A little later than I would have liked, but life happens.
I join up with Drew Schneider of the SBNation Clemson site, Shakingthesouthland.com for a conversation about the Tigers and their appearance in the 2019 College Football Playoff.
We talk about:
- Dabo Swinney playing the “disrespect” card and why it makes sense
- Clemson’s rise to dominance
- Why Ohio State fans do NOT want to talk about Clemson
- What needs to happen so the elite programs stop stockpiling great recruits
- Trevor Lawrence vs Justin Fields
- What’s going to happen in this game
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About the Transcript
Keep in mind that the following is a transcript. . I use a service that automates the first draft. As much as “artificial intelligence” is included in the description of every bit of technology these days, it’s clear that computers understanding human speech is more artificial than intelligent. The transcript has been edited to take out human speech bites, you know, um, okay, uh, but it’s not been edited to be an “article”.
Jon Johnston Welcome to Jon’s Postlife crisis. I am your host, Jon Johnston, founder of CornNation.com, your Nebraska Cornhuskers site of no bowl game this season. That’s not a very fun way to start a podcast but we’re coming to the end of 2019 and the next year should look better than the last one and we’re all hopeful. In this episode, we’re talking with Drew Schneider of the SB Nation Clemson site Shakinthe Southland. How you doing today Drew?
Doing okay man I’m doing okay. And that sort of post-holiday Whoa.
Jon Johnston Yeah, you got a game coming up against Ohio State very soon in the college football playoff. We’re here to find out about Clemson. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch Clemson much, maybe for a little while during the North Carolina game. That was their only close game of the season. I watched a lot of Big 10 football and I watched Ohio State a lot. So Clemson and Ohio State I mean, they both they pretty much both smashed everyone would is they have both they have the highest scoring margins of anyone else in the nation.
Yep, that’s the you know Clemson’s just been burying people all year. So it’s understandable that you haven’t seen a lot of clips in games because if you don’t turn tune in during the first half, you really don’t even get to see Clemson play much
Drew Schneider about midway through the third quarter and almost every game, it’s been, you know, you get a good chance to see what Clemson is going to look like in two years because the reserves are all playing.
I interviewed the Ohio State guy earlier, and he felt like this matchup with you guys is the national title game that either team that wins this game is going to go on and beat LSU. What is your response to that?
Drew Schneider I think that’s pretty accurate. I think those are the two most complete teams as far as offense and defense goes. I don’t think LSU is a pushover by any means. I think they were Clemson at Ohio State with both be favored. I think I take Clemson over LSU and I might take LSU over Ohio State though.
Really. Okay. Dabo Swinney is playing the disrespect card. I don’t get that. Right. I mean, it seems cheesy to me. Nick Saban’s done this a few times. Is it is it just cheesy coaching or is it? What’s the deal with that?
Drew Schneider Look at the postseason awards banquets, and you’ll see a surprisingly few number of Clemson players getting an invite this year. You’ve got what two Ohio State players, Oklahoma player and a LSU player in the Heisman. They get shut out of having a Heisman finalist. Even though Clemson has Travis Etienne most yards, best yards per carry, legendary, like unprecedented yards per carry in production over his last two years at Clemson, shut out of the Doak Walker award. Tee Higgins doesn’t get a invited the Biletknikoff. Isaiah Simmons is the only player on Clemson to win a postseason award and that was as the best linebacker. Dabo does lay on the disrespect card a little thick, I think this year’s Clemson team, especially on an individual basis, has been disrespected. And I think he’s standing up for some of his players who have put up incredible numbers and seem to be overlooked on the national scene.
You know, the ACC wasn’t good this season. You guys didn’t have a very good strength of schedule. comment on that. And then I have a follow up to it.
Drew Schneider Well, you know, that’s something that’s out of Clemson’s control, the schedule, has one of the most aggressive non conference schedules in the nation and have for years. So this year, they scheduled TexasA&M that was the back end of a home and home So you know when we played Texas a&m was ranked 10th or 11th maybe and Clemson essentially shut them out in the second game of the season with a healthy a&m squad and then you’ve got you know South Carolina at the end and they’re usually garbage but another SEC school and you know they scheduled Charlotte who played in a bowl game. So Clemson did everything they could to have a good schedule. Dabo’s broken the ACC much like Saban broke the SEC a while ago that is going to take a little while for these ACC schools to figure out what’s going on and how to even compete with Clemson.
