Skull Session: Ohio State's Answer For Clemson's Sign Stealing, the Buckeyes Could Own the Trenches on Defense, and Donovan Jackson is Lineman of the Year

By Kevin Harrish on December 31, 2020 at 4:59 am
The buckeyes are ready to dump clemson in today's skull session.

One more sleep until the Buckeyes stuff Dabo in a pine box on prime time national television. I'm giddy like a kid on Christmas eve.

Word of the Day: Perorate.

 CLOKE AND DAGGER. Clemson's developed quite the reputation for its signal stealing operation, which apparently resembles some Cold War era espionage.

It's so much of an open secret that opposing coaches know they absolutely have to account for it in their game prep.

So how significant to the actual game is Clemson’s ability to swipe and communicate signs? A lot, according to multiple coaches and assistants that Clemson plays regularly who spoke anonymously to Yahoo Sports. One coach termed it this way: “They are incredible at it. When you play them, it’s not an even playing field, they have so many [analysts] who are able to do that.”

When you are watching Clemson’s defense against Ohio State on Friday, notice how all 11 defenders are facing Venables until the moment before the snap. Opposing coaches say that Clemson will steal your sign and then Venables will signal it with a counter call in the moments before the snap. One of the tells of Clemson’s approach with this, according to opposing coaches, is that Venables is the only one signaling in the Tigers’ defensive plays. That means he’s sending them so late, and the coaches assume in reaction to what they’ve swiped, that Clemson’s defensive coaches don’t even appear to worry about anyone stealing their signals.

“If they don’t have a plan for Clemson’s signal stealers, then Clemson is going to know every play,” said one of the coaches. “They should be in the KGB stealing communications, they’re that good.”


“Playing them, you have to go super fast or super slow,” said a coordinator who has faced Venables’ defense frequently over the years. “You need to either sugar huddle, have a wide receiver run the plays in every down like an option team or play with so fmuch tempo that they have to get the call in immediately so they can’t get lined up.”

Personally, I don't think there's anything necessarily *wrong* with stealing signals, as long as you're not breaking any rules to do it. But at the same time, I do think it's hilariously on-brand for Clemson to be the team that's notorious for such a snaky practice.

It also might explain why Brent Venebals has been there for so long, never moving on to a head coaching gig. Perhaps he's nowhere near as good at actually coaching football as he is at stealing signals, so he'd rather just get paid seven figures to do that the rest of his life.

 DOMINATE THE TRENCHES. The way folks are talking about this game, you would think Clemson has the advantage in every aspect of this game. But those people clearly haven't looked at how Ohio State's defensive line matches up with that Clemson offensive line.

Thankfully, Pete Thamel spoke to 10 opposing coaches and scouts familiar with Ohio State and Clemson to give us an honest analysis.

In Trevor Lawrence’s three seasons at Clemson, this roster has the least amount of talent from 1-44 on the two-deep. No place is that more glaring that the offensive line, which has high-end left tackle Jackson Carman and four other pedestrian players.

Ohio State’s defensive front lacks a Bosa-like disruptor and certainly misses Chase Young’s edge rushes, but the Buckeye front four gives OSU a distinct advantage. The Buckeyes are going to try to stop the run like Notre Dame did in holding Travis Etienne to 28 carries on 18 yards in those teams’ first matchup.

The key for Ohio State will be defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, who has fewer sacks and tackles than fellow tackle Tommy Togiai but has been more disruptive. “I thought Garrett was explosive and violent and played with great leverage,” said an opposing assistant. “He popped out on film, people had a really hard time blocking him.”

Ohio State plays more zone than past seasons, as they flash Cover 3, Cover 1 and mix in some man, according to coaches. But any path to victory starts up front.

TL;DR, Haskell Garrett and Tommy Togiai are going to EAT.

 LINEMAN OF THE YEAR. The Buckeyes are no strangers to bringing in the best damn offensive linemen in the land.

For the second straight year, an Ohio State signee has been named the Anothony Muoz Offensive Lineman of the Year by the All-American Bowl as Donovan Jackson claims this year's honor after Paris Johnson Jr. earned it last year.

Personally, I'm feeling pretty solid about the future of the Buckeye offensive line.

 UH OH! Wisconsin notched a monumental victory for the program yesterday with a 42-28 win over Wake Forest in the Mayo Bowl. But unfortunately, the hardware won't be making it back to Madison intact.

But don't worry, Mertz fixed it, and it's now even better than it was before.

If next year's Mayo Bowl Trophy doesn't include a bottle of mayonnaise duck taped to the top, I'm going to be more disappointed than I was when I realized Paul Chryst wasn't actually going to get showered in a tub of mayonnaise to celebrate the victory yesterday.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Wolves" by Kanye West.

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