The Ohio State defense had its turn with the media on Tuesday to preview this weekend’s Sugar Bowl against Clemson. Defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs, cornerback Shaun Wade, defensive end Jonathon Cooper, defensive tackles Tommy Togiai and Haskell Garrett, and linebackers Justin Hilliard and Pete Werner. Here are the highlights of everything that was said.
Defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs
— It was a big scramble in the last game. There were only three healthy safeties. “That’s the COVID environment.” They adapted and got through it. They would certainly like to be much closer to full strength on Friday.
— Getting to go against the OSU receivers is always helpful, “and these guys were are playing are just like them.”
— Trevor Lawrence is deceptively fast. He can outrun the angles. He’s one of the great college football quarterbacks of all time. “He is a play extender.” He does a great job of avoiding the rush and sidestepping the rush. He makes very, very, very few poor decisions. He has a plan in mind before the snap and adapts very well when those plans go awry.
— 2020 CB signee Jordan Hancock was committed to Clemson before flipping to OSU. Clemson does a great job recruiting. It’s a battle when kids go there to visit.
— Tommy Togiai is an active force on the interior. Tommy is strong as an ox and hustles in everything.
— He has never seen anything like what Haskell Garrett has gone through. It’s a miracle for him to be where he is now and that gets reproven every time he takes the field. He has a new lease on life. His interactions with him all became more positive. He is a good technician and he has eaten up the teaching. He wants to be great.
— Nobody stops Clemson’s offense. They have explosion everywhere.
— Jonathon Cooper is a flat-out leader. “I think we’ll see Coop’s best effort.”
— Coombs thinks a big part of the reason Wade came back was because of that ejection last year. He’s been motivated all year and he’s a great leader. This game means a lot to him. Leaving the game last year was very hard for Wade.
— When you’re going to play teams like this, you have to have speed on the field. You have to have fast guys playing in the right areas. You have guys with versatility and then you also have the anchor in the middle with Tuf Borland.
Cornerback Shaun Wade
— Clemson always has good receivers. They have guys who make plays on the perimeter and a great slot receiver with a great quarterback. It’s going to be a fun challenge.
— Asked if he was worthy of his All-American nominations, he said he knows he can always get better and there are always things to work on.
— Ohio State’s new starters in the secondary all got to play in the secondary against Clemson so they understand what this game is going to be like and what is going to be required. They have been preparing non-stop.
— He’s looking forward to it partly because of the ejection but at the end of the day, it’s a team game and you’re trying to do best for the team.
— No pressure on him in this game. “It’s a team sport not a me sport.”
— How ready is the secondary? “We’re going to be ready.” Asked about Indiana throwing for so many yards, Wade said IU had a great quarterback just like Clemson does. It’s going to take everybody to win. “It just comes down to the little things.”
— He thinks the game will be one on special teams and tackling.
— Him getting ejected last year was a big play and changed the momentum. But there were a lot of plays OSU could have made but they shot themselves in the foot.
— Is this a rivalry? “I characterize it as we’ve never beaten Clemson, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
— Everybody that is playing now had something to do with last year’s game, so they all have that taste in their mouth from the loss to Clemson.
— Sevyn Banks is going to make plays, just watch. “He’s definitely going to make plays.” Wade has been talking to him about a lot of things and also about staying focused.
— Josh Proctor has developed a lot since last year. He had Marcus Hooker are learning the game every day. Proctor is an athlete who can play all five positions in the secondary. “That’s just how it is.”
Defensive tackle Haskell Garrett
— Tommy Togiai is a great player who applies the teaching and takes it to the field.
— Honored to be an All-American. This is not just his honor but his teammates’ honor as well. He will think about it after the season because right now the team is all that matters.
— Travis Etienne’s vision is impressive. He’s fast, he runs hard, he gets down hill. It’s going to be a great challenge.
— The quick turnaround will help the Buckeyes because there’s no waiting for the buildup and constantly practicing. This is a normal amount of preparation for team. “I like it to be honest with you.”
— He has not made a decision on whether he will return next year. That’s something he’ll talk about with his family. He’s just trying to remain focused on this year and this team.
