SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson says no one wants to talk about Clemson linebackers James Skalski and Chad Smith. So, he decided to do it.
Wilson says they are as tough as anyone the Buckeyes have played this year.
“Those inside linebackers are as tough as heck and they call the plays, too, now,” Wilson said Tuesday at the Fiesta Bowl Press Conference at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona. “They don’t have the flash. But those guys are some old-school ball players. I laugh.”
Of course, when everyone talks about Clemson’s defense, they talk about All-American linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who leads the team with 93 tackles, seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss. But Skalski and Smith are not too far behind.
Skalski is second on the team with 90 tackles, while Smith is third with 68. However, while Simmons was winning the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award and the Butkus, Skalski and Smith did not even make third-team All-ACC.
“They get no notoriety,” Wilson said. “I know Brent (Venables). He loves those inside guys. So, Isaiah gets all the credit for being the dude. The guy! And those guys inside are tremendous players that complement the whole thing.”
Those dudes have helped Clemson lead the nation in total defense and scoring defense and have the Tigers’ back in the College Football Playoff for a fifth straight year. Clemson will play the Buckeyes on Saturday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m., ET.
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