, we lost contain on him a lot and obviously he can make plays with feet and so can Tua.
It's always about rushing with discipline but you can't be afraid to go out and make plays on them because that's what you have to do at the end of the day. A guy like this, we have to take chances, as well.
Q. Do you feel like you need this win to be --
CLELIN FERRELL: This is our third time playing them in the National Championship the last five years, so we're already at the top of the top as far as college football programs, but I mean, that's all I really can say.
I don't really compare that as far as, you know, they are up here and we trying to get there. I feel like we're already right there but they have got the belt. They win it last year. That's how I look at it, you know what I mean. We trying to win it this year. That's all I really look at it as.
Q. Your early career at Clemson, you missed a lot of time with the ACL tear. What do you feel like you learned about yourself? It must have been frustrating at times. How do you feel like you've improved?
CLELIN FERRELL: When I was in high school and I tore my knee up, I thought I was a very good high school player. I felt like I was underrated.
So I feel like going into college, I was going to have a good showing in my freshman year but when I tore my knee up, it was kind of like, okay, I'm going to get that rehab in and I was going to go in and have a good freshman year. But what I feel like it really taught me the most is that I wasn't as good as who I thought I was because when I got to college, I didn't know who Lawson and Kevin were.
So I'm thinking, the starting job is up for grabs, big somebody just went to the NFL and Crawford is gone that I thought, I might get a chance to play a whole lot early as a freshman.
When I got there, I was healing and everything and I thought, dang, I wasn't the player I thought I was. It humbled me and taught me about I had to learn my position and learn the game of football because there then I was out there running around, making tackles, high school stuff, you know what I mean but I really had to learn how to rush the passer how to pray with my hands, how to have that mindset of physicality that you need to play at this level.
So I feel like my defensive line coach, Coach Hobby (ph) at the time, told me a great bit about how to do that so it was really, really good for me.
Q. You won the National Championship a couple years ago, coming off the loss to Alabama -- a year ago you lose to these guys in Sugar Bowl. It's not a revenge game I'm sure. What did you learn from last year's game?
CLELIN FERRELL: I mean, what I learned from the last game was that they just whooped us, man. Like it's crazy to say, man. I'm no person to sugarcoat nothing. They whooped us for real. They came out ready to play. We thought we came ready to play and we stepped on the field with them, but I just understand it's a new team, new year.
So we got to have that right mindset to go out there and bring the physicality and attention to detail that you need to go out there and win a championship.
Q. Last game for him, he has a decision to make and it is somewhat fitting, it's Alabama and Clemson for the National Championship.
CLELIN FERRELL: Yeah, we always been considered the two best teams for the last five years. Ever since I've been at school.
But I mean, whenever you -- I was telling somebody this the other day. Whenever you're in a Championship Game, you want to play against a team that's considered the best, so most people eyes and in our eyes, they considered the best to you want to be the best to be considered the best.
Q. You talk about attention to detail --
CLELIN FERRELL: First of all, I don't need -- here is a website called waivology.com (ph), on my mama, it's a real website (cross-talk) and they got brushes, too.
I like a hard brush, the soft brushes don't really do too much because I like to get them deep, that way I can get a ball cut. A couple days later, the waves comeback. You have to get a hard brush. It really trains your head.
Q. How much will you spend before the game?
CLELIN FERRELL: I'm going to have the do rag up until the time we put the suits on. Obviously the camera time and all that's good, but I don't really worry about it in the game, man, you know what I mean but I'm for sure going to have a do rag on. Appreciate you (cross-talk) you might need a little permanent and texturizer in your hair, but it can definitely get you right.
Q. A lot of people are saying Christian is the best dancer on the defense. I think you feel some type of way about that?
CLELIN FERRELL: He is not the best dancer. I would say me and him, he's a good dancer, I'm not going to say that. He's a good dancer but I will say me and him, we got the belt for sure.
Q. A lot of people are saying that he might have a better shot at dancing with the start than being an NFL prospect. What do you say about that?
