NEW ORLEANS — Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, linebacker Dorian O’Daniel, defensive back Ryan Carter and defensive coordinator Brent Venables met with the media on Thursday ahead of the top-ranked Tigers’ game against No. 4 Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Here are some of the highlights from Thursday’s Sugar Bowl press conference:
Spy threat averted. As the top-ranked team, Clemson was given preference in location of its practice site for the Sugar Bowl. So, some eyebrows were raised when the Tigers chose to practice at Tulane University instead of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — where the Sugar Bowl will of course be played.
You’d logically think the Tigers would have wanted to practice at the game site, and get accustomed to and familiar with the place where the game will go down. Instead, Alabama will reap those benefits.
Clemson didn’t look at it that way when choosing Tulane as its practice site, however. According to O’Daniel, the Tigers may have been worried about potentially being spied on inside the dome.
“I don’t know the reasoning for that,” O’Daniel said when asked why Clemson picked Tulane. “Maybe because it’s a dome and there might be some spies sitting around in the bleachers or something.”
So, Clemson played it safe and will prepare for the Sugar Bowl in the more secure Yulman Stadium, the home of Tulane.
Spy threat averted.
“Seriously, you never know,” O’Daniel said. “That’s college football. You never know. You don’t know what you don’t know. So I think we just took the safe route as far as practicing at Tulane.”
Wilkins likens Hurts to ACC QBs. Wilkins compared Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts to Miami’s Malik Rosier and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
“I would say he’s a mixture of a little bit of Rosier and Lamar Jackson,” Wilkins said.
Entering the Sugar Bowl, Hurts has completed 135-of-222 passes (60.8 percent) for 1,940 yards and 15 touchdowns against just one pick. The sophomore from Houston has also run for 768 yards and eight touchdowns on 137 carries.
In last season’s national championship game against Clemson, Hurts went 13-of-31 passing for 131 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 63 yards and another score.
“He’s obviously really fast,” Wilkins said. “He can run, can hurt you, but he’s not as twitchy as Lamar is. He’s kind of a mix in between him (and Rosier). But he’s a different player too. He can run the ball really well and makes good throws.”
Back in the backyard. In Ferrell’s mind, playing in the Sugar Bowl semifinal against Alabama will be like playing in the backyard as a kid.
“It’s kind of like backyard football again,” Ferrell said. “Obviously technique and scheme are still a part of it, but at the end of the day it comes down to players making plays.”
Ferrell said the game will essentially boil down to Clemson winning its one-on-one matchups with the players across from them. And the redshirt sophomore from Richmond, Va., wouldn’t want it any other way.
“That’s what I love about this game,” he said.
Bryant a no show. Clemson defensive end Austin Bryant did not meet with the media Thursday because he was selected for a random drug test required by the NCAA.
Bryant had no choice but to go take the drug test.