Q & A with QB Willie Simmons

Willie Simmons will make his first official start at quarterback this Saturday night in Athens, and while most people think that he doesn't have the experience to pull out a win over a national power on the road, the Quincy, Florida native carries a quiet confidence about him that makes you think the Tigers have a chance.

Talk about finally becoming the starting quarterback at Clemson.
Simmons: I'm excited about the opportunity to start a college football game. This has been my dream for a long time. While the chance is here I'm going to try and grasp it and make the most of it. But to be honest, at the same time you have to try to be calm and show your teammates you can go out and handle the situation.

Are you having any trouble sleeping now the game is only days away?
Simmons: Right now I am sleeping fine, but I never have a problem sleeping anyway. Maybe by Thursday night or Friday night when it gets close to game time, the butterflies are going to start kicking in.

Do you take anything away from the North Carolina game a few years into this season?
Simmons: The North Carolina game happened a couple of years ago, but it's still something I can reflect on. I will try to remember my game mode and try to remember how I was mentally entering that situation then. I'm going to take the same mindset into the games this year.

Would you prefer to open up against a non-top 10 team?
Simmons: I'm looking forward to opening up against a team like Georgia. They are a nationally ranked team, a nationally respected team. Everybody in the nation will be watching. This is my first opportunity to for me to show the nation what people have been talking about the last 3 years.

Talk about your preparation for this moment- to be the starting quarterback for Clemson.
Simmons: I think I've prepared myself pretty well, along with coaches and my teammates. Coach O'Cain has done a good job preparing me as far as the mentally. Coach Bowden also has done a great job to preparing the whole team, as well as myself on going into Athens in a situation like this and be able to perform.

Could you have a tougher opening game than this one?
Simmons: It's going to be an extremely tough start for us, but we're all eager. It gives us the opportunity to show people that we are trying to back to the level of productivity that we've been accustomed to in the past. Its going to be a tough challenge, they've got a lot of great athletes. They've got great athletes all over the field, so its going to be a challenge for me and all of my teammates to play such a tough opponent.

Talk a little bit about the Georgia defense.
Simmons: They play tremendously hard. They run to the ball. They've got so much speed and athleticism at linebacker and in the defensive backfield that it's going to be hard to run around them. You have take what they give you and hope they miss some tackles or blow some assignments.

What do you too try not to get too pumped up on Saturday?
Simmons: I'm going to try relax bascially. Hopefully my teammates will do a good job of keeping me calm because I do tend to get fired up for game type situations. The last few years, most the games I've been in has been just mop-up duty, so I wasn't able to get in and get as pumped up as I will be Saturday night. I'm just going to go out and just let the game come to me.

What about the players from Georgia on the team, is there a little extra motivation for them?
Simmons: They are looking forward to it. We have more players from Georgia than any other state on this team besides South Carolina. Most of us know most of their players also. It's going to be a game where you look across the field and see a lot of familar faces. There will be a lot of bragging rights for whoever wins this game.

What do you bring to the table this year as the starting quarterback?
Simmons: A level of maturity- to be a 4th year player in the system and to know the offense, to know most of the receivers, the lineman, and most of the skill guys. I need to be able to execute the offense and bring a level of confidence and leadership that you need at the quarterback position. I'm going to bring my own style as far as not running as much as Woody did, probably staying in the pocket more and getting the ball downfield instead of taking off.

Can we expect rore of downfield passing game Saturday night?
Simmons: If the opportunity presents itself. Georgia does a great job of staying deep and not giving up too many big plays. You've to take what they give you. But whenever we get the opportunity to go downfield, you've got to do it.

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