Ohio State head coach Ryan Day met with the media via teleconference on Monday to preview this weekend’s Sugar Bowl game against Clemson. Also joining the session with reporters were offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, quarterback Justin Fields, running back Trey Sermon, offensive linemen Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers, receiver Garrett Wilson, and tight end Luke Farrell. Here are the highlights from everything that was said.
Head coach Ryan Day
— Just got off the practice field and looking forward to playing in the Sugar Bowl. “I wish we were spending more time in that city. Unbelievable culture and great people.”
— No concerns about Justin Fields’ thumb.
— The Clemson defense is second to none. They create a lot of sacks. They have a great scheme. “They know us very well.”
— Brent Venables is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football. He does a great job of calling the games. He always seems to know what’s coming and calls the right defense. Why that is, he doesn’t know.
— “The amount of people who have missed practice this month alone is staggering.” In some ways it hardens you and makes you stronger.
— He didn’t think in his wildest dreams that he’d be where he is now when he came to Ohio State after the 31-0 loss to Clemson in 2016. Some days you have to wake up and pinch yourself.
— This is a quick turnaround for a bowl game. There hasn’t been a lot of down time. They’ll go to New Orleans the night before the game and treat it like a normal road game. It’s another sacrifice because everybody would love to spend a week in New Orleans.
— Justin Fields left the field last year against Clemson wanting another shot. And he’s not the only guy feeling that way.
— It’s been a challenge for the last month with guys missing time. Trying to prepare when guys are in and out is tough. There will be a bunch of guys back who have missed some time. “But it’s not like you throw them back in there and they’re going 1,000 miles per hour.”
— You don’t have to throw to be aggressive. You want balance. “We always have to put pressure on the defense.” Throwing the ball is a huge part of that. When you’re not calling the game aggressively, bad things happen.
— Gotta make sure you’re scoring touchdowns in the red zone, but if the defense is playing well, a field goal is okay. “We’re always going to be aggressive but at the same time we can’t be reckless.”
— This game isn’t about getting another shot against Clemson. This is more about a bunch of guys who have been through so much and now they’re back to where it all started a year ago. Would love for them to have a big ring to show for their work at the end of the season.
— Everything about this season has been different. To compare where they are to years past, it’s hard because every single thing they do has been altered.
— Is this a rivalry? This is the second year in a row they’ve played them. Clemson has won NCs. They’re at the top of the game for a decade now. Look at where Ohio State has been, if they continue to win they’ll continue to run into Clemson and Alabama against.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson
— They have a good model of how they’ve been preparing for this game. It’s more of a conference championship week rather than a bowl game.
— Clemson does a great job of creating negative plays. They are physical and kick butt.
— Really good defenses can create pressure and not give up big plays. Clemson makes you work. Every play is a fist fight.
— Justin Fields has bfseen preparing and practicing vey well.
— There is a comfort factor with the timing aspect with Olave on the field with Fields.
— Wyatt Davis walks the walk and talk s the talk.
— It is going to be a great battle with Clemsons’s LB and OSU’s tight ends and running games.
Tight End Luke Farrell
— “We’re super excited to be back. We’re right back where we want to be. We’ve talked about it all year.”
— They know about Dabo Swinney’s vote in the coaches poll but they’re not letting it affect their preparation. The focus is on winning, not what people are saying.
— The red zone is always an emphasis. Ending a drive with a field goal “is never what we want.”
— It was awesome to get the running game going like they did against Northwestern. The tight ends just wanted to keep running the ball. “We love it.”
— The Clemson linebackers play really hard and play the system well. They bring a lot at you.
— Clemson’s defense has the ability to do a lot of different stuff with a bunch of different blitzes. It will be important to ID the blitzes and block them.
— This has felt like a typical game week for them because the extra time isn’t unusual this year with the cancelations they’ve had to deal with.
— “It means everything to be back here.” This is all they’ve wanted this year, another shot to make it to the national title game.
— You have to keep an eye on everybody in this defense because he could have to block anybody on any given play. Having the experience of doing it last year helps.
— They haven’t put a complete game together yet. “I think our best is yet to come.”
— Something they learned from last year’s game is that you have to control the line of scrimmage throughout the entire game.
Quarterback Justin Fields
— Ryan Day has gotten him smarter in terms of knowing the game of football. But he’s also changed his entire outlook on football. They get into the process of improvement. There’s a difference between talent and skill.