CLELIN FERRELL: He can do old school dances. He does like the -- me and him do like the kid and play and he does like the background dances for the temptations type dance moves. He can't do none of these new dances that the kids doing these days. He can't -- I don't know about -- Christian can't floss. He can't -- I don't know, the shoot -- he can't -- he can't do none much the new dances.
That soldier boy, he can only do like the old background dances for like the Temptations, Gladys Knight & the Pips, he can do dances like that, you know what I mean.
Q. Sounds like you're mad about it.
CLELIN FERRELL: Me and him are the two best dancers on the team but my arsenal, I have a bigger arsenal than him. Go ask him, he'll tell you straight up. He'd better.
Q. What does it mean to be back in this game with your close friends?
CLELIN FERRELL: I mean, I guess it means a lot because you know we came in together, so you always want to go out together because obviously we understand it's the last time a defensive line is going to be on the field together.
So I try not to think about it too much. You trying to make me tear up right now. It going to be a great showing, man. We're just going out there trying to win a championship for our teammates, that's all it is.
Q. Last game --
CLELIN FERRELL: I haven't really thought about it like that but I guess you guys have added some more motivation but I haven't really thought about it like that, man. All the motivation we get is us trying to be the best we can. We always play for each other.
It's never -- no, man we do that every time we're on the field because we understand that that was our last time playing South Carolina together. That was our last Cotton Bowl together. That was our last time playing Florida State together and we took every game and we understood what it was every time.
Q. The next game --
CLELIN FERRELL: Yeah, it's all about finishing. It's all about finishing, man. Coach Swinney told us a joke yesterday from Gene Stallings, his former coach and it was the funniest thing I ever heard in my life. One of the realest things I ever heard in my life.
He said: You know, you got to this moment last year guys and that's kind of like going to the bathroom, taking a dump, you know. You got the job done but you guys, you didn't wipe so when you don't wipe, it's like you just didn't finish. You got to finish, man. You got to finish the job. Finish the job, man, and that's the realest thing because you know, it's not just about getting here, man. At the end of the day you want to go out and win because those are memories that you can remember. You want to remember the great moments with the teammates, great moments with my brothers out there so that's what we want to do. We want to finish the right way.
Q. Who has the best celebration?
CLELIN FERRELL: I feel like my celebration is definitely No. 1. I like Austin's karate kick but minute from Brian Robinson, he's the defensive end for the Vikings, he just retired and I sent him a video of me doing it last year and he kind of gave me the thumb's a up, like you can do it, man, you can do it, you're certified and he gave me the thumbs up.
That comes from my love of fishing but mine I definitely feel like is the best.
Austin is second, and Christian, Christian gets height but there's really no method to his madness you know what I mean -- sorry.
The Power Ranger celebration is the best. I thought you meant individual. That's our group celebration for sure.
Q. What's been the biggest difference, last year and the year before --
CLELIN FERRELL: Alabama? I would say just have a bigger stable of running backs. Well, no, it's the running backs and it's the wide receivers, man.
I just felt like obviously 34 and Bo last year got most of the carries but now they have three running backs they will go anywhere in the country and start and have a great career and the receiving core it's ridiculous to see the type of receivers they have and the tight ends, too. I really feel like they are a very complete offense. They can affect you in any level of their offense.
So that's the biggest thing, man. It's tough on the defense trying to find a weakness for them.
Q. Do you see any similarities between Tua and DeShawn (ph)?
CLELIN FERRELL: I haven't really looked at it. Tua, he kind of just came on the scene last year in the National Championship so I mean, he's had a great year.
DeShawn, I kind of look at did he shone over a career, over a three-year span and that's how I look at him, man. You definitely see the talent. That's the biggest thing. The talent is ridiculous. It's off the charts.
Q. You're going to be chasing this guy all night. Can you spell --
CLELIN FERRELL: Oh, my gosh, you killing me. (Spelling something) (cross-talk) oh, I did terrible. As long as I know the T-O -- as long as I know the number and where -- I see the T-A on the back of the jersey, I know where to find him so that's good.
Q. What challenges does Alabama present?
CLELIN FERRELL: Obviously they are a complete team, good defense good defense, good offense. I would say it starts with the offensive line up front. They have a very good offensive line and off of that, they can do everything off of that so basically they can throw the ball very well and have a good quarterback with special arm talent and very good wide receivers, and then the running backs, they have very good running backs, so three running backs that can do basically whatever you want them to do, catch the ball, block, run it as well.