Okay, the follow up to that is Alabama. Nobody gives Alabama any crap for their schedule? Why do you think that is between Dabo and Nick Saban? Is it is it Dabo’s personality or is it Clemson is still seen as up and coming or?
Drew Schneider Sports writers love the Blue Bloods. That’s the easiest. That’s the easy story. You know, Nick Saban then then put money in people’s pockets for a long time. And so he gets the he gets the benefit of the doubt when they open up with Duke and you know, Clemson gets hammered for playing Texas a&m. So that’s sort of the way that goes and again, that’s also sort of plays into this disrespect card that I think a lot of people outside the Clemson fan base have a hard time getting their wrapping their minds around because I can understand from the outside, looking in, you’re going on man, Clemson has won two out of three last national championships for really in the top 10. But the disrespect I feel like that Dabo’s plays sort of also ties into Alabama gets the pass and Clemson gets bumped down to fifth in the opening College Football Playoff rankings behind Penn State.
Okay, I get that. I get the blue blood thing. We’ll we’ll come back to that in a bit or history in a bit. Okay, you mentioned Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Tee Higgins. You guys have a lot of offensive weapons. Is your offense better than your defense? Are you balanced?
Drew Schneider Pretty balanced. So I guess I’ll look back to the Texas a&m game and which I consider probably Clemson’s most talent versus talent the closest matchup they’ve had this year, and Clemson’s defense dominated that game. I think A&M scored a field hit a field goal in the second quarter. Then scored a touchdown in garbage time with literally no time on the clock. It was the last play of the game they snuck a touchdown in against Clemson’s second string. But the defense which was supposed to be the weakness of the team this year, really held the team up in the first half of the season until the offense really got clicking. Over the last five or six games it’s been a just a devastation on both sides of the ball.
Now, do you see any weaknesses? I mean, do you have any weaknesses that Ohio State can exploit?
Drew Schneider So I expect Ohio State to try to do often says there is I expect them to try to establish JK Dobbins between the tackles and Clemson has been playing two different defenses this year. They play it which you will be not used to if you’d seen Clemson the last couple of years which would be the traditional 4-2-5 with like a hybrid linebacker safety as that Nickelback which would be Isaiah Simmons. This year, they played it like they played that looks down but because of a sort of losing three defensive tackles to the NFL from last year’s team, they switched a lot to basically a 3-3-5 where they play a nose guard, two defensive ends and then either two linebackers and three safeties, most of the time. That’s their preferred Look, I suspect Ohio State to try to run the ball between the tackles and get them out of that look. That’s what teams that have had some success have been able to do is make Clemson put an extra defensive tackle on the field. Clemson’s best 11 on defense is when they go to that 3-2-5. So they’re going to try to get Clemson to play a 4-3. So that’ll be interesting to see how Brent Vennables adjusts to that. on offense, I just there’s I mean just Chase Young if Clemson’s gonna have to block Chase Young with their starting left tackle. We haven’t really obviously seen pass rusher like Chase Young this year, but I think we’ll probably give him some help. The one big issue on the Clemson offense is this year, at least early on is Blitz pickup. Travis Etienne does a lot of things really well. He’s very not very good at picking up free blitzers. That’s how North Carolina State in that game is they kept listen to A gaps and Etienne kept wiffing blocks and they kept getting in on Trevor Lawrence. So I’ll expect Ohio State to try to exploit that a little bit as well. And send some guys up to a gap and see if the Clemson running backs can pick up the Blitz.
Have you watched Justin Fields much this year?
