Clemson Football

Clemson breakout interview sessions - Wednesday

December 26, 2018

Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott

Q. How much can you appreciate the idea of consistency with the defense under Brent [Venables] at a time when, again, it's really hard to play consistently good defense?

OC JEFF SCOTT: Absolutely. That's been huge. I mean, I've been fortunate to be with Coach Swinney from the beginning since he was an interim coach in 2008, so I've been along for the entire ride. And there's no doubt about it, what Brent's brought to Clemson's defense has been a big part of our success, and makes our job on offense a whole lot easier. We can be more aggressive and take shots and call the game more aggressive when we know we have a very sound and attacking defense on the other side.

Q. Did you guys know Trevor [Lawrence] would be this good?

OC JEFF SCOTT: Yes. I'd be lying if I said no. I mean, we watched him very similar to Deshaun [Watson], you know, since he was a freshman in high school and you could just tell.

You can see it when a kid has that "it" factor and is special and, you know, he probably was a little bit further along when he came in in January than maybe we were expecting. Came from a great program at Cartersville (Georgia).

Joey King as head coach is one of the best high school coaches in the country. So the scheme that he was running in high school, the way that he was coached, I mean, he's the kind of guy that during his lunch breaks is going into the coach's office and watching film.

And so I think just his football IQ, you know, you never know that until you get in the meeting room. I think that was a little further along than we expected, but this is not a surprise to any of our coaches because, you know, we knew recruiting him he was going to be the type of player that he is. And going to continue to develop and continue to improve, and that's exciting as well.

Q. Stay on Deshaun [Watson] for a second. I mean, how do you quantify just how important he was for where you guys have become?

OC JEFF SCOTT: Huge, obviously. I mean, Deshaun, you know, for us offensively, you know, Tajh Boyd was a great quarterback for us and really kind of helped us take that next step. And I think about going and beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. That very talented defense there and everything that Tajh did and then I think Deshaun came in and really took that next step and leading us into the playoffs and obviously the national championship because of a lot of those offensive skill guys we have.

Q. What do you think about Clark Lea?

OC JEFF SCOTT: I kept up with him. I believe he was at Wake Forest before with Coach Elko. So always impressed with his position group and with what he did defensively. I think offensive coaches, whenever you are going through a season, you're watching a lot of video so you recognize guys that have a really good scheme. Each of our offensive coaches have certain things that they break down.

One thing that I break down every week on Sunday is the big play cut-up. That would be runs over 12 yards or pass over 16 yards. And one thing I noticed about their defense at Wake and defense this year at Notre Dame, not just a lot of big plays. Guys are where they're supposed to be. Very sound. Not a lot of guys running free and every play is contested, the running game and in the passing game. So I have a lot of respect that he's done an excellent job this year.

Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott

Q. Was Trevor Lawrence more advanced walking through the door than -- I mean, Deshaun [Watson] was amazing, so I almost feel like if you start comparing, you end up -- how advanced was he walking through the door?

OC TONY ELLIOTT: Both of those guys were -- you got Deshaun and you were like man, we might not ever see another one like Deshaun, and here comes Trevor. They were very similar coming in the door. I can think back to when Deshaun was there, the first scrimmage in the spring, and he checks and site adjusts and that was something we were trying to get our other quarterbacks to do and it took them a year and a half, and his first string he is figuring it out. Those two young men are very, very exceptional talents, both physically and mentally, and I think that's why they're successful the way they are.

Q. What's the best way to describe that whole process with Kelly [Bryant], arguably won A&M game at the end to a few weeks later he's gone?

OC TONY ELLIOTT: It was tough because of who Kelly Bryant is and what he meant to our program and helped to accomplish. At the same time, too, in fairness to our team and to be able to continue to have the coach that we want to have in place, you have to reward production, and that's really what it was. And happy for Kelly that he's found him a new opportunity, but at the end of the day, you know, a tough situation for that day. And, you know, we had to rally the troops and we had to move forward.

Q. How does that communicate to the players in general?

OC TONY ELLIOTT: You say it in the recruiting process. You put it up front. When you say it, you have to be able to prove it. And what we've seen over the years, if you've seen freshman after freshman that's the best guy, they'd play. Then Coach [Swinney] does a great job of making them understand that everything in our program is earned. There's no entitlement, and he communicates it very frankly in team meetings. Christian, you were the guy last year, but you have to be the guy today. You have to be the guy tomorrow. There's no hierarchy. Every guy has to earn their job every single day.

Q. I don't think you'd find anyone on your team that would say a bad word about Kelly [Bryant] at this point. Do you think that's reflective of the culture of how much everybody loved him but he's not some enemy to you guys, he's still part of the program?

OC TONY ELLIOTT: No question, he's a Clemson Tiger. He's a Clemson graduate. It hurt to see him go, but everybody respected that he had to make the best decision for him and his future. We went through the process the right way and the numbers spoke for themselves.

Q. That three-week stretch where you go with Trevor [Lawrence], lose Kelly [Bryant], C.J. [Fuller] passes, you have the Syracuse scare, you kind of crammed all your adversity into a couple of weeks. Why do you think you got through that and where you are today?