So that's what makes it hard, man. You've got to be accountable for every facet of the team for you for sure.
Q. Media Day itself, to look around and see the media cameras here, what's this most like for you and your teammates?
CLELIN FERRELL: I mean, it isn't too crazy. Most of them been through something like this before, man. We're a very veteran team. Don't really mean a whole lot but means we're here now and we're in the National Championship.
Q. Do you feel this is a moment you might remember years down the line?
CLELIN FERRELL: If we win I'm going to remember it forever if we win. If we lose I'm going to try to forget it pretty quick -- naw. But I'll always remember this moment. I'll always remember this season, the journey has been the best part about this season, man.
Just the stuff we've been through, the stuff we've pushed through this year has been amazing to see.
Q. What would it take for this team to reach 15 wins?
CLELIN FERRELL: It would be crazy. No other team has done that in the history of college football and obviously we got a chance to be the winningest senior class. It would mean a lot and another box checked of the greatness this team has achieved for sure.
Q. What's the biggest challenge taking on Tua?
CLELIN FERRELL: The biggest challenge, I would just say -- I don't see stuff as challenges. I see them as opportunities. I think the biggest thing we got to be accountable for is just being in the right spots at all times man because we got the players to match up but we just can't have no bad mistakes, no mental errors. That's the biggest thing because end of the day it's going to be players making plays.
It's going to be a lot of one-on-ones, a lot of just putting the games into players hands but we just don't want to have no mistakes on our part. We don't want to beat Clemson. You can't have Clemson beat Clemson. We can't have too many mental errors. Just minimize the mistake.
Q. Is he the best quarterback you've seen all season long?
CLELIN FERRELL: He's as advertised man, for real. He's a Heisman finalist for a reason. It's going to be a tough challenge but we go against a pretty good quarterback in practice, too, but obviously they are different players but yeah, he's going to be -- it's going to be a big opportunity for us to go and play against him for sure.
Q. Do you see any past results that can help you?
CLELIN FERRELL: No, not really. It's a different team. Different team. Completely different teams. Every team is different. We're different and sore they so we're really just going off what we seen this year. Nothing off past results really, no.
Q. Your game --
CLELIN FERRELL: I wouldn't say the dance moves helps the pass rush but I would say it just helps the creativity and the confidence that I have.
Obviously when I hear people saying I can dance well it gives me confidence on the field because you know, when people are telling me that my dance moves look good, then I'll have the confidence to go out and play well, so that's really the only thing.
Q. Does dressing --
CLELIN FERRELL: Like primetime says, look good, feel good, play good, you know what I mean. I try to have a little bit of swag. I won't try to overdo it but I'll try, yeah, for sure.
Q. Who is the most Cali guy on the team?
CLELIN FERRELL: No question, sunshine. We came out here, West Coast, I feel like just that laid back -- I ain't even met a whole lot of California people but just that laid back, chill, got the flow like beach boy look, that's him.
Q. Say: Who is the most Cali guy on the team.
CLELIN FERRELL: Did I say Trevor.
Q. Pose it as a question --
CLELIN FERRELL: Who is the most Cali guy on the team.
Q. What's the legacy of Clemson? How will you guys be remembered?
CLELIN FERRELL: I don't know, man. I try not to think about that stuff. We get asked that question a lot but you know, as far as just the legacy and all the accolades, I couldn't really give you too big of an answer for that but I would just say as far as what we want to be seen as, any time people watch us play we just want to be known as relentless, loving, caring of each other and want to be known as people who have fun playing regardless of the fact.
Q. What would it mean if you guys could help bring home another National Championship?
CLELIN FERRELL: Oh, man it would mean the world, not just to us obviously but the whole Clemson nation in general. We got the best fans in the world. I ain't never seen nothing like it.
We traveling by the masses and when we go back, like we got back from the Cotton Bowl we got a whole crowd of people waiting on us coming back home and it was crazy. That's just how we are, man. We are a very close-knit group. It's a family so it would mean the world.
