PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — No able and competitive player would want to sit out of a College Football Playoff game. But even if Clemson wasn’t in the position it is in, head coach Dabo Swinney wouldn’t have to be concerned about his seniors with NFL potential skipping the team’s bowl game to insure their professional future.
At least he wouldn’t have to worry about safety Jadar Johnson, cornerback Cordrea Tankersley or defensive tackle Carlos Watkins. The trio of Tigers don’t share the same mindset of Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Baylor running back Shock Linwood, all of whom decided to skip out on their teams’ postseason matchups and the final games of their careers.
“That’s crazy. When I first read it, at first I thought it was a joke,” Johnson said of the aforementioned players’ decisions. “Like I had never heard nothing like that before. You’re sitting out for a bowl game? I don’t know. I don’t understand that. I just don’t see the logic in that. A school gives you an opportunity to come to play football, gives you an education for free, and you’re already worrying about the next level. I feel like that’s just thinking too far ahead.”
As for Watkins, he isn’t judging McCaffrey, Fournette and Linwood for their personal choices, but said it’s not a choice he would make.
“I can’t really say anything. I don’t know their situation or what’s going on. It’s their choice,” Watkins said. “I feel like if they’re banged up, they might as well go on and pursue their career. But if you’re healthy, I feel like you should stay. It’s the last game with your team. Guys have been fighting for you all year, and you can give them one more run. But that’s just my opinion.”
Tankersley, meanwhile, hadn’t thought about it much. But when asked about it, he said would take a team-first approach if faced with that dilemma.
“I haven’t really thought about those decisions,” Tankersley said. “That’s on them. I’m going to play in my bowl game. … I understand that they don’t want to get injured or whatever, but at the end of the day it’s football. You have to think of it from a team aspect, but it’s on them.”
Boyd does his best Venables. Clemson’s defense is accustomed to seeing defensive coordinator Brent Venables manning the scout-team quarterback position in practice on a weekly basis. However, in preparation for Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, they needed a different look.
Enter Tajh Boyd. The former star signal-caller helped out in that capacity during a couple of the Tigers’ bowl practices in Clemson and gave the defense a great look according to Venables.
“He was okay. He was okay and really — he was terrific,” Venables said. “Again, quick release. Knows where he wants to throw with the ball. Good physical presence and running the quarterback powers and the read into the play and counters and draws and things of that nature.
“So it was an unbelievable look.”
Clemson confident in game plan. With Barrett, running back Mike Weber and wide receiver Curtis Samuel, Ohio State has no shortage of threats in the running game.
Altogether, they average over six yards per carry for an offense that ranks ninth nationally with 258.3 rushing yards per game.
Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware knows it will be a challenge to contain the Buckeyes’ weapons, but the senior said his defense’s approach won’t change for them, and he’s confident in the unit’s game plan.
“You go into the same mindset as Louisville, just knowing that their quarterback is capable of running the ball just as good as he is throwing it,” Boulware said. “But two running backs, with Samuel — they definitely do a lot of different things. But it’s our job to stop them.
“We’ve got a great game plan in. We know that they’ve got a lot of talent on their side of the ball. But so do we. We’re D-1 football players, too. So it’s going to be a great matchup.”