QUOTES FROM TONY ELLIOTT, JOHN SIMPSON, TRAVIS ETIENNE, TREVOR LAWRENCE
Enjoying the rain?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: Come out to Arizona, and think it’s going to be all sunshine. It has been
great, though. They were telling us it never rains here, and then we come out, and it’s going to rain all week. But it’s been great. Never been out here, so it is cool to see — it’s just so much different.
Trevor, what’s different as preparation for this year as opposed to last year?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: I think it’s similar. It’s just — the difference is it’s a different team that we’re playing, and that comes with new challenges. And also just preparing the same way, it’s just hard because you have so much time. So really, just staying on it and being consistent every day and every week. Do what you need to do.
Trevor, what have you seen with the Ohio State defense that really impresses you? TREVOR LAWRENCE: I think just everywhere. They’re good at every part on defense, and especially their D-line. Obviously, everyone talks about their D-line. And not even just Chase Young. All of those other guys you have up front, a lot of other guys, too. They’re pretty deep up front. Linebackers are a really good group. And then DBs, both corners and the safety are really good players. I think everywhere, there’s not really a weak link. That’s going to be a challenge.
How would you rank this defense against any other you’ve seen this year?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: Definitely the best. We have the same defense that’s good this year. We’re really excited about that opportunity to go against them and see what we can do.
Trevor, does it bother you that you guys were defending national champs, went undefeated, yet come back as the three seed?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: Not really. It gives us a little fuel and something to work for. We’re still — if people think we’re the third best team, so that’s just how it’s going to be until we prove it. Since we’ve got the opportunity, we’re not upset. We’re happy to be here and happy to have the opportunity to prove ourselves.
How’s it been having Jackson Carman — had a good year. How secure do you feel he’s blocking for you?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: For sure. He’s been great. Just a four-year starter. One of the best offensive linemen to come through Clemson. He’s done great. He’s filled that spot really well. He’s had a great year. The whole line up front has done a really good job. I think we’ve only had — I don’t know how many sacks, not many though. Seeing how they’ve worked in the off-season coming into this year, and how they’ve gelled together has been really cool.
What’s your thoughts about Chase Young?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: Just a great player. He’s physical. He’s fast. He’s a big guy, really athletic. Everything you want in a defensive end. Just has a really good knack for finding the ball, getting to the quarterback. Always seems to be in the right place. That’s just a testament to how he prepares, I’m assuming, and the kind of player he is.
As a quarterback, how does a defensive lineman — how does that game preparation change during the week?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: I think it’s just being conscious of that. More conscious of than we are in some other games, where he didn’t play guys that were quite as good as him. You have that in the back of your head. Then also just knowing what to do with protections and things like that. Just always kind of considering him. Really, there are other things, too. You can’t put too much into one guy, because that will mess up your offense, but you do have to keep him in the back of your mind for sure.
When you talk about the people — coming in as a three-seed, is that something you guys talk about amongst yourselves — the disrespect, for a lack of a better word?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: A little bit. When it came out that we were the three-seed, we talked a little bit about it. But at this point, we got our chance to prove it, and we’re happy for that. We’re grateful for that. We’re glad to be here, and we have a chance to prove it, so we don’t talk too much about that anymore.
Trevor, how has your game improved in your second year as quarterback?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: I think I’ve gotten a lot smarter. I know a lot more football. I’ve played a lot more. Just been in a lot of different situations, so I can pull from that. As far as decision-making, I feel I’m doing a better job this year besides a few plays. Overall, I feel like I’m making a lot more plays out on the field, and really giving my guys a chance to make the catch more than I was last year.
Now that you are in your second year, does this playoff feel any different than the feelings that you felt exactly this time a year ago?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: It feels different. I was just saying, I think it’s just kind of knowing what’s going on more. Like media, for example. Last year, I didn’t know what I was doing as I was coming in here. Didn’t know what to expect. I have a year under my belt. I’ve experienced it. I’ve done the bowl experience. I know what to expect. But other than that, it is still fun and exciting
Trevor, can you tell us more about the Fiesta Bowl week experience? What’s new compared to last year?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: Yeah. We went to the Cotton Bowl last year, and that was a great bowl. That was a lot of fun. This year it has been different being out in Arizona, and the hotel is really nice. It is like a villa, so there are different little, I guess, like villages of little houses, instead of like your normal hotel. That’s super cool. And then just — it is always fun to have some free time to go to the mall or whatever and hang out. That has been cool. Also just the weather out here. Besides last night and today, it has been good. It has felt great. It is a nice change.
Do you have any specific plans for Christmas? Is your family here yet?
