DALTON FREEMAN INTERVIEW: LISTEN LIVE (16:05)
Dalton Freeman has been there... and he's done that.
In fact, this offseason will be his final one in Tigertown. Originally arriving on campus more than four years ago, Freeman has seen just about everything a football player could possibly imagine during his career.
From coaching changes to unbelievable wins and heartbreaking losses, nothing catches the redshirt senior by surprise-- including offseason workouts.
And the good news is, the preseason All-American tells CUTigers in a recent interview the summer has gotten off to a good start for the Clemson football program.
"We've been going strong now for about a month now and I honestly believe the summer is where the team is made," he said. "A perfect example is what we saw last year. We didn't have a great spring. Half of our team was missing because we had a lot of freshmen coming in during the summer. So we developed a lot of chemistry and really developed our team.
"There were a few guys you may have heard of like Sammy Watkins and other players like that stepped on campus and we were really able to come together. Winter, spring and all that stuff is very important but I really believe the summer."
Workouts are obviously well underway-- in fact the team isn't that far away to transitioning into the home stretch, which means moving from the first summer session, to the second.
Before you know it, the season itself will actually be here.
"There's a difference in summer one and summer two," he said. "Initially in summer one we are still trying to add bulk and still trying to get bigger, faster, stronger - the whole bit. We are working out, lifting weights and conditioning five days a week.
"But we aren't allowed to have any coaches out there. It's the seniors leading things. In summer two, it's fine tuning things because you are trying to protect your body and prepare it for the grind of the season."
Interestingly enough, even though it's only June, Freeman says the team is already squarely focused on the season opener against Auburn.
Clemson has split a pair of games against the SEC Tigers each of the last two years, falling 27-24 in overtime on the Plains in 2010 and winning 38-24 last year in Death Valley.
This year, the battle takes place in the Georgia Dome-- a place that hasn't been too kind to the ACC Tigers in recent years. And making matters more difficult is the fact Auburn has both a pair of new coordinators running the show under head coach Gene Chizik.
"It's definitely a challenge," he said. "There always a lot of unknowns, especially being the first game of the season. You can't prepare the way you would five or six games into the season. But the biggest thing for us is executing the way we need to - you know - protecting the ball, not having silly penalties and executing at a high level."
Naturally, facing a team from the state of Alabama in the Georgia Dome has led many Clemson fans to speculate the Tigers will suffer the same fate they did four years ago against Alabama.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact the Tigers are once again considered ultra-talented at the skill positions, and not as strong on the offensive line.
Not so, says Freeman.
"It's hard to compare the two teams because it's a different set of guys. Really we just woke up in the top 10 that year and we really hadn't done anything to deserve that. We went to the Georgia Dome and got embarrassed. We bought into the hype.
"But this team this year has been through a lot. That means a 6-7 season and winning an ACC Championship and we know the difference. And even though we won the ACC and had a great year we still have a very bitter taste in our mouth with what happened in the Orange Bowl and we know we could have been a lot better than what we were. So we aren't satisfied."
Freeman says he's also had some time to reflect on the changes that will be seen on the offensive line this coming season.
With three new starters in place, including Tyler Shatley, who just made the move from defense during spring practice, Freeman likes what he's seen thus far.
"He's going to have a big impact immediately," Freeman said. "He's a strength All-American as a sophomore and is a blue collar and grab your lunch pail kind of guy. He's been able to give us a lot of tips on what the defense is thinking. I really think he's going to have a big impact.
"You know I've been paired up in the weight room many times and I try to cut up with him and he doesn't really talk a lot. He's like a little mutant because he keeps chugging along. I'm trying to catch my breath and keep up with him."
Lastly, there's this business of closing the season strong in 2012- namely looking at the finale against South Carolina.
Don't think for one second that isn't serving as motivation for this team entering the heart of summer workouts.
Freeman, a Pelion, S.C. native knows all too well how important it is to Clemson fans.
"Well, it hasn't been a lot of fun coming home the last couple of years," he said. "We played one of the worst games we could possibly play last year in Columbia and it's personal now. A lot of our kids aren't from South Carolina - some from Florida or North Carolina and I'm not sure they understood until these past couple of years they've handed it to us.
"But they are starting to catch on and they are starting to develop the passion and the hatred of this rivalry."
Is it September yet?
Clemson summer workouts update
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