Drew Schneider Yeah, since I also write for Purdue, I watch a little bit of big 10 football. So I’ve seen Fields and we’re familiar with Fields. He’s a Georgia kid came out in the same class as Trevor Lawrence. So you’ve been sort of been following him for a while since you know, Clemson and Georgia are only about an hour and a half apart. We see a lot of those guys. Play. Fields has made that big jump from being a sort of gadget player at Georgia to the man at Ohio State. Yeah, good mobility. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when he faces a defense that can actually lock up and make him go to his second and third read. From everything, you know, we’ve been talking about on ShakingtheSouthland.com, He’s really a one read quarterback. So you’ll get looked at his first read. It’s not there, he may go to the second reader, he may just try to take off. It’ll be interesting to see if you can do that. Clemson will probably use Isaiah Simmons who’s bigger, faster and stronger than he is as a spy on him for part of the game. And also, you know, he’s saying he’s not 100% he’s saying he’s at 85% with that MCL injury he’s still trying to recover from. So it takes if you can take away some of his legs. It’ll be interesting to see if he can compensate with his arms if he’s going to have to go to a couple different reads.
He’s more mobile than Lawrence. Correct?
Drew Schneider I wouldn’t say that. One of the Trevor’s the big sort of misnomers about Trevor Lawrence’s game is that he’s not super mobile. I mean, Lawrence has put up really good rushing numbers and that’s been one of the big differences. Between the first half of the season the second half the season where Clemson was kind of trying to save them a little bit and cut down some of his his second half the season they you know, at least his run game. This year Lawrence has 77 rushes for 407 yards and seven touchdowns. And they use them a lot in the zone, the zone read game where teams like to try to crash down on Travis Etienne. Lawrence will pull it run it, he’s a lot better athlete. At 6-5 he eats up ground, then people maybe give him credit for. Fields is a little more compact. You probably consider him more of the traditional dual threat quarterback where he does a little bit of scrambling. But I’ll say that Lawrence is extremely hard to stack. He’s a big strong dude. He’s probably 6-5, you know to 225 to 230 and can move so, you know, looking at the difference between Fields and Lawrence rushing the ball, Fields this year has 123 attempts for 471 yards and 10 touchdowns. So Trevor’s per carry two yards better than Fields. And Fields has nine fumbles which Lawrence has zero.
So, what about interceptions though? That’s the big thing with Fields was,I don’t know, 30 some touchdowns. Only one interception for Fields.
Drew Schneider 40 touchdowns, one interception for Fields and Trevor had see 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Now he hasn’t thrown thrown an interception since the Louisville game. So that would be since October 19. He hasn’t thrown an interception and so some of those interception issues sort of started the year, but he’s cleaned everything up in the last six games. He hasn’t thrown a pick. And so Fields is good. He’s accurate. Like I said, I don’t in the big 10 if he’s seen a lot of teams that can just lock up on his first read and make him go to something else. Brent Venables if you watched the national championship game last year certainly gave a similar quarterback in Tua fits, where Tua didn’t know what was going on through that game opening, pick six through another pretty easy pick at the end of the second quarter to really give Clemson some momentum. So I, as we’ve seen accurate mobile quarterbacks before and have done some things to them that people didn’t think Clemson was going to be able to do.
These two teams are very evenly matched. They don’t really have any horrifying weaknesses. This is why coaches make millions of dollars a year to figure out what exactly This is they’re gonna exploit. How do you think this is going to play out?
Drew Schneider I think Ohio State’s gonna come out and try to press Clemson’s wide receivers, they’re going to lock up a Jeffrey Okudah on Tee Higgins and try to take Tee out of the game and then you’re going to see Justyn Ross go off on the other side of the field.
If they don’t try to double Tee I think he’s still going to do pretty well against that matchup if they know when they try to go one on one, I think you’ll see Clemson in max protect a lot on offense to giveTrevor some time to work on those downfield matchups. On defense you’ll see Clemson try to play they’re basically the 3-2-5 years with Simmons locking up as either as a spy on Fields I think to keep him in the pocket is what Well, I would say maybe not a great as good as a dual threat quarterback as people think when when Fields gets out of pocket and looks to throw, that’s where he’s at his best. So he’ll have a, you know, a 6-4 230 pound linebacker who runs a 4.5, trying to keep that from happening. I think this is going is probably going to come down to quarterback play and turnovers. And everybody says that Clemson hasn’t been tested this year. But you know Clemson’s also hasn’t lost a game, like they’re on a 28 game winning streak and and I think 10 of the 11 players on offense played in the national championship game last year. So as far as being battle tested, I think Clemson probably has the edge and I think coaching goes, in the college football playoffs Dabo has knocked off Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. Bob Stoops. So, you know, I’m not sure Ryan day is quite there yet. So I think Clemson probably comes in with a definite coaching experience in preparation for games like this. I think they’re probably in a better shape than Ohio State right now.