Q. This is going to be the final run for this defensive line. When you think about that, do you hate to see it all break up?
CLELIN FERRELL: Why you bringing that up? No, I try not to think about that, man, you know what I mean.
Like you said, it is what it is, but we just focus on what's in front of us. I'm just focused on the journey. I ain't thinking about the end result. I'm just focused on the moments that I got with my teammates, man ask that's what makes it last forever.
Q. With so many matchups with Alabama now the whole season, what's the most important thing that you learned about facing -- what it takes to beat them?
CLELIN FERRELL: I would just say having the right mindset. It's going to be a four-quarter game. You can't be -- you can't sit back and wait. You have to go and try to attack because that's what they going to do. It's going to be a battle the whole entire game and that's what it's always been. That's what you want it to be.
Like I said, people make this out to be a rivalry, but it ain't guaranteed we going to play these people every year. We got to get to this point. Usually we playing for all the marbles, that's what makes it such a crazy team because when you step on the field, each team, they playing for somebody.
We're playing for a championship. There's hardware on the line. I feel like that brings a lot to the table.
Q. In practice --
CLELIN FERRELL: I told somebody this last week at the Cotton Bowl. Look -- yeah, last week, we at spring practice last year. I can't remember the day. We just doing like a team period. So it wasn't a scrimmage. It was just like a team, good on good. I lie to you not. I had a good rush off the edge. He step up in the pocket. He scrambling to the left.
He threw the ball back across his body, and the ball didn't go no higher than 15 yards off the ground and he threw a 30-yard pass, a dart and it was a bullet. Hit the boy right in the chest and you heard it. The ball didn't go no higher than 15 yards off the ground. I said, yeah, we got something.
Q. The impact of last year's loss --
CLELIN FERRELL: We just got whooped. I just felt like, you know, it's all about finishing. Every season is good. Every season is special. But it's never about how you start. It's never about, you know, the great wins that you had in between unless you finish the right way you want to finish and that's just how it was.
We didn't finish the way we wanted to finish and I just felt like that left a bad taste in my mouth for sure.
A lot of times you try to forget about those things but Coach Swinney did a great job of not letting us forget how we finished that game last year. He just told a story about Gene Stallings.
Gene Stallings called him on the phone and he was like, "Dabo, it's kind of like going to the bathroom, you got to the National Championship, man, that's great. So really you took -- you go in there and you take a dump but the job ain't done yet. You still got to wipe. So finish the right way."
You know what I mean, and that's so crazy, because you know, you got the job done. We got to this moment. But you got to wipe or else you just going to feel terrible after. So we got to go wipe but we going to feel terrible after, you know what I mean. That's the biggest thing. You've got to finish the job. My man.
Q. Outside perception. We know you have a lot of fun and Dabo preaches having a lot of fun. I know you don't spend a lot of time thinking about Alabama's programs, but do you see it as two different styles off the field; that Clemson is a fun-loving team that has fun a different way?
CLELIN FERRELL: I don't really want to speak on them. I don't know too much about their program.
Obviously all I can really see from them is the wins and things like that. I can't speak about their coaching. But I know for us we have a coach that's different than anybody else's and from what I heard from my other friends around the country being on different teams, you know, we have a special way that we do things that not many people really understand, you know, how -- like it's crazy how close-knit and just how player led we are as a program.
And then just the family atmosphere and how that has really pushed and incorporated into what we do, man. It's one of a kind. And I feel like it's going to be something that's going to start to spread with the added-on success that we continue to have.
Q. People that say Dabo isn't that way all the time --
CLELIN FERRELL: I mean, they dumb. They don't really know what they talking about. He's the same way he always is. Now, he will snap just like the time people keep talking about -- he snapped on the media that time. He's the same way all the time. He's always fun-loving, always smiling, eyes always squinted. He's just a great person, man. That's why he's a players' coach. That's why people loving him and why people come here you know what I mean. That's why, you know, it's nothing but great things being said about him by his players.
But don't get it twisted, though, he's a guy that every now and then if you not doing things in the right way and you're not putting this program in a good light, he will hold you accountable and that's what I love about him.
