NEW ORLEANS – As Clemson prepares to face No. 4 Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day, players and coaches from the offensive side of the ball spoke to the media Friday at the Marriott Convention Center in New Orleans.
Co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliot and Jeff Scott, as well as quarterback Kelly Bryant and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow all exemplified No. 1 Clemson’s confidence heading into game.
Here is what we heard:
Clemson’s offense will face a tough challenge in matching up with a relentless, stout Alabama defense. Among the top defenses in the nation, the Crimson Tide pose a problem for the Tigers but in the Tigers favor, they know what to expect.
“Alabama has one of the best front sevens that we’ll play all year,” Scott said. “There’s a lot of respect for those guys, especially the guys that have played and even the guys that didn’t play the last two years. They were on the sidelines, and they saw what type of battle that was against Alabama. You’re not going into the game kind of guessing what it’s going to be like. You know there’s an expectation that you know what you’re going to get from those guys up front. It’s definitely a challenge, and we look forward to it.”
As the leader of Clemson’s success this season, Bryant said the opportunity to play against Alabama in the postseason is one he has envisioned since he was a boy. It’s surreal, but he’s ready to make his mark on one of the biggest stages of college football.
“It’s something every kid that grows up watching football dreams about – playing in a semifinal game against a team like Alabama,” Bryant said. “I’m ready and I’m trying to embrace it and make the most of this opportunity.”
After watching Bryant’s impressive performances all season, Clemson has no doubt in its mind that Bryant will be able to succeed on a big stage. Monday night will just be another night game on the road.
“When you’re playing Florida State in Clemson, that’s a big game,” Elliott said. “When you’re on the road at Lane Stadium at night, on College GameDay, biggest game in a long time and all of their former greats are (being honored), go to Louisville and leads us to one of the biggest victories we’ve had on the road in our conference. I think that he’s going to be ready for the moment. What you are learning about Kelly is there is never a moment that is too big for him. I think that’s something he learned from Deshaun (Watson). Once the smoke clears and your run on the field, it’s just football.”
All in all, as the Clemson-Alabama Trilogy approaches, there is a certain confidence that Clemson possesses.
“We elevate our game whenever we are challenged against a really good opponent,” Renfrow said. “It is what champions do. Coach (Dabo) Swinney has built this program for these types of games by setting high standards for us as players.”