Clemson linebacker Kendall Joseph knows that defending Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson will be a difficult task. But Joseph believes he and the defense oppose the best quarterback in the country every day in practice, and that it helps prepare them for matchups like the one that will take place in Death Valley on Saturday night.
The following is an edited transcript of Joseph’s interview with the media on Tuesday:
Question: Does going against Deshaun Watson every day in practice help you prepare for a guy like Jackson?
Joseph: “Absolutely. Deshaun is the best quarterback in the nation, and it’s very tough to go against him every day in fall camp and the spring. I remember before ours was starting, I was talking to Hunter Renfrow — I’m really cool with him — and he always said you go against better in practice every day. And that’s kind of how he goes about it every day, and then once you really get out there and see, we really go against great talent every day. So, just use those same principles and know you’ve put the work in for it.”
Q: What makes Jackson so tough to contain?
Joseph: “He has elite speed, and speed kills. You see it on film. Sometimes guys are in position, and he outruns them. So, elite speed kills, but he can also throw the ball really well. He has a very strong arm, so he’s a very balanced quarterback, as well.”
Q: Jackson has put up video-game-like numbers this season. Do you think it would be easier to stop him in a video game or real-life setting?
Joseph: “I’m going to go with real life. I’m not going to go with the video game (laughing). We’ll be ready, we’ll have a good game plan and we’ll be focused and ready to go, so we’ll see on Saturday.”
Q: Does it get your attention as a defender when you look at the numbers Louisville’s offense has posted? Does that make you sit up in your seat a little bit taller?
Joseph: “Oh yes, sir. You have to respect your opponent, and what they’re doing isn’t luck, it’s skill. Coach (Bobby) Petrino is doing a great job with that offense. They deserve all the respect, and they’re getting it right now, so it’s going to be a great challenge for us to stop them.”
Q: Y’all focus so much on stopping the big plays. How is that going so far this year?
Joseph: “A lot better. We’re just very sound, staying locked in on our keys and everybody doing their job and not trying to do too much. It comes from film study and just really being focused on what we have to do and taking care of our job first.”
Q: How much will the linebacker corps miss Jalen Williams (knee), and who do you think will step up in his absence?
Joseph: “We’ll miss him a lot. He’s very versatile. He can play MIKE, WILL, SAM, he’s in our dime packages, so he’s a very versatile guy. Very smart. It’s next man up with our program, so we’ll have a lot of guys — Korrin (Wiggins), Chad Smith’s been working there, a few more guys — so we’ll be ready.”
Q: When you come running down the hill in a game like this, does it feel any different with the atmosphere that it is, top-five matchup, so many eyes on you?
Joseph: “I’ll definitely be able to sense it. It will be so loud and so crazy, and with it being a night game on primetime television, it’s going to be crazy. The crowd’s going to be rocking. It’s going to be a special moment for us.”