Strength against strength

Strength against strength

Football

Strength against strength

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By Will Vandervort

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It was obvious when he started watching film on seventh-ranked Ohio State that the Buckeyes are very big and strong on the offensive line. But the thing that stood out the most to Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley was not Ohio State’s physicality, instead it was their agility.

“Their guards can pull and get into linebackers,” the All-American said. “They have great foot work. They are a real good offensive line.”

With all the talk about quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, the offensive line—as is the case more times than not—is what truly runs the Buckeyes’ high-powered offense.

“I feel like they are really big, physical and athletic,” Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “I feel like they pick up movements very well. Some offensive lines when you do a little moving will fall on their face, but they pick it up really well. They are a really good strong unit all the way across the board.”

Led by All-American left tackle Jack Mewhort, the Buckeyes rank third nationally running the football (317.5). Miller has rushed for 1,033 yards and 10 scores, while Hyde has 1,408 yards and 14 scores.

“They’re the best offensive line in the country,” Hyde said. “A lot of my success has to do with them and the tight ends and the receivers. In the games where we are blocking, the tight ends and the receivers are clicking and are on the same page, and I’m clicking, the offense is fun to play in.

“Every game I give those guys credit when I do well. It’s only right though, because without those guys up front it wouldn’t be able to happen.”

Hyde, who will be playing his final game for the Buckeyes in the Discover Orange Bowl on Friday, says he would love to end his career with 226 yards against the Tigers, which would be a new Orange Bowl record.

“That would be the perfect way to go out. And a win,” he said.

Clemson might have something to say about that. Jarrett says they are looking forward to the challenge of facing Ohio State’s big offensive line and trying to slow down Hyde at the same time.

“This is a chance to prove ourselves and show everybody we can play with the best,” the defensive tackle said.

The 12th-ranked Tigers should not have to prove that. Last year, they played a similar LSU offensive line that had a really good running back and limited the SEC’s Tigers to 99 rushing yards.

“I think we proved our point against LSU last year,” Beasley said. “Obviously, this is a different team here this year, but the standard has not changed. We still have the same standard and we still have the same physicality inside of us.”

Clemson has lived up to that standard. This season they have slowed down the nation’s leading rusher in Andre Williams and the SEC’s leading rusher in Mike Davis and held them to season lows. The Tigers lead the nation in tackles for loss with 112 and are seventh in sacks with 33.

“It’s not about proving ourselves anymore because we know who we are and we know what we can do,” Jarrett said. “Externally, people might feel we can’t get it done, but we expected to stop it. We expect to stop the run. We expect to get tackles for loss. We expect to get sacks. That’s how we feel.

“Externally, we know what the perception is, but we know what is real and we like challenges like this.”

Mewhort is one guy the Clemson defensive line does not have to prove anything to.

“They have great motors, they play well with their hands and they are fast and athletic,” the All-America tackle said. “It is going to be a challenge preparing for them, but I think we are going to be alright.”

Clemson and Jarrett feel the same way on their end. In other words, it is going to be good-on-good and may the best team win.

I’m really looking forward to it. It is a great opportunity for me and all of my teammates going against one of the best offensive lines in the country,” Jarrett said. “I feel like it is going to be a really good matchup and we will see how it goes down.”

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