Corey Clement: Watching my tape, I felt I could do a lot more. Compared to this spring practice and my fall, I felt like as if I don't have as many reps to show what else I have to prove. Last year I was dug into the ground at practice. It made me a better person and took accountability for myself.
Coach Hammock really pushed me in practice. He showed me that college was a whole new level, that I had to grasp that and get it my mind that this is not high school and I had to keep working on my way to the next step up the latter. I believe Melvin and I could be a great tandem this year, but I still have to work on my pass blocking. That's one thing that I am really focused on.
After running for a ton of yards in high school, did you think your freshman year in college was going to play out the way it did play out?
Clement: A lot of guys in high school that a part of those small football programs always has that one back that rushes for all those yards and goes to that D-1 school and sits behind some people. I already kind of know that because I've been around some college where I have friends at and they had to sit behind some people who ran for 2,000 yards or more. It's the same thing I did, so I really wasn't naïve to what was going to happen to me.
Was it nice then when you did get opportunities that for the most part you took advantage of it in terms of running the football effectively?
Clement: I believe that I proved to the coaches that I can be a reliable source when it comes down to crunch time in the games. Seven touchdowns and about 600 yards is good, but I believe I can display a lot more. I believe I was held back a lot last year, so I have to be more hungry this year with what I am really playing for. That's winning a national championship with my team.
Why do you think you were held back last year? Was it more what you were not doing or because other guys were hotter?
Clement: I think it was kinda of getting hot at the right time. James (White) and Melvin (Gordon) have earned their playing time here, and I just the guy coming in. I am pretty sure James and Melvin weren't just going to allow me to just come in and take all the reps. Spring time when I wasn't here last year they put in a lot of work, and that's what gave them the upper step to be ready for the season. Coming in last season I wasn't ready at all.
Just from going through everything last year, how ready do you feel for this season and what will likely be an increased workload?
Clement: I feel more mature to the game. That's how I would put myself as. I am more comfortable, relaxed and I can study a defense better this year compared to last year. Last year I really had a freshman mentality. I was really kind of nervous when to make a cut, when not to make a cut, etc. I didn't let the game come to me. This spring, I feel like a junior, and that's what I have to keep my mindset as.
Do you like how they utilized you this spring – not going through a lot of the scrimmages and not getting tackled very much?
Clement: I like to get hit. You see it during the film when it's the ‘thud' period. I run into people and make sure I am sustaining contact. I want to make sure when I get into the game I am not, ‘oh, why are these people trying to tackle me?' I just have to keep my tough edge. That's what I am known for.
How do you work on pass protection? Is it simple as just going through reps?
Clement: It's fundamentals and reps. It's not easy at all because you have defenders who can go either way. You just have to make defenders go the way you want them to go, and that will make your job easier if you can cut off one said. There's more to it than just talking about it.
James White was a master of that, wasn't he?
Clement: Yeah, and he was a short guy so it gave him a lower center of gravity. He would just push guys out of the hole. It made him a better back. He seemed so smooth at it. That's how I would categorize him; a very smooth guy who knew what he was doing.
Clement: You just do what (Coach Brown) says. You don't want to let anybody down. We didn't want to let Coach Hammock down. Coach Brown comes off as a softer guy because he doesn't yell like Coach Hammock does in practice, but he keeps practices cool because he comes up with different individual periods. We're not being redundant on the same drills. He keeps it fresh. He's introducing new things we haven't come across in recent years.
Were you excited that Melvin was coming back?
Clement: Yes. I believe in a one-two punch, keeping guys fresh for each down, because I would have beat up the first game against LSU if I was by myself. I believe him and me can go out that game and do something special. We're always ready for the competition. Anybody you wants to step over my team I'm going to go to battle with them. I am not scared of any opponent. I'm ready when they are.
Have you two talked about what goals you are setting for yourselves?
Clement: That's going to come on its own. I believe if Melvin strives for the Heisman too hard, he might fall short. Once you focused on one thing you aren't focused on the team. He just wants to become a team player and I do as well.