TREVOR LAWRENCE: They’ll be out here on Friday. We do Christmas like, breakfast, brunch as a team. And we’ll do a Secret Santa, and they usually give us a gift bag in the morning. That’s what we did last year, so we’ll see. We’ll have a little Christmas brunch as a family.
Jackson Carman — becoming an elite tackle. What’s he done so good this year?
TONY ELLIOTT: Jackson has really matured off the field. Not that he was in a bad situation, but he’s really just taken ownership. He’s not relying on his talent. He’s starting to focus on the details and the fundamentals. He’s an extremely smart, young man. Sometimes — when you’re smart, sometimes
you overthink things and you try to do too much. That’s what I’ve seen the biggest in him. He’s not overthinking things. He’s really trusting his technique, and he’s not just relying on talent. That’s a tribute to the maturity that’s taken place over the last year with him.
Have you been around (Jackson Carman) enough as far as conversation where you get a sense he’s relishing the chance to play Ohio State?
TONY ELLIOTT: Oh, he’s excited! This goes back to before — he got into Clemson, and before he made a decision to come to Clemson. I think he’s been following Chase Young since Chase Young was in high school. These guys are competitors. They want to compete against the best. He and Tremayne [Anchrum] are both excited for an opportunity.
This is what you want. Especially those guys who aspire to play at the next level. You’re talking about potentially — he’s good enough to be a number one overall pick. You have a chance to showcase your talent on the biggest stage versus the best player in the country, these guys are both excited.
Can you make a name for yourself with Jackson [Carman] coming in his college career or the next level —
TONY ELLIOTT: Potentially. I don’t want the guys to focus on that. I just want them to focus on playing their best game, because that’s what it is going to take. If you get caught up in the hype, if you’re too excited — because at the end of the day, emotion isn’t going to win this game. They play in one of the best venues in college football. They play in one of the best conferences in college football. They’re not going to be overwhelmed by the moment.
It is the team that can manage all of the distractions, all of the hype associated with the game, and lock in and play the best fundamental football that’s going to win. So these guys will be excited, but at the same time, don’t want to take that excitement away from them. We want to challenge them in the right way.
For the offensive linemen, focusing them on the game plan rather than the vendetta of, I want to beat this guy.
TONY ELLIOTT: Our guys have done a great job. If you just look at the success these guys have had offensively, it is because they’ve been able to block out the distractions. I don’t anticipate they’ll get caught up in the moment. They’re not going to make it personal. At the end of the day, we’re successful as a program because there’s no entitlement. It is not about one individual. It is about the team. Playing together as one. Everyone pulling the same direction. So I think the offensive line understands that that’s our strength offensively, is those guys in the trenches, and their strength is the defensive line. It is a matchup between strength on strength and the guys that, like I said, that can block out the noise, not get caught up in the hype of the game, but focus on the game plan and the technique. That at the end of the day, the game plan doesn’t matter if you don’t have good fundamentals.
How much more zone are they playing — they’ve made a lot of improvement from last year, giving them big plays. I’ve read they’re playing more —
TONY ELLIOTT: They’re about — if I had to put my finger on it, they’re probably about 55, 45, 60/40 between zone and man. But they do play a lot of man coverage, and they’re good enough to do it. But then also they can mix it up. The great thing about it is they’re able to disguise it. So you don’t know until post-snap whether it is actually man coverage or whether it is zone coverage. That changes something, especially when you’re going through your progressions for the quarterback. A little bit more zone.
Like I said, it is about 50/50, but again, we won’t know until we get out there. They may have something different planned for us.
Travis [Etienne] doesn’t seem to get as much attention as he deserves. Being one of the guys who blocks for him, how much do you appreciate what he does this year?
JOHN SIMPSON: I appreciate what he does a lot. He’s kind of like us, this star-studded offensive guy. We don’t really get that much recognition, but we’re here and we’re doing really good.
How have you seen him —
JOHN SIMPSON: He’s gotten faster. He’s gotten more physical. He knows that he’s a good player. When you have confidence, you just play better. I think that’s what it is.
What do you think of the Ohio State defense?
JOHN SIMPSON: I think Ohio State’s defense is very good. Those guys, they’re very talented everywhere. They’re not no slouches. They don’t have slouches anywhere in that defense. I think they’re really good.
How does a player like Chase Young kind of — how is he different than the players you’ve prepared for all year?
JOHN SIMPSON: Chase Young — I’m not going against him, but, like (laughing) —
For your line in general.
JOHN SIMPSON: We’re just practicing our game plan, getting ready to play him. He’s a physical guy. He’s a really good — he has a really good get-off, and just practicing against our scout team and trying to get a little bit better.
What’s your thoughts of the whole defensive line?
JOHN SIMPSON: They’re really good, they’re really talented. I feel a like a lot of them are overlooked because of Chase Young. They’re talented throughout the whole line. They’ve got some playmakers.
