on September 1, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Clemson’s Watkins excited about FSU, season

CLEMSON — This Monday night will mark the beginning of the final season linebacker Nick Watkins will have with the Clemson Tigers. Clemson plays host to Florida State on Labor Day night on ESPN at 8 p.m.

The senior from New Orleans will run down the hill and enjoy all the national exposure because the contest is the lone game of the evening.

“It’s going to feel like being in the NFL a little bit. It’s the only game on television on Monday night,” said Watkins. “That’s everyone’s dream. Millions of people are going to be watching.”

Watkins is a crucial part of the Tiger’s defense. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker has started the last two seasons and this season is no different. In 2005, the then red-shirt sophomore tallied 99 tackles, which was second most on the team. His all-around talent garnered him many awards including an ACC Specialist-of-the-week honor.

Last season, Watkins had to step into the leadership role when senior linebackers, Tramaine Billie and Anthony Waters were injured and out for the season. Before the injuries, Clemson’s linebacker core was regarded as one of the best and experienced in the ACC. However, even with the injuries, Watkins believed in his unit.

“Maurice Nelson and Antonio Clay stepped up really big last year. They came in to replace Billie and Waters,” he said. “I never doubted our talent. I knew we were going to be fine. Our depth at the linebacker position was never in question.”

Watkins led the team with tackles as he had 116 for the season, garnering ACC Player-of-the-Week honors once. Even with the setbacks, Watkins was able to step up and lead a group of linebackers that had not had much experience playing. The defense finished as one of the better units in the ACC.

Watkins believes that defense wins games and always sticks to that mindset. As a result, every time he is on the field he is focused on stopping the ball and not giving the opposing team any spark on the offensive side.

When asked about this year’s linebacker core, Watkins was very optimistic.

“Well, I fully believe we have a lot of talent all-around. Tramaine (Billie) with his injury last year kind of hurt us. But with his return this year, I think we will be pretty solid. (Antonio) Clay came back and has had a good spring and summer. So, we got a lot to look forward too, but we also have to finish gelling together because we’re not all the way there yet.”

For weeks now, Watkins has been preparing for the Florida State game. He knows it is a big game and a crucial one to the season.

“I’ve been watching film and practicing hard. I’ve been paying attention to details in practice.”

The dedication and hard work set an example for his other teammates. Watkins has high hopes for the season and wants to leave Clemson on a high note.

“I want to win an ACC championship and a BCS championship. If we do that, it will complete my senior year,” he said. “We have come short the last few years and that will put the icing on the cake if we can win it this year, but I think we’re going to be very successful. We’ve just got to continue to get better and do the little things that will make us great.”

And that greatness starts Monday in Death Valley.