We're four days away from the Ohio State-Clemson redux.
Ahead of the Buckeyes' biggest game of the year that they have hoping to get since the offseason, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, Justin Fields, Wyatt Davis, Luke Farrell, Trey Sermon, Josh Myers and Garrett Wilson took questions from the media about the much-anticipated rematch in the College Football Playoff.
A bullet-point rundown of Day, Wilson and the players' comments:
- "The guys have overcome a lot this year. Now we have to finish the race."
- On if he has any reservations about Justin Fields' thumb injury: "No, I think he'll be fine."
- He notes Clemson is second in the country in sacks. "They've done it against just about everybody they've gone against." He says for the offensive line it comes down to preparation, understanding the patterns they've seen and knowing they'll face things they haven't seen before. The goal will be to anticipate rather than react.
- On Brent Venables: "He's one of the best defensive coordinators in college football. He does a great job calling the game. Seems to know exactly what the other team's doing."
- Day on dealing with COVID-19 this season, after Ohio State had more than 20 unavailable players for each of its last two games: “The people who missed practice in the last month alone here is staggering.” Said that puts more stress on the players who haven't missed practice.
- Day says being at Ohio State has "been a blessing." He credits the people around him at the university and in the program with him being in this spot.
- He says the lack of a lead-up time to the Sugar Bowl has led to less downtime than usual, and there's an inability to do much together other than practice. "We've taken a lot of precautions that way." He says it's just like another game rather than a typical bowl experience. "It's kind of a downer."
- On Justin Fields' chance for redemption: "He left that field wanting another shot, and now he has another shot." Says Fields is not alone in that feeling. "We asked for that opportunity, and now we've got to go."
- Day said Ohio State has gotten “a bunch” of players back to practice this week who will hopefully be able to play on Friday.
- Day says "bad things happen" when you aren't calling things aggressively. He thinks being aggressive can both mean passing the ball and not doing so.
- He says the red-zone offense and kicking field goals were issues last year against Clemson.
- Day says this game is about all of these players getting back to where they started after losing to Clemson a year ago rather than a statement about where this program stands in the national landscape.
- "Everything about this season is different, from the amount of games we've played to all of the above."
- "One thing that happens a little bit at Ohio State is people want you to win a certain way here." He says just winning the game will be important rather than winning in a certain way. "If you win the game, you move on, and that's what matters."
- Wilson says that it feels like more of a championship week-type of preparation because of the condensed schedule.
- He says that Clemson's defense makes you work for everything: "Every play is a fist fight."
- Wilson believes that it needs to be a collaborative effort from each part of the Buckeyes' offense in order to help Fields feel more comfortable under the Tigers' defensive pressure.
- Fields has "been practicing and preparing very well," Wilson says, and he believes Ryan Day has done a good job in preparing Fields for this game.
- Wilson: "It'll be difficult for us to run the ball like we did (in the Northwestern game) against Clemson, but I think the balance we have now makes (the offense) more complete."
- On the return of Olave, who he says his ability to track deep balls is one of the most impressive he's seen: "There's a lot of confidence that Justin has that when he's going to him or Garrett, they're gonna make a play for him."
- Wilson says that he's looking forward to the "tremendous one-on-one matchups" with Wyatt Davis and Clemson's linebackers.
- Fields says that Ryan Day has helped his football IQ as a quarterback, but he says the most important thing that Day has done for him is teach him the difference between talent and skill.
- On playing against a defense like Clemson's that confuses offenses with its pre-snap looks: "You just have to stick to your reads and what you learn at practice" and that you have to be aware of defensive rotations, stay calm in the pocket and "make plays under pressure."
- On the return of Chris Olave: "I really missed having Chris out there. ... I think having him back will make our offense better as a whole ... me and Chris have a great chemistry on the field.”
- He says that he had "no choice" but to put his trust in Julian Fleming during the Big Ten Championship Game and that Fleming "did a pretty good job" in stepping up in a big game.
- On the health of his sprained thumb: "I'll be good by Friday night to play."
- Fields said the biggest thing he learned from last year's game against Clemson is “One play can change the whole game.” He felt Shaun Wade's ejection flipped the momentum of the game last year.
- Fields says the loss to the Tigers "really hurt" last year and that a lot of Ohio State's motivation this year was to get another chance at beating Clemson.
- He says "we know what we're up against" in regards to facing Brent Venables' defense: "I don't really need to elaborate on it. ... We'll be ready to go."
- Fields: “For this game, I've been preparing my butt off. I haven't prepared like this the whole season.”
- Davis, who was named a first-team AP All-American on Monday, says that he does believe he has played at an All-American level. He says he feels like his play got better each week throughout the season.
- Davis says that it was a huge confidence boost to pave the way for Trey Sermon's record-breaking rushing performance against Northwestern and that it was "emotional" for some guys: "Really having that feeling of putting the team on our back, we said 'This is why we came here.'"