— What has he missed? “Really, just normal life. Going to the store without a mask on. Playing with fans.”
— Chris Olave is a great leader and having him back will make the offense better as a whole. They have a great chemistry and that will improve the offense a lot.
— Clemson’s defensive line is big and physical and they know how to get to the quarterback.
— On having to trust Julian Fleming against Northwestern. “I really had no choice, to be honest with you.” The sky is the limit for Fleming.
— The biggest thing he learned from playing on a big stage like this is that everything can change on one game, like it did on the Shaun Wade targeting call.
— On his thumb: “I’ll be good by Friday night.”
— The game last year hurts a lot. It’s self explanatory what this game means.
— Schematically, Clemson does a lot on defense, but they haven’t changed much from last year.
— Clemson has great players all over the field defensively.
Offensive guard Wyatt Davis
— He does believe he played like a First-Team All-American. As the games went on he got better. Not having spring ball was tough in terms of getting a rhythm. That being said, there’s a lot of stuff he can do better this Friday and the week after.
— It was huge to run for what they did against Northwestern. The team was put in the position to where they had to run the ball to win, and they did. They felt like they put the team on their backs. That’s why they all came to Ohio State.
— His grandfather played at Grambling. “I can only hope to achieve what he’s achieved on and off the field. I think he would be proud of me up to this point.” Davis promised him that he would step up this year as a leader. He still has family in New Orleans.
— What is the identity of this offense? They have all of the tools to be identified as a running offense. They showed that they can run the ball whenever the need arises.
— This whole year has been one thing after another. Starting with him deciding whether to stay or go. But what stood out the most as the hardest thing is that one day you could be practicing and the next you’re gone for two weeks with COVID. He’s been blessed to avoid it so far.
Running back Trey Sermon
— They’re not focused on where Dabo Swinney ranks them. They’re aware of it.
— What is he supposed to do for an encore? “Really just play my best game.” “I don’t need to do anything extra.”
— He thought Ohio State was gonna win the Clemson game last year.
— It would mean a lot to be able to play for a national championship. “That’s part of the reason I came here. I’m excited and I just can’t wait for the opportunity.”
— He feels a lot different now, even in practice he has a better rhythm. It’s a big difference and he now understands better how everyone moves.
— He didn’t feel different after the Northwestern game. He felt good because he prepared well.
— It takes time to get comfortable with an offensive line. You have to adjust to how guys move and the speed of the conference.
— The offensive line was dominant against Northwestern. He’s still thinking of something he can do for them.
Center Josh Myers
— Why has this team not played its best this year? Is there something to the thought that they haven’t needed to yet but now they do so they might? Myers said there has been no rhythm this year and “I think that plays a big part in it.” His weeks last season never changed. But they also know they have to play their best game this week.
— There is a lot of pressure on Justin Fields’ shoulders in this game, but to be fair there’s always pressure on him. That goes for all OSU quarterbacks. “And I honestly believe that Justin is someone who was built to handle that pressure.”
— Wyatt Davis has been a great teammate. They are super close. “I lucked out.” “It’s been awesome getting to play next to him and I’m gonna miss him, no doubt about it.”
— It’s disappointing to not have a bowl week. It doesn’t even feel like a bowl game because the turnaround is so fast. It doesn’t feel real, but what does this year?
— “This is exactly where were wanted to be.”
— The red zone issues are all little things. Defenses can buckle down and make stops, so that leaves the offense with no room for error.
— One of his favorite things about playing game was seeing his family afterward. That’s been tough this year. He will Facetime them on the bus after games. That’s his way of spending time with them. “That time is very special to me.”
— It was terrible having COVID. He tested positive and immediately quarantined himself. He was watching film as much as he could and was texting the OL that was going to play. “I was sick not to be able to be there.” Max Wray is one of his best friends and he would have loved to have been there for his first start.
Receiver Garrett Wilson
— Playing without Chris Olave was frustrating. Northwestern had a good game plan for what OSU was doing in the passing game.
— They heard about Swinney ranking them 11th. It’s fuel to the fire.
— Any concern about Justin Fields’ thumb? He’s looked good in practice.
— Having Chris Olave out there opens up the offense and the secondary can’t lean one way or the other.
— There is a challenge being the slot receiver because Clemson is so multiple and they do so many different things.
— He talked to Chris Olave after last year’s game about getting another shot against Clemson.
— He knew he had to take on more of a leadership role without Chris Olave in the last game. Same with not having Brian Hartline there.