OU, Clemson discuss plans to stifle explosive offenses

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Eric Striker

MIAMI, Fla. – While many people have been talking about the explosiveness of the teams’ offensives, it will be up to the defense to stop those plays from happening.

“They’re fast, physical. Their D line is a lot more athletic this year, more fast. I mean, they’ve always been strong, but last year their backers, they played real flat, didn’t move from side to side really good. So that’s what you’re going to have to look forward to,” said Wayne Gallman, Clemson’s running back.

“They have added a few wrinkles which make them a little more multiple, but they’re playing with a lot more confidence,” said Tony Elliott. “The linebackers are very experienced, very skilled in the secondary. Their corners are very dangerous.They can play you in off coverage and be effective. They can come up and play you bump and run, man coverage in your face, so they are a little bit more multiple, but they are just playing at a higher level.”

“The guys that we’ve had on our defense, we’ve all played and we have experience so we’ve seen guys like that over the years,” said Dominique Alexander, OU’s linebacker, referring to Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

To prepare for the challenge of facing a physical quarterback, the defense is taking on former starting quarterback Trevor Knight.

“We do different things because Trevor is mobile and he can run and he’s a great athlete, so from time to time we’ll stick him back there just to give us a different look,” Alexander said.

Charone Peake, Clemson’s wide receiver, says he feel that the Tigers’ offense is ready for OU’s defense.

“Oklahoma has a defense just like ours, so we’re very prepared, and I think that’s going to be really key for us,” Peake said.

“It will definitely be fun to watch, but just having Deshaun back there, I feel like we’ll be able to pick them apart the whole game, just tell when they’re coming on the blitz or anything like that. But the offensive line hasn’t given up a sack in I think the last five games in a row, so I  don’t think it’s going to change,” said Jordan Leggett, Clemson’s tight end. “I feel like both our tackles are going to be ready for [Eric Striker.] I mean, it’s just a mismatch problem, with him being so big. He can try to run around them, but just having two athletic tackles like that might be a little harder for him.”

However, Oklahoma coaches believe their defense’s abilities may surprise the top-ranked team.

“Whether it’s Jordan Thomas one game or Zack or Steven Parker or Dom or Striker, Tap comes on. You just need playmakers, and we have a variety of players that can do that, and that’s really been our greatest strength,” said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops

While OU is preparing for Watson, Clemson is working on plans to stop Baker Mayfield.

“We’re hungry. We like getting better every day. We’re all brothers off the field, so that just makes us play better on the field together with each other,” said Shaq Lawson, Clemson’s defensive end. “Our defense is so good, and our scheme, the scheme [Brent Venables’] got for us makes the players that much better.”

“They try a lot of stuff. Coach Venables, I think he trusts his players, so just seeing that defense, we’re kind of similar to them in the sense that they try different types of looks and they’ll have different stuff for each game plan,” said Mayfield.

“Both offenses are very explosive and ultimately keeping the ball in your hands. Our defense has done a great job of getting the ball back for us, so that’ll be a big part of it. But it’s about eliminating the big plays, and that does come with keeping the quarterback down and contained instead of making those explosive plays,” Mayfield said.

The defenses will face on during the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 31.