The persona exhibited by junior linebacker Ben Boulware is befitting of the way he plays. With his burley beard, he resembles a lumber jack, and that is the way he works and plays. With senior leader Stephone Anthony suspended for the first half of the bowl game versus Oklahoma, Boulware made the most of his first opportunity to start a game for the Tigers. He scored on an interception returned for a touchdown and had a superb game. Boulware met with the media after practice last week to talk about the status of the defense and linebacker corps.
“All the guys in our linebacker room are just eager to learn, which is not how it’s been in the past,” Boulware said. “All the guys are in there early and putting in the extra time that it takes to be a successful player at this level. So collectively, it’s a pretty solid group overall.”
When asked about the expectations of the defense this season after losing so many players from last season’s #1-ranked unit, Boulware responded:
“I have the same expectations every year. No matter who the personnel [are], our goal is to win the national championship. I think if you’re a leader as a football player, having your pride, that should be everyone’s goal.”
Boulware also talked about the retention level of the linebackers, which he believes is at an all-time high.
“Usually when we have big breaks a lot of guys forget all the stuff they’ve learned previously, and that’s why our guys are so eager to learn. Our guys have been in their books, been in the film room. I don’t think there’s much of a drop off. We haven’t lost much information since the spring because the guys are just continuously working their craft.”
I asked Boulware if he felt any additional pressure to provide leadership for the linebackers with the departure of Stephone Anthony, to which he replied:
“I feel like I’ve been somewhat of a leader since I’ve been here. I need to be more vocal, but the way I perform and prepare doesn’t change. The main thing now, I’ve gotta work with the younger guys. That’s probably the main difference I’ve gotta do now is just bring them along. But other than that, my work ethic has been the same since I was in middle school.”
The Tigers may have lost several players from last year’s defense, but it appears the pride and mentality of being the #1 defense in all the land remains embedded in the psyche of those who returned. Coach Swinney told the media on Friday that he is amazed how much this team has bought in and has shown up ready to work day in and day out. With guys like Ben Boulware around to lead by example, it is perfectly understandable why that is the case.
Clemson LB Ben Boulware: Fear the Beard
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