You’ve got one or two games left in your career at max. How much motivation is that for you to leave it all out on the field for one or two games?
JOHN SIMPSON: It means the world to me to play at Clemson. It was a great opportunity. I’m going to take advantage of it. I’m going to play my heart out every snap. Do what I’ve got to do, you know?
Have you thought about what the future is going to hold for you beyond these one or two games?
JOHN SIMPSON: I haven’t really thought too much about it. I’m trying to focus on the task at hand, and that’s playing this game. Like I said, these are my brothers. I don’t want to let them down. I don’t focus on the future. I just try to focus on one day at a time. Like today, we have open Tuesday. Takeaways, no giveaways. (laughing). We’re just going to play our game and practice and prepare and get ready.
Is this a great opportunity for you to showcase how good you are?
JOHN SIMPSON: Oh, absolutely. Playing against these really good defensive linemen, having the opportunity. I can showcase my talent. I think it is a really good opportunity.
There was a lot of talk earlier in the year about Trevor’s [Lawrence] intentions.
JOHN SIMPSON: I think he’s had a really good year. He’s tough. He’s a really good player. A lot of people don’t see that. It is football. People make mistakes. But obviously he’s got over it. He’s not worried about that no more, so we’re just going to play our game and do what we’ve got to do.
You’ve had a great career at Clemson. Is it everything — is Clemson everything you thought it would be when you came here?
JOHN SIMPSON: Absolutely. I knew it was going to be tough to play at a high level. That’s what I wanted. I want to play on a team that is the best ever. I did. I’m still on a team that’s competing to be the best ever. It is a blessing to be here.
What was your favorite Christmas gift growing up?
TRAVIS ETIENNE: My grandma gave us walkie-talkies. Me and my little brothers probably used those all throughout the year. We would play hide-and-seek with the walkie-talkies.
What’s your favorite PlayStation game?
TRAVIS ETIENNE: Probably right now, probably 2K. I just beat Chez Mellusi last night and Darien Rencher. They were really upset about that. Probably 2K I play whenever I have free time.
What’s your thoughts on the OSU defense that impresses you?
TRAVIS ETIENNE: Just the overall defense. Great personnel. Tremendous players. Fast, strong. Everything that you live for. At this time, you expect nothing less. You expect the best of the best. They definitely have that. It will be a great challenge for us. Just go out there and execute every single play.
What are the things that — when you’re going against a defense like this, what are things you have to do as an offense if you’re going to have success?
TRAVIS ETIENNE: Take care of the ball. Not turn over the ball. Just execute each and every play. Stay above the change. You can’t put yourself in a tense situation — a second and long, third and long, because you can’t win games behind the change. You want to stand by the change and not turn the ball over. Basically what I’m saying is don’t beat yourself. Just execute.
Do you enjoy the opportunity to go head to head with a back like J.K. Dobbins?
TRAVIS ETIENNE: Definitely. Any competitor, definitely. You want to go against the best. He’s one of the best in the country. We’re definitely going to be out there, fighting awesome, just hoping to play our best game.
How well do you know J.K. [Dobbins]?
TRAVIS ETIENNE: Well, me and J.K., we met one time at Hilton Head. We met at that camp. We were there for a weekend. We became friends at that camp, but outside of that, we haven’t really, like — he’s in Ohio. I’m at Clemson.
How much have you followed what he’s done this year?
TRAVIS ETIENNE: I don’t follow much football outside defense, the film that I watch. I don’t have time to watch the games.
What’s caught your eye when you have you been watching this Ohio State film?
TRAVIS ETIENNE: Just their personnel. Their DB, their safety, backers. Just their front. They’re fast. They’re fast, big, long. So they present a huge challenge in just them having guys that they have and how athletic they are and how fast they are. You’re definitely not going to be able to just — execute at the end of the day. Not going to just go out there and just beat them. They present a huge challenge. You definitely are going to have something up your sleeve. A game plan, things like that. We definitely have to be ready.
Does their speed stand out compared to other teams you’ve played this year?
TRAVIS ETIENNE: Most definitely. Very fast team. Just watching them on kickoff, you can see how fast they get down the field. Their speed definitely stands out.
You guys haven’t been tested since really North Carolina. In a close game. How much are you looking forward to — obviously they’re a great team. So is Ohio State. We’re going to see how good we are. Is there that kind of mentality at all?
TRAVIS ETIENNE: I feel going to the game is about how we play. We have to go out there and execute and play to the best of our ability. At the end of the day, we play to the best of our ability. We will be able to live with the scoreboard whether it is a “W” or an “L.” At least for us, it is an offensive reason to execute and put us in the best position possible.