At the end of the day, it's not about what makes that person happy but about I doing what's right for that person and he's always done that.
Q. You said he's not always the happy fun guy --
CLELIN FERRELL: No.
Q. He said he can --
CLELIN FERRELL: Oh, yeah, that's very, very true. Like I said, when I came here, it wasn't about doing what Cleveland wanted. It wasn't about making sure Cleveland had the best time of his life. It was about making sure -- whether that be through me having fun sometimes or meant through him getting on me a lot you know what I mean. He gets on me a lot and I always respect him for just the way he holds us accountable.
Q. Has he changed at all? You've changed and evolved. Has he changed and evolved?
CLELIN FERRELL: He gotten better with his temper. I will say that. He used to be real bad but he's always the same person and he's always had a vision. I've only seen him change for the better.
Q. Can you talk about what's the best Power Ranger in the group? This is a fan favorite question. Can you answer this for me?
CLELIN FERRELL: (Off-mic, cross-talk).
Q. Pregame meal. Are you doing grill or are you going fried chicken?
CLELIN FERRELL: Grilled. I didn't grow up on no grill but they don't let us get no grill -- (cross-talk).
Say it again?
Q. What are your thoughts --
CLELIN FERRELL: I don't look at it that way, man. I just look at it as my final game with this team. Every team is has new faces. Every time might have new coaches, new people around, new workers around to help with us.
That's the only way I look at it, not so much as far as me personally but just as us as a group, and I just look at it as finishing. Finishing the way we want to finish. We've done so many great things this year and it's all about how we finish. End of the day that's what you really going to remember, how did that team finish and how is that team going to be remembered when they had all the marbles on the table. That's what it's all about for me.
Q. Would it be different if you were playing someone else?
CLELIN FERRELL: I'd probably be mad if we was playing somebody not considered the best team, just me as a competitor. When you play for a championship, you don't want to have people say, you know, he ain't really fighting nobody, you know what I mean.
You don't want to win no heavyweight title if you know you ain't going to fight Ali or George Foreman or you ain't going to fight Mayweather.
Obviously they got the belt from last year but we want to play the team that's considered the best and we feel like they are the best team and they are the other team on the other side of the bracket.
Q. Seems like you have so much respect for each other. Your thoughts on that program?
CLELIN FERRELL: I mean, it speaks for itself, just the coaching that they have had and just the winning consistency that they have had. That's the biggest thing. Any team -- like any team, a lot of teams can go out and have a great run for three years, win a couple National Championship but it's over the consistent ten years since I've been alive, just the success Alabama has had, it's been really amazing. To see us, me be a part of Clemson and us trying to be that team that consistently is winning national championships and in the Playoff and winning conference championships, it's special for me in my life because I will always want to be part of something as great as that for sure.
Q. When you look at what they possess on offense, what do they pose for you up front, especially with their running back?
CLELIN FERRELL: It starts up front. I feel like this is the best O-Line group we faced all year. You can't have no great passing game or no great running game if you can't block nobody.
That's where it starts out, so it's going to be a battle up front for both side of the ball and through that, since they also good up front, you know, they can go and have a -- let Tua make great plays with his arm which he's done.
People don't really understand how young he is and to see the way -- and the tight ends, too, and the running backs, now that speaks for itself. They do it all, catch, block, run. You just really got to -- you can't beat yourself. Can't have a whole lot of mistakes at your end because at the end of the day, both sides of the ball going to put the ball in players hands. Players going to make plays.
Q. Did you play video games?
CLELIN FERRELL: Yeah, yeah. I know talent wise they can match us, but I haven't really watched them too much. From what I heard they are very, very good and I think we are going to do a good job of getting our guys to get ready to play against them.
Q. Not having Dexter last week, how has that impacted your defense?
CLELIN FERRELL: You know, there's a reason why he run out there first. You can't really replace a Dexter-type player. You know, the ball don't stop with one player you know what I mean. We still got that same standard that we play to, that same defense that's going to be relentless and attack.
