Clemson's defense ranked 67th against the run last season, as the Tigers allowed a 151.5 yard average.
Needless to say, he wants to see an improvement— a drastic one.
"We're going to put it out there that we're going to be the number one team in the nation, as far as rushing defense," Hawkins said. "I'm going to challenge the rest of the guys to be with me, which I know they are—each and every Saturday to stop the run, no matter who we play."
The Tigers are charged with the challenge of chasing North Texas junior running back Lance Dunbar, who rushed for 1,378 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2009.
Hawkins also said on Monday that he wouldn't be surprised if Dunbar was underrated coming out of high school.
"He's as talented a player as there is anywhere in the country," Hawkins said. "I don't know his status coming out of high school, but I'm quite sure some people overlooked him. They're probably saying now that we should have taken this guy."
Along with North Texas, Dunbar had offers from Virginia, Oklahoma State and Colorado.
"He's a great athlete. He can run. He's fast. We've got to make sure that we play our gaps and keep him between the tackles," Hawkins said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to stop him."
Dunbar and the rest of the Mean Green offense is now under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator Mike Canales, who spent the last three seasons at South Florida.
The Bulls' offense rushed for 171 yards a game, which ranked 38th best in the nation in 2009. During Canales' tenure at South Florida, his offenses never averaged fewer than 165 rushing yards.
"The location may change, but the stuff that they do will remain the same," Hawkins said.
The standard that's been set by Canales remains the primary challenge for Hawkins on Saturday afternoon.
And there's no denying that he's up for it.
"I think that'll be a great challenge for us as a defense, to start the year off great. We'll go from there and see what it brings," Hawkins said.
Hawkins issues challenge to Defense
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