Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware doesn’t see why what Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins did to Ohio State wide receiver Curtis Samuel is such a big deal.
In the first half of Clemson’s blowout win over Ohio State, Wilkins — there’s no indirect way of putting this — stuck his hand between Samuel’s legs while Samuel was face down on the ground after a play and poked.
— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) January 1, 2017
Boulware, the team’s outspoken linebacker and defensive leader, was asked about Wilkins’ actions Wednesday by Tiger Illustrated. He didn’t mince words.
“People are trying to say sexual assault?” he said. “People that say that have either never played football, have never been in a locker room … I know there’s going to be that one person: ‘Well I played football and I never did that.’ You either sucked at football, you had no friends in the locker room, or you were the person that went in the bathroom stall to go change because you were scared to shower with the team.”
Boulware also said the “people freaking out” about Wilkins’ actions were “trying to divert the fact that we beat [Ohio State] by 31 points or that we beat [South Carolina] by 49 points.” South Carolina is Clemson’s biggest rival.
Wilkins, for his part, has called what he did a “silly moment,” while Boulware said what Wilkins did was not out of the ordinary for Clemson. Just that it was clearly visible to a large audience watching at home.
Boulware will concede that Wilkins went too far (“about four fingers deep”). He said the rest of the team has been making fun of the sophomore defensive tackle because of how much it’s blown up.
“Nobody has done it as aggressive as Christian did,” Boulware said. “We try to be a little more discreet about it and poke somebody. He definitely grabbed a handful.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said his defensive tackle was “being goofy.” Wilkins made a public apology to ESPN after the blowout and said he shook hands with Samuel following the game.
And here's Clemson's Dabo Swinney, asked if he talked to Christian Wilkins about the grabbing incident in the Fiesta Bowl: pic.twitter.com/uGaVpKj821
— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) January 4, 2017
Samuel tweeted after the game that he would have reacted differently had he felt Wilkins’ hand.
— Curtis Samuel (@CurtisSamuel4__) January 1, 2017
It’s impossible to condone the actions of Wilkins, even if it an accepted practice within Clemson’s locker room and on the football field. As Boulware indirectly notes, the locker room isn’t governed by the same set of rules society is. But that doesn’t mean what Wilkins was caught doing wasn’t insanely stupid. “Boys will be boys” is an easy defense. But it’s never a good one.
In a football sense, this is a perfect self-created example of one of those dreaded “distractions” football coaches like to talk about insulating their teams from. Instead of discussing preparations for Alabama or what Clemson did right vs. Ohio State, those around the Clemson program are (rightfully) being asked questions about what Wilkins did.
And given the reaction to Wilkins’ maneuver, we’re going to guess Clemson players will be instructed to be on their best post-play behavior Monday night vs. the Tide.
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