CLEMSON – “Coach, let me explain” were freshman Ben Boulware’s first words to special teams coordinator Danny Pearman after a near game-changing play Saturday night.
“I don’t care. I still love you,” Pearman responded before giving him a hug.
Clemson leading 38-28 in the fourth quarter – a Georgia punt sailed deep into Tiger territory and appeared destined to pin Clemson back.
Not hearing the “Peter” call to get out of the way, Boulware rushed to block a Georgia defender so the ball would roll for a touchback. His move back-fired, however – getting pushed back into the pigskin, which proceeded to carry back into the Clemson endzone.
Luckily for the T.L. Hanna product, senior Tigers cornerback C.J. Jones picked it up and eluded a couple Bulldogs for a nine-yard return.
Boulware taking aggressive mindset
“He saved my life,” Boulware said. “Thank God he was there.”
And with that, Clemson fans were introduced to the Anderson native – an eventful debut to say the least. He says, at times, the atmosphere was overwhelming.
“When you finally get here and (there’s) Tiger Walk and see all the fans that love Clemson football – it’s insane,” he said. “You’re in the locker room and get ready and see how many people are actually out there. It’s crazy.
“Usually in high school game after one play, the jitters go away, but for me, every time I was out there I was nervous the whole time.”
At fall camp’s close, Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney called Boulware “the ultimate football player,” and while not on the depth chart yet at middle linebacker, he’s getting plenty of work on kick and punt returns and kickoff coverage.
Boulware is convinced his style of play – maybe starting as early as this week versus FCS-opponent S.C. State – will get him on the field on defense too.
“I believe that Venables is an old school coach,” said Boulware, “and the main thing for him is great effort guys and aggressive guys and guys that play through the whistle. I think that fits me perfectly and that’s how I play.”
Recruits take notice of Death Valley atmosphere: Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris got some calls from across the country not long after the final whistle of the 38-35 win Saturday night.
On the ABC telecast, they covered all angles of the Tigers’ trek from the locker room to the buses to the Brent Musberger-dubbed “most exciting 25 seconds in college football” running down The Hill.
Throughout the night, the raucous crowd came right through the television as Georgia struggled with delay of game and false start flags.
“That was special. It was broadcast all over the country,” Morris said. “To see our university put on a stage in front of the entire country to see what our traditions are here. To have recruits see that, we’ve gotten phone calls from recruits all over the country that we’re now in their top list.
“That’s great to know and that’s great to see. That’s the way it should be and this is a special place.”
DeStefano makes most of late-switch: He wasn’t on the depth chart, but redshirt freshman offensive lineman Patrick DeStefano saw the field for 13 snaps – at a new position and a new number versus Georgia.
Donning No. 43 and playing tight end, the Dorman product’s block on the edge opened up the hole for one Tajh Boyd touchdown run and he was also on the field for Boyd's second score.
“Going through a redshirt year is tough. It’s definitely a 100 percent worth it, but it’s a grind,” DeStefano said. “Especially after I was (an early enrollee), it was coming up on two years that I had seen a snap of football. To go in there and see that, it was gratifying.”
DeStefano found out Monday indirectly from Morris that he’s going to be getting comfy in the new role this season.
“That’s news to me. I’d just as soon assume (No.) 71 is in my locker and I’ll throw on the knee brace again and be a fat guy,” he said with a smile. “I’m still the same 290 pounds, but I’m a 290-pound tight end that’s skinny (now).”