— When it comes to stopping the run threat from Trevor Lawrence, they just have to do their respective jobs “and stuff like that won’t happen.”
— It would mean a lot to play for a national title for Ohio State as a senior. It would be a blessing and honor and it would be everything he’s dreamt about.
— It will be a challenge to contain Trevor Lawrence when they chase him out of the pocket.
— His first three years was about being humble and being a sponge. There were great players ahead of him and when you’re in a room full of talent, talent can get passed up. But for him it was about seizing the opportunity. Playing behind those guys prepared him for this moment. He has enhanced his knowledge of the game and he knows the entire defense in its entirety. This allows him to play fast and anticipate instead of react.
Nose tackle Tommy Togiai
— The Clemson offensive line is a good collective unit. They work together really well and they open up gaps for their backs and throwing lanes.
— He worked on his speed during quarantine and his overall craft is showing on the field this season.
— Trevor Lawrence is a dynamic player and faster than he seems. Gotta be conscious of his throwing and rush lanes when they flush him out.
— Haskell Garrett’s leadership and love for the game has grown this year. They enjoy playing together and making plays.
— It’s been an amazing journey for Haskell Garrett, this year especially given the adversity that he’s been through. And also the patience he showed the first three years.
— As long as everybody does their job, they should be okay against the run.
— It will be big if the defensive line can get pressure on Trevor Lawrence. They will need to apply pressure and also contain him.
Linebacker Pete Werner
— Travis Etienne is so versatile with the ways he can attack you on defense. If you get lazy he will expose you. He can beat defenses running or catching.
— They’ve been here before and that’s how they’re going to attack it “and see how it plays out.”
— Nearing the end of this journey, you have to appreciate what you’ve been through. When you win games, you have fun.
— How confident are they that the IU issues have been fixed? They have been working great as a team defense and the chemistry is there. I just can’t wait to show the nation and show everybody that this defense has bounced back.
— Tommy Togiai and Haskell Garrett are fighters. They spent so much time in the offseason gaining strength and speed and building confidence.
— How hard is to stay disciplined when Trevor Lawrence breaks outside? They have learned from last year that he is dangerous and he makes it difficult when he scrambles. It’s a great challenge for the defense. “We’ve just got to go out and show it.”
— He had no idea what to expect when he signed with Ohio State. He never thought about being a three-year starter like he is now. Now he’s a leader and he credits the coaches for that.
— Ryan Day has been for the players first throughout everything this year. “He’s just a guy that’s always going to be there for you.” He’s a guy you want to be next to and you want to be surrounded by his leadership.
Defensive end Jonathon Cooper
— This is his third game against Clemson. He didn’t see the field too much as a freshman and didn’t play in last year’s game, but now he’s healthy and he can finally help the team against Clemson.
— Ryan Day approaches each game the same way and with the same mindset and intensity. Your goal each week is to win and play your best.
— Pete Werner is an amazing player and has stepped up as a leader this year. The team can rely on him.
— Missing out on the bowl festivities is just part of the world right now. It would have been nice to experience New Orleans, especially the food.
— Obviously they know the history with Clemson and you watch the tape and you see where you can get better and then execute.
— “Coach Day has been amazing throughout all of this.” He has been guiding them through all of this. They have fought through everything.
— This game just like any other game, the defensive line will be key. You want to play your best game every week.
Linebacker Justin Hilliard
— Clemson OL Matt Bockhorst was a teammate in HS. “Me and Matt go way back.” He was one of the craziest teammates he’s ever had. It will be fun to play against him. “I’m sure a lot of words will be said.”
— The overall mindset when it comes to stopping Trevor Lawrence is that the team that runs to the ball the hardest and hits the hardest wins the game.
— It’s different for him this year against Clemson. This is his third time playing them, but he has a larger role on this team. They have a lot of knowledge and an understanding of what it will take to get this win.
— Pete Werner is a beast. A great player. He is always running to the ball. “We’ve grown to expect that from him. I’m excited to see what he does Friday.”
— Is it an advantage that they’ve already seen Clemson? Not really, but maybe more mentally than physically.