COLUMBUS – Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs and a number of Buckeye defensive players met with the media on Tuesday to preview the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Here are the highlights.
DC Kerry Coombs
+ The safety position was a big scramble against Northwestern because they had three healthy safeties available. They would like to be much closer to full strength on Friday.
+ Some of the best wide receivers in the country they go against every day in their facility, the receivers at Clemson are just like them. The ability to compete good against good every day is critical.
+ Trevor Lawrence is deceptively fast. He does so many things very well and is arguably one of the best college football quarterbacks of all time. He makes very few poor decisions.
+ “The interior defensive lineman have done a really good job this year.”
+ He’s never seen anything like what Haskell Garrett has gone through and he hopes he never does again. But to go from where he was in August to where he is in December, it’s a miracle and he re-proves that every time he’s on the field.
+ Travis Etienne is a fantastic player in every way. He’s dynamic. “But winning teams have a formula and have talent across the board, if you focus on just taking one thing away, they have plenty to beat you in other ways so you have to prepare for all of it.”
+ The way the game ended was part of the reason Shaun Wade came back. He has been motivated all year. This game means a lot to him. He’s prepared extremely well and he wants to help this team win.
+ They have to find a way to get speed on the field defensively. They need flexible players who can move around and do different things to help.
+ A lot of players have had to learn more about other positions this year because of the number of players that have been out in practices.
CB Shaun Wade
+ On being named an All-American, Wade said he feels like he was overall better but he can always be better and there is a lot he can work and improve on.
+ He is focused on winning a National Championship and beating Clemson.
+ Special teams is very important in big games like this. Everybody has been getting better each week.
+ He is really looking forward to this game especially with only playing one half last year but he said it’s a team sport and not a me sport. It’s a new team and a new year. He doesn’t feel extra pressure and he is trying to stay calm and focused.
+ Trevor Lawrence is a great quarterback. He puts the ball in the right spot and they have great receivers.
+ The game is going to come down to the little things. Everything is even when these teams are the best of the best.
+ The targeting call last year changed the momentum and gave Clemson the edge, but there were a lot of plays they could have made where they shot themselves in the foot.
+ He characterizes this game as they’ve never beat Clemson, so that’s their goal.
+ “Just watch, Sevyn [Banks] is going to make some plays.” He is laser focused and he’s going to do some things.
DT Haskell Garrett
+ Tommy Togiai is a great player, he played behind great players. He does the extra work, takes notes, pays attention, and applies it on the field.
+ On his All-American honor, Garrett said he is really honored. His success is the line’s success. But he will focus on the accolades after the season.
+ Travis Etienne’s vision makes him difficult to stop. He’s a downhill runner and he’s fast. He will be a great challenge. But they just have to play their game and do their jobs.
+ He hasn’t made a decision on coming back to Ohio State or leaving for the NFL, but he said that is a conversation for after the season. He is focused on the team right now.
+ Trevor Lawrence is a great player. They need to be aware he can extend the play with his feet and be cautious of where he is at all times.
+ Clemson just plays great football and they are assignment-sound.
+ He enhanced his knowledge of the game this season so he can play fast and anticipate instead of react.
LB Pete Werner
+ Travis Etienne is versatile with the ways he can attack on defense. He can run well and defenses have gotten lazy and out of gaps. He can catch the ball on a screen and go a long way. He can beat defenses running the ball or catching it.
+ The team still has the feeling of last year.
+ They appreciate what they’ve been through and reflect on how far they have come from the challenges they have faced.
+ Tommy Togiai and Haskell Garrett are fighters. They did a lot in the offseason and they understand their role on the defense and stepped up to the plate.
+ Giving up big plays last year was one of the reasons they lost the game. It’s difficult with a dual-threat quarterback like Trevor Lawrence. It will be a challenge for the defense.
+ Ryan Day has put the players first. He’s a guy who is always there for the players and is a guy you want to be next to. To be able to make it to a playoff, he credits him and his leadership.
DT Tommy Togiai
+ On Clemson’s offensive line, Togiai said they work together really well and they open up gaps for Etienne to hit. They work as a collective unit.
+ Over the quarantine, he worked on getting faster and getting better at his technique and that has helped him this season.
+ On Haskell Garrett, he is so happy gets to play with him and he’s really happy for Garrett, especially with all of the adversity that he has been through.
+ A lot of players on the defensive line blossomed this year. They all play for each other.
+ Getting pressure on Lawrence will be huge. That will help them a lot.
LB Justin Hilliard
+ On facing Trevor Lawrence again, Hilliard said his mindset is that if they just have 11 guys trying to run to the ball and make contact every play they will be alright.
+ On his play, Hilliard said there’s more to come from him. “That first hit and first play, once you make those, everything flows snd becomes easier.”
+ “Pete [Werner] is a beast.” He is always running to the ball and he is a huge part of their defense and team.
+ Travis Etienne has been a focus for sure but their defense is built around stopping big plays. With a guy like Etienne it can be tough, but “I’m up for the challenge.”
DE Jonathon Cooper
+ Being able to play in the game means the most to him, after not being able to play last year.
+ He has no regrets with coming back to Ohio State, he is really happy he made that decision. Things didn’t go the way he planned, but he’s grateful to go out there and play with his brothers and represent Ohio State. “I couldn’t ask for more.”
+ No matter what team it is against, the goal is to win.
+ On missing out on the bowl experience, Cooper said he wanted to try some of the seafood in New Orleans, but they are there to win a football game and it’s all business.
+ He wants to go out and end his season the right way. He wants to make his family proud and he is ready to go get it.
+ “Coach Day has been amazing throughout all of this.”
+ The lines are the keys to winning the game because it’s where everything starts.
I got a baaaad feeling about this one. I hope I’m wrong but staring me in the face is statistically this year’s defense isn’t as good as last year’s, which wasn’t good enough.
My ‘ray of hope’ is that Trey Sermon can have an Elliott-like 3-game set and carry the team through it’s weaknesses but you just can’t count on lightning-in-a-bottle like that, certainly not just a few years apart.
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