Jon Johnston High scoring or in the 20s.
I think Clemson hits in the 30s I think Ohio State’s in the 20s somewhere.
Jon Johnston So if you get past this, you’re probably going to play LSU in basically what is a home game? Have you ever been to the Superdome or New Orleans?
Yes, Clemson, played in the Superdome two years ago in lost to Alabama in the semi finals which is again that’s kind of essentially a home game for Alabama. So that’s a tough deal for you know anybody to have to go in and play LSU in the Superdome, which is why I give LSU maybe a better shot, not really writing them off. Like other people are as far as then you know being not walk over but whoever wins the Ohio State Clemson game being the prohibitive favorite because that dome is going to be loud and those LSU fans are going to are going to cause some trouble for whoever they play.
Jon Johnston Okay, just a little bit about recruiting, and then some history and then we’ll go. You guys are the top recruiting classes season? Correct?
Jon Johnston Between you guys, Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State. It’s like they’re stockpiling draft picks. Like you said earlier the rest of the ACC has to figure out what’s going on with Dabos Swinney and Clemson. And we have this situation where the strong keep getting stronger, and the weak keep doing stuff like firing a coach within two years at Florida State. Because they’re just, they’re desperate. I don’t know what they’re doing down there. And they are more desperate than we are.
Yeah, now Florida State still thinks that they belong in the upper tier of the ACC and they just need to make the right coaching hire. Everything’s gonna be fixed. And I think there’s more. There’s some more systematic issues with them. program wide for them to compete compete with Clemson. Clemson needs Florida State and Miami to not be terrible. And so yeah, as far as recruiting goes Clemson has I mean, when you mentioned Those those teams that you just sort of talked about though Ohio State, Alabama, even Oklahoma LSU. In the past five years, they’ve recruited on a higher level at a higher level than Clemson. This is Clemson’s, first ever. This is the first time Clemson’s you know finished at the top of the recruiting rankings are usually slotted somewhere in the five between five and 10 which obviously is nothing to sneeze that but once it’s really built itself up into this recruiting juggernaut, as opposed to you know, Alabama’s you get something from Alabama that means something in Clemson’s had to really build its brand to compete with that. You know, when I was at school at Clemson, we finished my four years. clemson won more game than Purdue over that four year period. So I went to school from like 99 to 2003. And since I write for one of the Purdue websites, I sort of use that as the benchmark. So from 2009 to 2003, Clemson and Purdue were essentially the same program. And so the build up that Dabo is done of taking Clemson from that sort of mid tier team to elite and recruiting has been one of the more impressive feats in modern college football.
Jon Johnston Do you think that the same four or five teams having the top recruiting classes is ultimately very bad for football, college football, since you write for multiple sites and you have more broad experience? I mean, what do you think of that in the long term?
I mean, every conference has its its upper echelon. So you know, if you’re going to get with what really needs to happen, some of these West Coast schools need to be be good at football again, and sort of spread out the map a little bit. Where you know, without Southern Cal, without UCLA, California is one of the biggest recruiting states and and they’re losing all the talent, Texas has been down. So you know, Texas and Texas a&m are trying to figure it out. So some of these teams that should be good, I feel I have to figure it out. Otherwise, college football is going to be three or four teams. I think there’s teams that could easily make that into you know, 7-8-9 teams, but for whatever reason, they either can’t make the right hire, don’t have enough patience, can’t stay out of trouble. So right now, I do think you’re seeing some of the imbalance. But I think there’s other teams really need to just step up and, and recruit to their abilities as a and I think that’s what kind of solves itself.
Jon Johnston That’s a good point. Okay, history. I’ve never been a fan of Clemson and it goes all the way back to when I was in college at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Clemson versus Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl. Nebraska used to go down to the Orange Bowl and you know, because we all do this with people in the south, we used to get jobbed by the referees. I swear to god every bowl game we ever played. That game was Dave Rimington versus William Perry. And Dave Rimington was... I went out and I look you can’t find articles that mentioned this. You’ll mention Rimington getting called for holding. But he was called for offsides in that game. I don’t know how you call a center for offsides. But it happened. So and then Danny Ford went got in trouble with the NCAA cuz he was a cheater. Any reaction?