OC TONY ELLIOTT: I think the foundation of our program is everything is earned, nothing is given. I think the confidence of our players is in the preparation of the players and how they work. They understand adversity is necessary. Coach [Swinney] says adversity is a companion of a champion and enemy to the weak. They know you have to have adversity to be at your best, be able to grow.

I think they embraced the opportunity, and these guys have a lot of pride. You have a lot of guys that invested a lot in the season and they weren't going to let any adversity become the excuse. They were going to find a way to get the job done.

Trevor Lawrence

Q. What do you make of that culture now that Justin is transferring, Kelly [Bryant] has transferred?

QB TREVOR LAWRENCE: It's kind of a tough question because everyone has their dreams and they want to play and be able to have a chance to play in the NFL and do all these things. So it's definitely a lot of levels to that question.

But people try to make the best decisions for themselves. I'm not going through that right now so I can't really speak on it. But I know it's a tough decision, and these guys are doing what's best for them

Q. Does the waiting feel longer at quarterback? How do you describe that feeling?

QB TREVOR LAWRENCE: I mean, it's just different because wide receiver, whatever position it is, they rotate guys a lot, four or five guys at a time. So it's a little bit -- it's just different. You might have one guy out there, and it's hard to do all that stuff, and it's also a lot more control of the offense. You have to have someone out there. The situation is a little different.

Q. Clearly, during the spring, there were two or three guys competing for the job. And, obviously, fall practice you weren't getting the most reps. How different has it been and how prepared were you when you got in? Now you finally are getting that, and what does it mean?

QB TREVOR LAWRENCE: I feel like our coaching staff and everyone did the best job playing both of us, letting us compete. But also whenever a decision was made, having coaches ready to make it. So just going through that since the spring, the way they did that prepared me well.

Q. How much of a difference has the amount of reps that you get made?

QB TREVOR LAWRENCE: It makes a difference because obviously before me and Kelly [Bryant], we were going back and forth. Still obviously I was improving a lot. But I think when you get all the reps, obviously it's going help improve when I get more with those guys.

Q. Were those first couple weeks hectic for you after you got the word that you were starting?

QB TREVOR LAWRENCE: Not really. There was a lot of talk everywhere else but I feel like around our team we were pretty good. I mean, obviously Kelly [Bryant] leaving was tough and all the guys were close. So that was tough, and we had to get through that. But other than that, the teams were really supportive, and I felt like we just took off from there.

Q. How do you get through something like that. Obviously in the locker room there were guys who were buddies with him and still friends with you. Obviously friendships and relationships how did you guys get through that?

QB TREVOR LAWRENCE: It's just like anything else. It's a team game. Yeah, everyone loved Kelly. I loved Kelly. But people on the team obviously still have their relationship with him. It didn't really affect our relationships with him. We still have those and it's just kind of rally together an keep going. Got half a season left.

Travis Etienne

Q. What did you see in Trevor [Lawrence]? There's still friendships and relationships. How was that transition for you guys?

RB TRAVIS ETIENNE: At the time, the transition wasn't that hard. Trevor got reps the first four or five weeks in practice. It wasn't really that hard for everyone. It's a game of football. Everyone rallied around Trevor and just helped him to be who he is.

Q. What difference have you seen in him since he (Trevor Lawrence) became the number one guy with his job?

RB TRAVIS ETIENNE: Just confidence and trying to be more of a vocal leader now.
Q. As far as making plays, we've seen what he (Trevor Lawrence) can do, right? Coach wants

him to run more. What do you think about that?

RB TRAVIS ETIENNE: I feel he should do what's best for the team. When you see him take off, he's gone. So he'll do what's best for him and the team. He's going to have to run to perform.

Q. The suspensions that are going on, is that something that can bring the team a little closer together?

RB TRAVIS ETIENNE: Yes, I feel like it's going to bring everyone together. Everyone's going to want to play for those guys, just rally around them.

Q. Does it make it a little easier knowing they're here and they can practice and still be part of the team?

RB TRAVIS ETIENNE: I guess so. I guess it does. But I mean, like, whether they were here or not, we're still going to have it in mind that they're part of the team.

Q. You read that article about Trevor ran 20.6 miles an hour in the championship game. Who's the fastest guy on the team?

RB TRAVIS ETIENNE: That's a hard one. Everyone says Mark Fields. But since I've been here, I've never seen Mark Fields run or anything on a timed race or anything. But everyone says it's him. He's been here a little while.

Q. For you, growing up in Louisiana, what does it mean to be here in Dallas, just a few hours from home, five or six hours, but being this close and having all these friends and family here?

RB TRAVIS ETIENNE: It's a great experience. Happy that my family can be here for this moment in my life. They don't have to travel across the country to come here. It's relatively close.

Q. What did you think of AT&T Stadium when you walked in there?

RB TRAVIS ETIENNE: The stadium is -- I mean, it's unbelievable. Just the Jumbotron, it's crazy how big it is. I was there on Monday just looking up at the Jumbotron all day. It's just crazy. It's a humbling experience to be in that stadium.