- On Sermon's performance: “There were a couple times it felt like we had J.K. (Dobbins) back there with how he was taking off.”
- Davis says that the Buckeyes' offensive and defensive linemen have a mantra that sums up their belief that the game is in their hands: "It's always on us."
- He believes that Fields has a look in his eye that he really wants to excel in the playoff game against Clemson and has faith that he will have a good game.
- Davis said Ohio State had a whole winter/offseason program dedicated to this game, and he's taken notice of what people have been saying about Ohio State over the past week. “We're going into this game not respected at all.”
- He says "this whole year has been one thing after another" and that it's "been a weird year." Davis says that one of the hardest things to deal with is the possibility of practicing one day and the next being taken out because of COVID-19.
- In regards to missed opportunities on offense in last year's loss to Clemson, Ohio State tight end Luke Farrell says that the Buckeyes need to be more efficient in the red zone and not settle for field goals.
- On Dabo Swinney ranking Ohio State 11th: “We're really just trying not to let it affect our preparation. We know what we're capable of, and that's what matters.”
- On opening holes for Trey Sermon in the Big Ten Championship Game and wanting to block for him, Farrell said his mindset was "Let's just run the ball. Let's open it up."
- Farrell says "it's been kind of a normal game week for us. Kind of like an open week." He says the schedule isn't too far off from what they're used to with all the cancellations the team has dealt with this season.
- He says that "it's been a chip on our shoulder" for the Buckeyes not being able to beat Clemson.
- Farrell: "I don't think we've put a complete game together yet."
- He says Ohio State needs to get back on track and that their "best is yet to come."
- Sermon says that ever since he arrived at Ohio State after his transfer from Oklahoma, he's been hearing a lot about the Buckeyes' loss to Clemson last year and that he just wants to help the Buckeyes win this time around.
- On giving an encore after the performance against Northwestern: "I don't need to do anything extra. Just give 100 percent and play my best game."
- Sermon thought Ohio State was going to win last year's Fiesta Bowl game against Clemson and that "it was a really good game."
- Sermon: "I came here to play on a big stage like this and to ultimately win a national championship. ... I can't wait for this opportunity."
- Sermon says he feels a lot more different at practice now and that he's become more comfortable as the season has progressed, especially with understanding his offensive linemen and how they move along the line.
- Whether the carries are split up or whether he gets the bulk of the carries, Sermon says his mindset is "just to be ready when my number gets called."
- He says Clemson's defensive players "fly around to the ball" and that Ohio State's offense will have to come prepared.
- He says his offensive line was dominant all game against Northwestern and that it "made my job easy."
- Myers says that "there hasn't been any rhythm to anything we've done this season" and that Ohio State "has been taking hits" in terms of cancellations and players being out.
- Myers: "There's a lot of pressure on Justin's shoulders every game. ... There's a lot of pressure on Ohio State quarterbacks throughout the years ... and I believe Justin is someone who can handle that pressure, and I think he's gonna do great."
- Myers says he's "lucked out" in being able to play side by side with Wyatt Davis: "Me and him have gelled big time. It's been awesome getting to play next to him."
- He says that the turnaround from the Big Ten title game to the playoff game has been so quick that "it doesn't feel real."
- After facing adversity all year but to finally get another shot at Clemson, Myers said, "This is exactly where we wanted to be. ... It was extremely rough the way we left that field. So it's definitely good to be back in this position, and this is where wanted to be. Thank God we're here after the crazy year we had."
- Myers says the "little things" need to be buttoned up in order for Ohio State to capitalize in the red zone this time around instead of settling for field goals like it did in last year's Fiesta Bowl: "They might seem little, but they make a big difference in the long run between touchdowns and field goals."
- Wilson says that with Olave in the Northwestern game, he said that he knew what he had to do once Sermon got going; that he had to just block and help spring Sermon free on runs.
- Wilson said that Dabo Swinney ranking Ohio State 11th in the country was a motivating factor that the team paid attention to: "It was just fuel to our fire."
- Wilson: "I'm as confident as ever in Justin. ... He's looked good throwing the ball all week, and that's all I'm gonna say on that."
- On why it's important to get Olave back: "Chris being a good player, he's gonna open up everything in the offense. DBs can't lean one way or another. ... Getting him back is gonna be huge."
- He believes having a shorter timespan to prepare benefits Wilson because "you can lose yourself preparing for a team for four weeks, but this keeps us locked in."
- Wilson said that he and Olave have talked about getting another shot at Clemson and having the chance to win a national championship ever since last year's loss to the Tigers.
- On Olave: "We all trust Chris. We all know he's the best receiver in the nation."
- Wilson knows that the offense will rely more on him in this season's playoff game against Clemson and that he's prepared for it.
- Wilson said that he has a photo of his acrobatic catch against Clemson last year hanging in his place that is "pushing life-size."