At the end of the day, Nyles is going to play a lot anyway and so is Jordan. It's just more reps coming, you know what I mean. We know what they can do and we're actually excited to see them go out and play because we know they going to have success and it's going to be a good game -- (cross-talk_.
Q. I'm with the College Football Playoff Foundation and the foundation is about uplifting teachers and inspiring them. What teacher made the biggest impact on your life?
CLELIN FERRELL: You want college, high school?
Q. Why stop?
CLELIN FERRELL: Oh, Lord. So you know, elementary school, a lot of times the teacher will stay with you from first grade all the way up.
Ms. Lippy. She was a short little lady, but Lippy was her real last name and she had red lipsticks on every day and if you would get in trouble she would kiss you like all over your face. That was so crazy to me.
But she always was like, I don't know, had an attraction to me just because, I don't know, she always said like she just liked the way that I would talk to her, be very polite to her and stuff like that. She meant the world to me. That's my favorite teacher of all time.
Q. Your full title is student athlete. How important is student in that title?
CLELIN FERRELL: Oh, man, the student aspect is ridiculous. I just graduated, let's just say that. Thank you, appreciate it. I just graduated. It's huge.
And that's something that I love Coach Swinney for because he predicates us on the amount of graduates we have and we have so many graduates on this team already. The student aspect of it is ridiculous because not only that but getting guys jobs after school has been huge, too.
Our fifth border program is amazing, the type of internships we provide for players has been huge.
Q. Scout team players this year -- a lot of them picked Justin. What have you seen from him and where has he made the biggest strides?
CLELIN FERRELL: Just the right mindset, physicality. A lot of times the biggest thing on scout team can be no point of going hard, why are you such a try-hard.
But at the end of the day, don't nobody want to sit around and not have a chance to get better when you going against a first team all the time. That's what I love about Justin, man. He just been out there working and I feel like it's going to pay off for him in the end.
As long as he just keeps working hard he has the talent to go as far as he want to go.
Q. Did he lean on you?
CLELIN FERRELL: Oh, yeah, always, you just can't let people -- the biggest thing about when you're a highly-recruited guy or so-called or you came in, thought you were going to play, the biggest thing, not getting down on yourself because really easy to do that.
Really easy to do things to not get into so-called things that are the best for you, maybe it's partying. I just stay on him and put him underneath my wing, man, because I see the greatness in him. I just kind of had to really take him underneath my wing and not let him get strayed away from keeping his eye on the prize.
K.J. going to be fine. He just got to try to focus. He's such a big personality that a lot of times, his mind can go in a lot of different places and that's the biggest thing. He's a focused person. He's not someone who doesn't care about football. He loves football.
But just staying focused on the right thing is going to make him a great player and listening to the right people is the biggest thing for him.
Q. This time I'm back for ESPN social media. Have you heard of the TV show called The Bachelor?
CLELIN FERRELL: Yes.
Q. So you're familiar with the show and concept. So if you were coming out of the limo and meeting girls for the first time -- I'm interested in what you would have to say.
CLELIN FERRELL: I'm a little nervous now.
Q. Don't be nervous.
CLELIN FERRELL: If I was getting out --
Q. Like what's your style?
CLELIN FERRELL: I mean, I wouldn't do nothing big. I would just auction up to her and kick some -- I always look her in the eyes. I just look at her and I just say, I don't know what these other guys going to bring to the table but I'm not anybody you're going to have the chance to be with and I just want to make this a very special moment for you.
But I don't know, you know what I mean. It just depends.
Q. If I could offer a suggestion, the Power Ranger -- a lot of times when people come out of the limo they do something crazy, like maybe a Power Ranger --
CLELIN FERRELL: Get her laughing, yeah (cross-talk).
Q. Also a show we do all over the world -- where would you take the girl and why?
CLELIN FERRELL: Greece.
CLELIN FERRELL: Well, for one, that's where I want to go. I saw this picture of Greece and it's just this beautiful like little, I don't even know how to explain it but like the houses and buildings are stacked on top of each other sitting next to the water and it looks really, really pretty. I've always wanted to go to Greece.
Q. So in the competition, there are 25 or 30 guys. How far do you think you would go?
CLELIN FERRELL: I think I would be top two, but not two.
