Ready to bounce back

CLEMSON - All-American center Dalton Freeman shares on last year's preparation for the Orange Bowl, the end of his career and more.

Freeman met with the media last week after being named to the AFCA All-American team. The interview was conducted prior to the announcement that Clemson would play LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

The following is an edited transcript from that interview.

How disappointing was it to end the regular season like y'all did?
Freeman: It's very disappointing. I think, what determines how good a team is, is how they're able to handle adversity and come back from adversity. Adversity is the companion of a champion. And for us, once we got beaten at Florida State early in the season, it would have been easy to fold up the tent, knowing how much the game had -- how big an impact that game had on our division hopes and ACC hopes, but this team came back to work. I really believe that's what will happen…especially with the way we ended last year and the bowl game, kind of the lack of focus we had. I think this is a completely different team, much more mature. I don't think we'll have any kind of problems like we did last year.

You probably heard the SEC chants coming out of the corner of the stadium [against South Carolina]. Is that an opportunity for some vindication?
Freeman: We look forward to the bowl game. If it's an SEC opponent or whoever it is, because it's a high caliber team. When you're trying to be the best, you want to play the best. That's the only way you get better. As a competitor, you want to play against the best. You want to go out each and every Saturday and play the top opponents, the SEC, the best conference, whatever, just to try to prove yourself and get some respect. We're still not there yet, but we're getting there as a program.

How important is it to win, to sort of feel good leaving Clemson?
Freeman: It's huge. It helps in recruiting. It really helps most, I think, with momentum of guys going into the offseason. Losing a bowl game puts a bad taste in your mouth. It kind of takes the wind out of your sails. To win, it just really helps you out going into the offseason, going through the mat drills, the 5 a.m. workouts. It just helps you understand what you're doing a little bit better.

Looking back is there anything you need to different this time [before the bowl]?
Freeman: I just think we need to remain a little bit more focused. We were coming of an extreme high, the pinnacle, or what we thought was the pinnacle at that time, which was winning the ACC. For whatever reason, we just weren't mature enough to handle that. I think, in a year, we're completely grown and mature. I'm excited to see how we handle this little bit of adversity.

How are you feeling, personally, with the groin injury?
Freeman: I'm fine. I'm still a little sore, but I'll be back next week, 100 percent.

One-hundred percent for the start of bowl practice?
Freeman: Yeah.

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