Clemson Defense Prepares for Buckeyes' Power Run Game

By Kyle Rowland on December 23, 2013 at 1:00p
Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde present the biggest challenge Clemson's rush defense will face all season.

When Urban Meyer came to Ohio State, many had visions of Percy Harvin’s effortless strides, passes over the middle that result in 20 yard-gains and world-class speed at nearly every offensive position. That’s not exactly how the Buckeyes have gone about building their point-scoring machine.

It was a misconception to begin with, considering Meyer’s spread contained more power than other variations of the high-octane offense. He and offensive coordinator Tom Herman are of the ilk that balance means production. Enter running back Carlos Hyde.

Over the past two seasons, Hyde’s bowling ball, downhill running style has contributed to Ohio State’s numerous offensive school records. Now, he’s Clemson’s problem. 

“He’s very physical, breaks a lot of tackles,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “He runs through a lot of trash. He’s not just running and guys are missing hits. He’s running through and over people quite often.”

Quite often translates into 141 yards rushing per game and more than 1,400 for the season, along with 14 touchdowns. The first-team All-Big Ten performer helped the Buckeyes produce 317.5 yards per game on the ground, third-most in the country. Hyde and the team both account for a nation’s best seven yards per rush, almost a half-yard more than any other team.

Venebles attributes Hyde’s constant 100-yard outputs to toughness, attitude and technique. It won’t take an arm tackle to bring him down and rarely can one defender corral the 6-foot, 242-pound Hyde. He’s a running back in a fullback’s body with wide receiver speed.

“He can move. He’s quick. He can juke,” Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony said. “He doesn’t have to come straight at you. He does have some shiftiness to him.”

Said Venables: “You’ve got to get a lot of hats to the ball.”

The Tiger run defense is nothing exemplary. They rank 52nd nationally and allow 153 yards per game. But Clemson did shut down the nation’s leading rusher, Boston College’s Andre Williams. The upset-minded Eagles were close to pulling off the deed, though it was no thanks to Williams. He finished with 70 yards and zero touchdowns on 24 carries.

But as the stats indicate, it wasn’t always orange and purple rainbows for the Tigers. Georgia’s star tailback Todd Gurley ran roughshod over Clemson in the season opener, recording 154 yards and two touchdowns – on 12 carries. In all, three running backs had 100-yard days in 12 games.

Williams’ performance – he rushed for 2,102 yards on the season – and South Carolina’s Mike Davis barely cracking the 20-yard mark is evidence the Tigers have the strength and athletic ability on defense to stifle any back they face.

“But they’ve done a good job at recruiting athletic ability there, too,” Venables said. “That’s a school that always attracts high-level, elite offensive linemen.  You're seeing right now a group of veteran guys that can knock you off the ball and bloody your nose.”

Therein lies the oldest story in the football book. Games are won in the trenches with physicality. Meyer, Venables, Ed Warinner and Dabo Swinney – and thousands of other coaches – all preach a similar message. The proof is in the pudding – or in this case statistics dating back decades.

The cliché rings even truer when the ground and pound Midwestern style of football is played. After more than a decade at Oklahoma, Venables is well versed on defending the power-run game. He likens Braxton Miller and Hyde to Texas’ two-headed monster of the previous decade, Vince Young and Cedric Benson.

“Two big powerful guys, both with good top-end speed and power to run between the tackles,” Venables said, describing Miller and Hyde’s skill set. “They play with toughness, running downhill. I admire them for that. In crucial crunch-time situations, they’re not trying to trick you, they’re trying to overpower you and out-physical you. They’ve been really successful doing that.”

Ohio State’s receivers’ and tight end Jeff Heuerman’s knack for blocking adds another dimension to the Buckeyes’ run game. Fundamentally, there aren’t many offenses that churn out points and yards more efficiently than Ohio State. Despite their Big Ten label, the Buckeyes do in fact have players who are fast.

“We take a lot of pride in (stopping) the run game because we feel that’s one of our biggest strengths,” Clemson defensive tackle D.J. Reader said. “We take it as a big challenge every time someone says they’re going to come out and run the ball on us.”

The Tigers will get their biggest test of the 2013 season come Jan. 3 in the Orange Bowl.