Q. Are you ready to talk about your future yet?
CLELIN FERRELL: You can ask. There's always an answer, though. You can ask whatever you want.
Q. Have you thought about it? Have you made a decision yet?
CLELIN FERRELL: I haven't made a decision yet. It's still the same thing. I mean, obviously that is a thought but it's not something that I really want to focus on, man. I'm just focused on the now. Focus on the journey I have with this team. That's what I love. That's all I'm really focused on.
Q. You have another week or so after this game anyway. So you might as well put first thing first.
CLELIN FERRELL: Exactly. It's not going nowhere. I still got time.
Q. I wanted to ask you a question about setting an example for teammates that are your age and even younger. How much of a priority is that for you?
CLELIN FERRELL: Man, at first it wasn't a big priority. You know, because at first I was just trying to better myself because I didn't really know which way I was going but as I got older and I really started to care about the people around me and this program, it meant a lot to me just to do the right things the right way and not only do that but to hold people accountable.
As far as that, it means the world to me when I can't protect somebody underneath my swings or take a group underneath my wings and show them the way how things should be done here.
As far as how to conduct yourself, how to talk to people, the way you should practice, the way you should work out, just your mindset, you're always looking for work and just being a good person off the field, man, that's always been huge.
Q. Did somebody tell you you ought to think about doing that or was it instinctual? You just got comfortable to do it?
CLELIN FERRELL: No, actually people told me, you know, I'm not -- well, I would say it first came to my thought when my defensive line coach said, I'm not going to force you to be no leader in this meeting room. I don't want to do that. That's not what leaders are. I'm not going to force you to take somebody under your wing.
But if you want to do that and care enough about that, then that's something I would consider that's something a leader should do. So I just had to make a decision to do those things.
Q. So what do you think made you comfortable enough to do that?
CLELIN FERRELL: My competence. My competence. My competence. Always. Not even my background. It started with me. I had to get to a point to feel like where I had enough credit and I had enough money in the bank to do that with people because ain't nobody going to let you hold them accountable if you're not accountable yourself you know what I mean. That's where it started at.
Q. What are some things that you think you imparted on the freshmen, for example?
CLELIN FERRELL: Oh, man. I mean, a lot of them, I lot of that has been holding them accountable, not so much as trying to bring them up. This freshman group, they got a lot of personality, so you really got to kind of be hard on them.
But I would say, man, just really showing them how to work. You know, obviously I've been doing this for a minute so I kind of have a good idea of what it takes to prepare for a game and what it takes to prepare for practice and prepare for, get yourself success on the field. Really just showing them the steppingstone of how to do that and then off the field man, just showing them how to take advantage of just soaking in the moment. Just don't be a guy that sits in his room all day and plays Fortnight. Go talk to somebody and talk to somebody down the street. Don't be afraid to sign autographs for people who might never get a chance to go to a Clemson game. These people, they might not ever get this chance again. Just being polite and soaking up the moment and not taking it for granted.
Q. Can you sum up their personalities?
CLELIN FERRELL: I don't know -- okay. It's a lot of them just stuff they get in trouble you know what I mean and the reasoning behind it it will just something, the most naÃ¯ve stuff you ever heard in your life. Like it's ridiculous.
Like one guy, one guy was -- I think somebody had fell off their moped -- no, Kelly, he got into a moped accident when he was a freshman. I think curfew was at 11 but he was out past 11. He said he was trying to get bass -- right. He probably was at good girl house trying to talk to some girl. You know how that goes. He comes back in and so he got into an accident, fell off, head scraped up, all that.
It was like, instead of trying to hug him up and stuff like that, I was like, hey, like, you not supposed to be out past curfew. He was like, why you being mean to me, I got a bruise up on my head and I'm like, no, you wasn't supposed to be out past 11 and be talking about you getting gas. Stuff like that get on your nerves but you have to love them and hold them accountable.
Q. When was that?
CLELIN FERRELL: Right before we started fall camp, 2016 in the summer.
