Ben Boulware and Christian Wilkins at Fiesta Bowl

Clemson's Ben Boulware (left) and Christian Wilkins in Arizona prior to the Tigers' victory in the Fiesta Bowl. On Wednesday the two defensive players talked about the 'groping' incident that occurred in their victory over Ohio State. (Gene Sapakoff/Staff)

CLEMSON — Clemson defensive end Christian Wilkins has taken quite a bit of heat in the news and around social media for the way he grabbed Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel during the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday night in Arizona.

In the middle of Clemson’s 31-0 pummeling of the Buckeyes, Wilkins was caught on camera groping Samuel's rear after the play was dead, with Samuel lying face down on the ground after he had been tackled. The incident made waves and immediately prompted an apology from Wilkins following Clemson’s victory.

“I do apologize for that. That’s just stuff you do when you’re competing. I know that’s not a good look or anything like that but I do apologize for that,” Wilkins said Saturday night, adding that he had no ill intent and that it was just him being goofy.

“And I shook hands with (Samuel) after the game. There’s no hard feelings or anything like that, it was just in the heat of the moment.”

On Wednesday, in his final press conference from Clemson’s campus before the Tigers load up for Tampa and the College Football Playoff national championship, Tigers coach Dabo Swinney told the media he talked to Wilkins about the situation. The head coach echoed Wilkins’ sentiment that it was all in good fun, but added his jovial defensive lineman would have been better served had he not done it at all.

“Just being goofy, you guys know Christian. He’s just a guy that can be a little silly at times,” Swinney said.

“But he shouldn’t have done it. He apologized for it, apologized to the kid, that’s really it. Not much to say about it.”

But while Swinney and Wilkins both glossed over the incident and didn’t elaborate, Clemson senior linebacker Ben Boulware was highly outspoken Wednesday morning, expressing that too much was made of what he sees as a non-issue. 

“That stuff kind of annoys me. The game is so serious and it’s so locked in out there, you try to do stuff just to have fun, to break up the seriousness of the game,” Boulware began.

“People are trying to say ‘sexual assault.’ People that say that have either never played football (or) have never been in a locker room and seen the weird stuff.

“I know there’s going to be that one person (who says), ‘Well, I played football and I never did that.’ You either (stunk) 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 took some flack himself in November when he poked South Carolina offensive lineman Zack Bailey — a Summerville graduate — in Bailey’s rear.

Bailey posted a video of the footage on his Twitter account, with the caption: “Watch big #10. Is this (what) Clemson practices?”

“No, we practice beating y’all by 49 points,” Boulware fired back Wednesday when he brought up Bailey’s tweet.

“Yes, Christian went — he went about four fingers deep. He went a little too far. But when I’m just messing with somebody, poking them in the belly button or grabbing someone’s butt, it’s just to break up the seriousness of the game.

“Is it really that big of a deal?”

Reach Grace Raynor at 843-937-5591. Follow her on Twitter @gmraynor.

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