Comments Show All Comments

avail31678's picture

I think Vince Young was around in the early-mid 2000's, not the mid-90's?
Regardless, good read.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Both teams have definite strengths/weaknesses.  We are cabapable of stopping the pass, but need work, and they are capable of stopping the run, but don't do it every game.

ibuck's picture

Vince Young played for coach Mack Brown's Texas Longhorns football team from 2002 to 2005.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

Hovenaut's picture

Clemson pulled away late against Boston College back in October - shutting down Andre Williams and forcing the Eagles to pass in contrast to controlling the ball.
Jameis Winston did pretty well against Clemson when they played, if you may remember.
Offensive balance for the Buckeyes is key. I'm expecting El Guapo to get his. If Braxton can find a rhythm early, and sustain it, I think Ohio State is going to do just fine against the Tigers.
Hyde will eat clock and move chains. Brax can keep drives alive and run as needed but there has to be effectiveness passing to keep the Tigers out of sync defensively. Need to find the receivers and tight ends this time.
That has to be the m.o. in order to nullify Clemson's strength (their offense) against Ohio State's weakness (yeah).

Killer nuts's picture

Should be a great match up but Vince Young was not at Texas in the mid 90's

cinserious's picture

"Previous decade" means between 2000 and 2009.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

avail31678's picture

I honestly don't want to see us test our run game versus their run defense.  I really want to see us mix it up.  I think we NEED some short passes.  Against MSU, it seemed like we either threw the ball quickly out wide or threw it deep - nothing in the middle.  Can't we catch Dontre in stride across the middle?  Can't we do a bunch of quick crossing routes or slants for 5 or so yards a pop?
That said, if they can't stop Carlos let him run all day and control the clock.

cal3713's picture

Our run game succeeded against what should be a much better run defense in MSU's.  Should have "tested" it more...

tussey's picture

As far as controlling the clock is concerned you are absolutely right.  I have have been able to watch Clemson a few times this year and they are fueled by their offense.  In the BC game they struggled because they couldn't get BC off the field.  Then in the FSU game they kept on going 3 and out while FSU kept scoring and creating an insurmountable lead.  The key for the buckeyes in this game is to have some sustained drives, to keep their offense off the field and to keep them off rhythm, if possible.

Barnsey69's picture

My hope is that if Hyde is working, like the first 3 quarters of the B1G champ game, that the coaches continue to feed the machine and not get cute. Seems people, in sports and in life, tend to get away from this tried and true philosophy...if it ain't broke don't fix it.

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

kcbrez's picture

I'd plus-one the crap out of this if I could plus-one the crap out of this.

Seattle Linga's picture

Well done KC Well done - I took care of it for you

BUCK-I-FAN's picture

to take the words of Jim Tressel on play calling. we are going to run that play over and over until they figure out a way to stop it.

BamaBuckeye144's picture

If Hyde ain't broke, don't stop feeding the keep it simple stupid machine.
Something like that.


ScarletNGrey01's picture

Would also be nice if Braxton returns to his form of the middle third of the season where his passing looked really sharp.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

ibuck's picture

With Braxton's recent comment about the pounding he's taken, I suspect he was banged up for several games, including the B1G CG. 
Hopefully, he'll be healthy for the Orange Bowl, along with all the other Buckeyes.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

4thandinches's picture

Love our play calling. We started relying more and more on Braxton (designed runs) at the end of the year. But they knew he was banged up? Why not keep feeding it to the beast? Especially during the B1G championship?

I wasn't born a Buckeye but I became one as fast as I could. 

Seattle Linga's picture

The game should be won in the trenches - and we have the beef to get it done!

Nutinpa's picture

Agree with you.  But most likely, the game will be won the way most are in the modern age of Bowl games that are not for the NC:  By which team is more focused and excited to be there. 
If Clemson or the Buckeyes "mail in" the effort, it will be clear to see and painful to watch.

sir rickithda3rd's picture

they will throw on us and we will run on them... bucks by 10

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

osupolo's picture

Clemson may have seen some good backs like Hyde this season,  but not a back like Hyde with a o-line like tOSU has. 

fanfarris's picture

Can any of the Clemson backs they faced did what Hyde did in that game against Iowa? No. Did any of the backs take over a game like Hyde did against Northwestern? Another NO. Hyde is the best running back out there.


cinserious's picture

I'm a bit surprised Ohio State has fast, speedy athletes despite playing in the Big-10.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

fanfarris's picture

HYDE reminds me of the great OSU running back,Keith Byers,who was second in the Hiesman voting and lost it to Flutie cause of  his last hail Mary TD in Miami.But i think Hyde is faster than Keith and has more moves ,while Byers was more powerful.