CLELIN FERRELL: Indiscernible -- the overall community that I'm from, the support I get is ridiculous because not many people have -- we've had people who are athletes but not many people have had the platform like that I've had, the success that I've had and the Playoffs, championships, things like that, been to the White House. It's been ridiculous.
To see that, it's really just giving a lot of people hope and a lot of assurance that they can do the same things that I've done. I'm talking about kids when I say this. It's meant a lot to me personally. Like I've grown and really been happy with the results that I can have an impact on somebody.
Q. What do you see from this offense that's a little different than what you saw from these guys last year?
CLELIN FERRELL: I just feel like they are better in all aspects. Obviously have a good quarterback. Good offensive line. The offensive line is more veteran now.
But the wide receiving core is better, and everything has just gotten better, you know what I mean. They were really, really good last year but just added more to the arsenal. You can see more players that can do a lot of the same things that the players last year could do.
It's not just the two running backs they didn't really feature last year but now it's three running backs who can play anywhere in the country and now they have a full stable of tight ends that can play anywhere in the country; two quarterbacks that can play anywhere in the country and start a game. Offensive line is really, really good. It just adds more to the piece of cake that we going to have to bite.
CLELIN FERRELL: I mean, I guess so. They always got the best recruiting class, so shoot, I guess I could say that day where they don't have a quarterback who can be in that top, you know, category and all that stuff.
At the end of the day, though, it starts up front with both teams. You got to stop the run and that's why I feel like the biggest asset of the game is going to come from, because at the end of the day we feel like we can play well in the passing game but we got to stop the run first.
That's where they really impose their will on a team. That's where you really get the integrity of a team is can you stop the run.
CLELIN FERRELL: I would say the same thing.
Q. Somebody looked at 10 -- 15 --
CLELIN FERRELL: Yeah, but I -- that's some -- hats off to them. I'll just say that.
Q. This is the fourth time you guys have met in the Playoff. Before that first time, is there ever an apprehensive, intimidation factor against them? Do you wonder -- inaudible.
CLELIN FERRELL: No, not really. I will say this, though, regardless whether we're playing them or not, the first time we did play them, that was in the National Championship and that's the first time we been there since 1981.
I remember vividly I was a freshman and red-shirted and just seeing like the eyes of us looking around, like, what is all this, ain't no Media Day like this in no other Bowl game, or all these people here, the stadium and all the gear we getting, it's like, dang, like, okay, we really here. I would say more so just the stuff that come with the game. It's not a given rivalry. When we play Alabama usually we in a championship. We not guaranteed to play them every year. Usually we play them and we end up in a National Championship or the Sugar Bowl.
Q. You noticed it with Notre Dame but you guys -- both of these teams are always ready for that big stage. These two programs now, how do you feel going into that game compared to two years --
CLELIN FERRELL: I couldn't speak on them, but I know for us, regardless of whatever stakes come with the game, we play to a standard and at the end of the day we feel like we're playing Clemson. As long as we don't beat Clemson and we play to a standard and we focus on us, man, regardless what have stakes is in the game we feel like we can come up with the win because we feel like our best is better than anybody else's best. That's the main thing and when you come to a school like this; you expect to play in big games like this because you understand the coaching here. We want to be the best in everything we do. That's the main thing. That's why you can't be afraid of the moment. You can't see it as a challenge. You've got to see it as an opportunity.
Q. When is the last time you were intimidated on a football field?
CLELIN FERRELL: Never in college, no, no, no, no. I got it. Not intimidated but I was so scared, my first game, my redshirt freshman year, we played Auburn and I hear all this hype about playing at Auburn. It was fine once I really looked back at it, but I was doing the weirdest stuff ever. I was like breathing real hard before the game. Eyes were big. Trying to make the coaches not think I'm not nervous.
I walk up to Coach V and say, "Thank you for this opportunity." And he was just looking at me like, okay. And I'm just like, I look so dumb. At the end of the day, like once I got the first couple hits in, it was fine, but before that, I was scared as I don't know what and I look back, that was the craziest thing I ever done in my life.
He was looking at me like, "Are you okay?"
It was like, it was like it was his last game coaching and I was like, "Coach, I want to say thanks for this opportunity, it means the world to me and my family." I was like, what am I doing.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports