Ben Boulware couldn’t wait to get back on the football field.
The T.L. Hanna linebacker had not buckled the chinstrap since a 20-7 loss to Westside on Nov. 2 and was itching to unleash some pent up frustration.
The 6-foot-1, 226-pounder finally got that chance as practice for the 76th Annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas began on Monday at Spartanburg High School.
Boulware, a Mr. Football finalist and Clemson commitment, said it was a great feeling to be able to get his uniform dirty again.
“I’m fresh,” he said. “We’ve been out of football for about a month, so I’m feeling good. I’m just trying to play hard and fast.”
Boulware did just that this past season, recording 174 total tackles with 10 for loss, two sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries for the Yellow Jackets. He led the team in tackles in all 11 games and has been the leading tackler since his sophomore year.
Boulware hopes to continue his dominating ways in Saturday’s game and is looking forward to facing all-star competition.
“We’re the best players in both South Carolina and North Carolina,” he said. “It’s a lot better competition than I’m used to playing against, so I’m having fun.”
The competition will only become tougher beginning next year at the Division I level. Boulware welcomes the challenge and is ready to suit up for the Tigers.
“I want to be that old school, hard-nosed linebacker,” he said. “I’m not dissing on our dudes, but I guess they’ve been missing that lately. I hope I can go and bring a new style in there.”
Clemson has surrendered 24.9 points and 411 yards per game going into its Chick-Fil-A Bowl contest against LSU on New Year’s Eve at the Georgia Dome.
South Carolina coach Ray Stackley said Boulware exhibited that approach during Monday’s practices.
“He’s a little rusty, but getting himself in good shape,” Stackley said. “He’s very active. He gets downhill good. … Ben is a Division I commit to Clemson, and you’ve been able to see why today.”
Boulware believes the freshman class coming in will help steer Clemson toward becoming a better defense and is excited to play for his favorite team since childhood.
“I don’t talk to a lot of them, but I know they’ve got some athletes that can move around and hit pretty good,” he said. “I’ve always been a Clemson fan. My brother is there. My whole family has been there. I knew from the get-go that’s where I wanted to be.”
MOODY INTRODUCES HIMSELF: Conway wide receiver Mykal Moody made sure he was going to be noticed by some of the college scouts in attendance on Monday. Moody made a catch on the sideline before his momentum carried him into a Newberry coach. The coach stopped him, patted him on the head and quickly made his pitch stating, “Newberry. Come to Newberry.”
THE BYRNES-GAFFNEY TRILOGY: Byrnes offensive lineman Isaiah Pinson and Gaffney defensive lineman Jaylen Miller got to hook up one more time this year as the two lined up opposite of each other in practice. The Rebels and Indians met twice during the season with Gaffney winning both.
DURANT IMPRESSIVE: Greenwood linebacker Devon Durant was turning heads during the morning session with several forceful hits and his ability to fly to the ball. His play, along with the remaining linebackers, drew praise from Stackley.
“All four of our linebackers, Ben Boulware, Byron Johnson, Devon Durant and Devaris Brunson all came out good today,” he said.
TIS THE SEASON FOR CONTACT: South Carolina wasted little time banging heads with several contact drills in the morning and afternoon practices. While a few big hits were recorded, Stackley said the best is yet to come.
“We didn’t turn them loose on defense today,” he said. “The offense is just getting put in, and the defense is always a little ahead early. We were thudding things, but we’ll have a day here where we’ll strike it up pretty good.”