NEW ORLEANS – Top-ranked Clemson held its first Sugar Bowl press conference on Thursday where Clemson’s defense spoke to the media about facing Alabama for a third straight year.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables, cornerback Ryan Carter, and defensive end Clelin Ferrell all gave insight to the upcoming matchup.
Here is what we heard:
Clemson and Alabama have faced each other in the postseason for three straight years, including the Tigers’ National Championship win over the Tide last year. For Clemson, that experience in facing a high-caliber football program has nonetheless helped in its preparation for this year’s Sugar Bowl.
“Just familiarity with their personnel. I think that’s the biggest thing,” Venables said. “Because we always start completely over, start completely over as though we don’t know from Adam. You have a feel for, okay, this quarterback is a monster. You know, he’s like a running back back there. Or, again, [Calvin] Ridley is ultra, ultra-talented, runs every route, whether he’s getting it or not, full speed, very precise in what he does. Things of that nature.
“From a scouting report standpoint, if it’s an advantage for us, it’s an advantage for them, too. But you got to start over. And just how you normally prepare for any other opponent just in regards to a complete breakdown and ‑‑ because they’ve changed, evolved, you know, in different ways, too. Because they have a new coordinator and some players have changed.”
Facing a team for years does provide familiarity with their program, but that’s not all. Ryan Carter said that the fluctuation of the game in last year’s National Championship helped the defense with patience and calmness in adversity.
“I think from a defensive standpoint we just learned a lot about knowing ourselves within, don’t let it get too riled up or become overwhelming,” Carter said. “There are going to be times in the game where things don’t go our way, it’s just a part of football. I think we just learned a lot about ourselves internally, and I thought we did a great job collectively as far as rallying and not giving up. That’s one thing that I would say about our defense. We never give up as far as if we‘re down. If things aren’t going well, we still find a way to create momentum, big plays and turnovers. I think that’s another key factor for us going into this game is creating turnovers. We’ve done really good these last few games at things like that and making plays on defense. I think that’s going to be very big for us in this game as well.”
There is so much that goes into preparing for the College Football Playoff, but Clemson is confident in its game plan and preparation up until his point. For Ferrell, the hard work put in all season would truly shine through if Clemson can take home a Sugar Bowl win.
“It would be huge obviously,” Ferrell said. “We’ve been right there for the past five years as far as teams in the College Football Playoff, and the last two years we’ve given college football two of the best two games in the history of the college football championship era in terms of how competitive and the amount of superstars on the field. We know the amount of juice and hype that comes with this game and it would be huge to get a win again, because it’s becoming a bit of a rivalry and right now it’s one and one, so hopefully we can go up two and one.”