By Will Vandervort
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables says Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde have caused a lot of teams fits this year, something the 12th-ranked Tigers hope to contain in the Discover Orange Bowl on Jan. 3.
“They are your typical spread,” Venables said following Tuesday’s practice. “They try to attack your edges and attack you up the middle and try to take the top off it with all those different runs. They have the jet sweeps, the powers, the zone, the reverses and all the play action off of all of those.
“They are good at everything that they do.”
The Buckeyes (12-1) rank seventh nationally in total offense at 518.5 yards per game, including 317.5 on the ground, which ranks third nationally behind Auburn and Navy. As a team, they are averaging 7.03 yards per carry, tops in the country.
“They are really good up front. They are very sound up front and they are very physical,” Venables said. “They have athletic ability to handle movement and change in direction. You don’t see a ton of guys coming free.”
Clemson has done a much better job of stopping big physical teams like Ohio State this year as well as dating back to Chick-fil-A bowl against LSU last year. The Tigers held LSU to a season-low 99 yards in the New Year’s Eve Bowl game and they did a good job of slowing down Boston College and South Carolina, who own two of the nation’s best running backs in Boston College’s Andre Williams (a season-low 70 yards) and South Carolina’s Mike Davis (a season-low 22 yards).
The Tigers (10-2) lead the nation tackles for loss with 112. However, they ranked only 49th in the country against the run, allowing 152.6 yards per game on the ground.
“We are going to have to play really well physically, first and for most,” Venables said. “This is probably are biggest challenge physically of the year because they are physical on the perimeter, and the quarterback is a physical runner.”
Braxton Miller is the quarterback for the Buckeyes. He has rushed for 1,033 yards in 11 games, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. He has scored 10 touchdowns which ranks second on the team behind running back Carlos Hyde’s 14.
“(Miller) is big and is super fast. We have not faced anybody with his kind of speed at quarterback,” Venables said.
The Clemson defensive coordinator compared Miller and Hyde to Texas’ Vince Young and Cedric Benson during the Longhorns national championship run in 2005.
“They are two big powerful guys, both with good top-end speed and good power to run between the tackles,” he said
But don’t be fooled by Ohio State’s lack of a passing game. They can throw the ball, too and they will usually do it when they lull the safeties to sleep and throw over the top. Miller has thrown 22 touchdowns this year, while his backup Kenny Guiton threw 14. The two have combined to throw 36 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions this season for 2,609 yards.
“It can be hard if you don’t stay disciplined with your eyes,” Clemson safety Jayron Kearse said. “That’s something I have been working on through the season. I can’t let motion and things get me in the wrong spot.
“I just have to keep my eyes where they are supposed to be then I will be alright.”
Kearse says Miller’s ability to make substantial gains when he pulls the ball down is what makes him so difficult to defend. He reminds him a lot in the way the Gamecocks used Connor Shaw.
“He is gaining 30 to 40 yards when he pulls the ball down. That’s something he does very well,” Kearse said. “He improvises really well and that is something he has done a lot so we are really watching that.”