Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott spoke to the media earlier this week as the second-ranked Tigers prepare to take on No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Elliott answered questions about practice, who will replace Trevion Thompson at wide receiver, C.J. Fuller and about the Buckeye’s second-ranked defense.
Q: Has this felt like a training camp for you all since you guys have been off?
Elliot: “Correct, bowl practices are used for our entire team. You know it’s an opportunity for us to get back to the basics, evaluate ourself, kind of scheme for what we’re doing against Ohio State, but also focus on ourself and also have an opportunity to develop some of the young guys. So it’s a huge importance to us you know all the way around and then being off for a week, coaches on the road we got to get back in the swing of things and understand that this is a time that we got to grind because you know we’re playing one of the best four teams in the country with an opportunity to potentially play for it all and this isn’t just a regular bowl game so you have to make sure that you use your time wisely. But at the same time it’s been a long season, so make sure you get the guys the work that they need, but at the same time go back to the fundamentals and the basics and evaluate everything.”
Q: From a scheme standpoint how nice is it to have this extra time to add some new wrinkles to the offense?
Elliot: “You know obviously you have a little bit more time, but at the same time you don’t want to do too much. At this point in the season you know you’re going to do what you’re good at. They’re going to do what they’re good at and this is a game right here of matchups and it’s going to be our athletes on their athletes. Obviously, each of us will have time to evaluate ourselves. The biggest thing is not necessarily creating new schemes it’s just making sure we’re evaluating the ones that we’re using, and make sure that there’s no heavy tendencies because again they’re going to do a great job studying us just as we’re studying them. So make sure we understand our tendencies, try to break some of our tendencies, but at the same time have our guys confident and ready to play.”
Q: Looking at their defense is this as daunting of a challenge you’ve had this year?
Elliot: “Well, we’ve played some really, really good defenses in our conference to get ready for this game, but when you look at it I mean everybody talks about the youth that they have. All I see is that they’ve got a lot of depth on the defensive line, they play eight to ten guys throughout the course of the season. The linebackers are very, very good. Good as any two that we’ve played and in the secondary I know that they’re very, very high on them and you know the guy that jumps out the most is No. 24 their free safety makes a lot of plays, but they’ve got three corners that they’re confident in and you see our seven around the football so I think top to bottom one of the best defenses that we’ve played all year. But we’ve had some good opportunities to get ready.”
Q: I know he’s not a guy that played a ton of snaps but what do the loss of Trevion (Thompson) kind of mean for the rotation as a whole?
Elliot: “You know that’s big because when we’re trying to push that snap count up near 80 we like to roll two guys at each position and when you lose a guy like Trevion who’s starting to come on making some big plays you know that just means that (Hunter) Renfrow’s got to be ready to play or one of the young guys has to step up to be able to spell Renfrow throughout the course of the game.”
Q: Out of those young guys which one of those freshman are going to step up?
Elliot: “You know one of the guys that we think is ready to do it would be Cornell Powell. You know he’s kind of moved in there. We’ve also got some flexibility with some of the older guys and you know Artavis (Scott) actually did it early in the season when Renfrow was out with the injury so we got a little bit of flexibility but the guy we’re pushing right now is Cornell.”
Q: What has kind of stood out about him?
Elliot: “The biggest thing is when you look at that position just the things that we ask them to do, the body type that fits there, you know he’s a big, strong guy that can go block on the perimeter, but also he’s got enough quickness to him as well to be able to transition in and out of some of the quick game routes and also stretch the field so you know just looking at it he’s got the body type and the quickness and you know he’s the guy that we felt like was going to play for us and he made some plays for us throughout the course of the season. It’s just the most logical and natural transition of the two freshmen.”
Q: Has C.J. Fuller kind of elevated to the point where you are going to use him in a tight game and critical situations as opposed to just as a backup to Wayne (Gallman)?
Elliot: “He’s really taken his opportunity and started to run with it. You’re seeing that he has a very high level of confidence right now. You saw big plays down the stretch so I think he’s a guy that’ really taken advantage of his opportunity and I feel confident putting him in those situations whenever Wayne needs a break.”