COLUMBUS – Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables and a number of Tiger defensive players met with the media on Monday to preview the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Here are the highlights of what was said.
DC Brent Venables
+ This team has overcome a lot of adversity, what a crazy year it has been. He is thankful for the players and their families and the sacrifices that have been made. He has a great perspective on the opportunity that they have.
+ Justin Fields is a terrific player who can do it all, run with strength and throw with precision, play with great poise, he’s a natural leader, great presence in the pocket, he’s without question their leader on offense. He is a great game manager as well, he is poised and experienced and incredibly talented.
+ Trevor Lawrence is a fierce competitor, always demands more of himself but he has this steadiness that the greats have. He makes everyone else better and has tremendous humility. He’s been a joy to be around.
+ On Chris Olave, Venables said he is a great player who is very savvy. He can make all of the competitive plays. This will be the best group of receivers they have played against this year and they will be challenged.
+ “It’s not who you’re playing, it’s what you’re playing for.”
+ Dabo Swinney has always been comfortable in his skin. He is an amazing man, Christian, leader, and coach. He loves this sport and he loves what it stands for and how it has changed lives. “There’s nobody on this earth that I have more respect for.”
+ It’s harder than it has ever been coaching defense, but he loves it and loves the challenge. There are a lot of gray areas in the rules. They attack it with an “everybody is against us” mindset. Fundamentals and technique, that stays the same.
LB James Skalski
+ On Ohio State’s offense, Trey Sermon and Master Teague III, they are great running backs and they find the holes. The second you make a mistake they’re out the gate. They have to be disciplined defensively.
+ On Master Teague III, “what a football name.”
+ On being back in New Orleans and in the playoffs, Skalski said he has been in the playoffs every year he has been at Clemson and he is grateful. They don’t care where they are or who they play, but he is 0-2 in New Orleans, so he wants redemption in that aspect.
+ It’s going to be hard to slow down the passing game, especially with a Heisman-caliber quarterback, their receivers, and tight ends. Northwestern did a good job against them but Ohio Sate also didn’t play their best.
+ He would’t call this a rivalry game, but there’s blood in the water. It’s a semifinal game, both teams want to win. There’s a lot of intensity brought in the game, it’s a playoff game, to go to the big show.
+ Fields is very talented athletically, “the guy makes plays.” They have to do their jobs at a high level and be on their P’s and Q’s.
+ He feels great and after the ACC Championship he was sore, but the right kind of sore, not an injury but like he just played a championship football game.
+ The secret to good defense is bend don’t break, don’t give up a big play. Everybody can make a play but can they do it the entire game? The defense has to make big stops.
S Nolan Turner
+ Ohio State is a great football team. Last year against them was one of the most physical games they played in. He assumes it will be this year too.
+ He missed having full stadiums this fall. The commitment it takes to stay COVID free and keep yourself isolated has been a challenge.
+ He is frustrated he has to sit the first half out, but it’s uncontrollable for him so he just has to bring energy and support his teammates and help out where he can.
+ They don’t need any extra fuel or motivation for this game. This is a big stage with phenomenal competition. These are the fun ones.
+ Ohio State punched them in the mouth last time. They have to play better. He didn’t play well last year, even with the interception.
+ Team cultures have really shown this year, all of the big programs that show up in the playoffs have good leadership and good cultures, that shows, especially in a year like this.
LB Baylon Spector
+ Ohio State brings a lot of challenges, but they will be ready. Trey Sermon is a great player, so is Master Teague III. The offensive line is very experienced.
+ Teams are very physical in the playoffs, it’s the best against the best, good against good. They have to be as physical as possible.
+ People undervalue James Skalski’s athletic ability all of the time. He’s a great player and he brings it.
+ He plans to come back to Clemson next year.
+ What he remembers most about the game last year was the physicality and how long it was. They know this will be a battle too.
+ The Bowl experience is very different this year. They have BINGO night tonight and they are enjoying it as much as they can.
+ They know what’s on the line with this game and what type of team this is with Ohio State. It’s a rivalry and they are excited.
DE Myles Murphy
+ Ohio State’s offensive line is pretty big. They are strong up front. They have a very good run game and they are very good structurally. They have to be sound in their technique and strong at the point of attack to make sure the line is not moved in the wrong direction.
+ On being freshman All-American and playing in this game, he said it is pretty surreal. He was watching this exact game last year from his couch and now he is in it. It will be a surreal moment. He is very excited.
+ On playing against Justin Fields, Murphy said he is a very strong quarterback and he’s strong in the pocket. They have to wrap up and get him all the way to the ground, it is not easy to take him down. He’s dangerous in an open field.
+ On setting the edge, he said it’s very important. Coaches have been preaching it all day, every day.
+ They had a good outing defensively in the ACC Championship game, and they want to play their best games in the end of the season. He has confidence it will carry over to this game, but they have to put in the preparation.
LB Mike Jones Jr.
+ He is glad they are able to have a bowl game and the playoffs.
+ The rivalry is nail-biting, everybody has their own narratives, last year was a crazy game, and everybody is excited.
+ In Ohio State’s last game against Northwestern, Trey Sermon’s game was outstanding. They have to try to stop the run and do their best on defense. That has been his focus throughout his studies.
+ On Dabo Swinney being criticized for not speaking out about social justice issues over the summer, Jones said it rubbed him the wrong way seeing people speak about Swinney in that way. He said Swinney came and addressed the team directly and they were comfortable. “Everybody knows the kind of guy he is.” They know his character and who he is as a man, it didn’t feel good to see him attacked.
DT Tyler Davis
+ The defensive line has to set the tone. Ohio State has one of the top offensive lines in the country, everyone on their offensive line is great.
+ There are no advantages or disadvantages with the number of games played. It is what it is, when you’re on the field you play.
+ Justin Fields can make every throw. Playing against him last year helps him out and he feels like he is better prepared for him this year.
+ On offense, Ohio State is “a nasty group and they are very aggressive, physical, and they want to dominate.”