There was the 80s I think the same Danny Ford was a cheater. You could probably say that literally about almost every program in the 80s. I was sort of the Wild West during the college football era. So, you know, Danny got away with some decent stuff. I don’t think I don’t necessarily think the Clemson was any dirtier than anybody else. And they certainly paid up a steep price, probably more than any other team for what they did. So you know, I was one years old and that happens. I don’t have I didn’t really watch a lot of that game.
Jon Johnston Nice shot at the old man there.
Yeah, you know, you got to take your digs where you can get them. And so that was a it took Clemson a long time to recover from winning a national championship in 1981 because they got hammered by the ACC and the NCAA really set their program back probably a decade if not more. So that was definitely a steep price to pay. Danny Ford is still legend in Clemson, I wouldn’t recommend besmirching his name inside the city limits.
Jon Johnston I will I will remember that.
Is there anything else that I haven’t said about Clemson or Ohio State that you want to mention as we go into the College Football Playoffs?
Drew Schneider So everybody wants to talk about history at Ohio State and how they’re a blueblood program that you’re really want to look at Ohio State’s history against Clemson. They’ve played three times. Lost three times. The first time they played it cost Woody Hayes his job because he punched a Clemson player on the sidelines and got fired. Second time they played was in the Orange Bowl right at the start of Dabo Swinney run by Clemson and really Clemson’s first real big bowl win. They beat Ohio State and ended Braxton Miller’s quarterbacking career because Urban wouldn’t take him off the field with a dead arm and Clemson buried him. That’s why you got Braxton Miller the wide receiver. Of course, the last time they played was on New Year’s Eve, and they shut out the Buckeyes in walking embarrassment of a football game for Ohio State. And so Clemson’s record against Ohio State is not something Buckeye fans like to talk about all that much. They’d much prefer to talk about the 50s than anything that’s happened from 2015 on. So the Tigers may not be a blueblood, but they’ve certainly had their way with Ohio State over the years.
Those are very good points, especially the Woody Hayes thing. I should have remembered that. I mean that you know, Woody Hayes punching in the Clemson guy Wow. And good points about crushing them. I’ll probably rooting for Ohio State because they’re in the big 10, but hey I don’t know.We’ll see what happens come game time.
Jon Johnston It’ll be an interesting game. I’ll say that this game. Outside of the Alabama game last the national championship game last year was obviously a big game. Interesting game for Clemson. But I don’t know if Clemson is had a more a better semi final opponent in this road, then Ohio State I think that may even include Alabama’s national championship. When when Clemson played in the semi finals, I think this is very good Ohio State team. And I just don’t think that people quite realize how good this Clemson team is. And, you know, because of the schedule, because of this little start by the office, but I think people are going to have their eyes opened on Saturday night about just how it talented this Clemson team really is after a season of sort of doubting.
Most college football fans appreciated Clemson beating the snot out of Alabama last year just because everybody was tired of Nick Saban. Even though it was not much of a national title game was it was still fun to kind of watch.
Drew Schneider Yeah, definitely. I started laughing in the second quarter and just continued laughing until the end of the game. I was all prepared for one of those nerve racking, you know, have like a case of beer on hand ready to go just in case things took a turn. And, you know, it was a nice easy walk through victory with our backup quarterback dominating the fourth quarter. So I don’t I don’t expect that against Ohio State will be a tight game against Like I said, that probably comes down to turnovers and experience. I think Fields turns the ball over a few times when Tigers take the win.
Well, good luck, guys. That’s that’s our episode. Hopefully you’ve learned a lot more about the Clemson Tigers. We thank you for joining us to tell us about their team.
Jon Johnston Take care y’all hopefully 2020 is a better year than 2019 for us in Huskerland and I guess we can have fun watching other people in the college football playoff in the hopes that we’ll get there someday. God that sounded horrible. Just gonna end right there. Take care y’all and thanks for listening.
Go Big Red.