Willard excited about possibilities

CLEMSON - Happily bouncing his way into the 2011 season is Tig Willard, a redshirt junior outside linebacker from Loris.

Willard, who registered 27 tackles in 160 snaps a year ago, battled an elbow injury for most of the season. He missed only one game, but was hardly at 100 percent.

His recovery continued through spring practice.

"I wasn't 100 percent, but I could do most of the stuff that I needed to do," he said. "Right now, I'm feeling really good. I just want to show everybody I can do."

Clemson's 6-foot-2, 220-pound first-team weak-side linebacker has set one goal for himself.

"For one, I want to play the whole season... this year, I just want to come out and show what I can do, being healthy," Willard said.

He entered preseason camp as the starter on the weak-side, sustained the push from the highly touted freshmen and exited as the starter.

Willard said it's been a healthy competition.

"Competition-wise, with the linebackers, basically it's helped. It's helped on both sides. It helps the veteran guys boost up a little bit.

"The young guys coming in, it's kind of motivation to keep your spot, but also to teach them to do our job, as well as doing our job better."

He was glad to see more bodies at the position during preseason camp, especially since the numbers at linebacker have been short over the last couple of years.

"Reps-wise, in practice, we get our reps," Willard said. "With us having more 'backers, we get a small break in between, instead of going with this group and [then] going back with that group. It's cool."

He added that the veterans help the freshmen whenever they can.

"We sit down with them in the locker room, tell them to do this and do that. Even on the field, you kind of tell them, 'You take this person. Watch these people right here.' We tell them everything," Willard said.

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