Mitch Hyatt

Q. Is it good that the guys are still allowed to come to the bowl game and be able to practice and all that?

OT MITCH HYATT: Yeah. I'm glad they had a chance to come and be part of the team and be part of what we're doing day-to-day. It's so fun to have them around and have their support.

Q. For you, this is now the culmination of four hard years. What's it like walking out on that field at AT&T Stadium the other day knowing you're getting ready to face Notre Dame again?

OT MITCH HYATT: I mean, it was kind of fun playing there. Great stadium. It's going to be fun. They are the first team I ever played my freshman year, so it's fun to be able to play them again towards the end of my career.

Q. As an offensive lineman, do you pay attention to stadiums, especially one that's that big? What do you think when you walk inside that place?

OT MITCH HYATT: I mean, I just think it's crazy.

I mean, as far as stadiums go, we don't really think much about it. I think just, like, other than that, like, the stadium as a whole, more I think just how crazy it is to play in such a great stadium is what you think about.

Q. When you think of that first run that you made in 2015, going into that season, what were y'all thinking about the playoff and the idea of the Playoff at the time?

OT MITCH HYATT: We'd never been to the Playoff. And it was just -- I was just seeing -- we got going through the season. We just -- seeing its success, we kept our head down. We don't want to look up and see -- and just be there already because we knew we had the talent to make it that far. It was just convincing, staying in level-headed and just push through the season.

Q. Do you have a story that illustrates why Trevor's been so successful as a true freshman?

OT MITCH HYATT: I think it's -- I mean, first off, he works hard. He works harder than anyone else on the team.

He's always studying film, always studying something. And it's -- it's fun to see him mature. When he got that starting job, he kind of knew there was a lot of -- he wanted to -- just took it upon himself to go work even harder. And doing it has just been fun to watch.

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables

Q. What does it mean to not have Dexter [Lawrence]? Obviously you've got to be preparing as if you don't have him?

DC BRENT VENABLES: First and foremost, you're really hurt for him and his family. A guy that we wouldn't be here without what Dexter has contributed, what he's done for us. His play is one of the 11 on defense and then some. And so you really hurt for him having to miss on this opportunity. But really thankful that it was important for Coach Swinney to have these guys here and to still be a part of this experience.

And for us, it's like an injury and I've spent zero time oh, is he going to play, what's the chance? I don't know. Being real honest, but I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it. I've got a lot of confidence in Albert [Huggins] and Nyles [Pinckney]. They've played a lot of
winning football, not just this year. Last year when Dexter was probably 50% of what he is now as a player, and they've both played a lot of really good football.

So injury's a part of the game, and that's what we're treating it like. I have nothing to do with the process, so I have spent no time really thinking about it.

Q. Do you slide Nyles [Pinckney] into that spot or is it a combination of Nyles and Albert [Huggins]?

DC BRENT VENABLES: Yeah, just like we've played all three of them all year. So now we'll play all two of them, plus Jordan Williams. You know, Jordan has gotten back healthy the last part of the season and he's going to be a good player. So he's repping in, too.

Q. You've been doing this job for a long time. Has it ever been harder -- it just seems like the offenses are just crazy at this point. Has it ever been harder to be a defensive coordinator?

DC BRENT VENABLES: I got broken into coaching going against Nebraska mid-'90s.Q. That was pretty tough, too.

DC BRENT VENABLES: That was option, and geez, they executed better than anybody. And so it's all -- you know, I love my job so I don't look at it as "hard."

Q. Is it challenging, gotten any more challenging?

DC BRENT VENABLES: For them guys out there playing. I'm not playing. Yeah, I mean, I think it's well-known, it's well-documented just the different styles of offenses, the things that are en vogue now and the RPOs and some false reads and things like that. But we try to be multiple, stay aggressive, and it's been good for us. Not perfect, but it's been good for us.

So I love that challenge. That for me, I just -- I love the challenge. And doesn't mean I always like the result, but I love the challenge. And I love trying to get your players to not only understand how to stop and defend and handle these different styles, but I love for them to be able to know it like a coach. As a teacher, that's something I take a lot of pride in and joy in.

Christian Wilkins

Q. As a player, all the stuff you ingest, food, whatever, they're coming through every possibility. Is it that unknown that maybe is kind of the most difficult part about something like this?

DT CHRISTIAN WILKINS: I mean, yeah. Because it's just interesting. It's like I feel like there's nothing you really could have done to prevent it, so to speak. I feel like we do a good job as players and as, obviously, our nutritionist and everybody involved what we take in and what we ingest. We do a good job of knowing what's in stuff. Is it okay? Is it not okay? But that's just like what else could you have done to prevent it? It's just kind of like it is what it is. It's unfortunate, obviously. What else could you have done? That's all there is to it.

Q. People on the outside -- it's really fans and such of rival schools saying oh, yeah, that's their secret or whatever; they're doing steroids. What do you have to say to that sort of cynical talk?

DT CHRISTIAN WILKINS: I mean, I know and I feel like we've done everything. We do everything ethically as a program. We do a good job of just making sure we do the right things. And, you know, that's what Coach Swinney is big on. He's built a foundation of this program and is doing things the right way and doing things differently.

So I mean, it's -- I think it would be -- it's easy for us to say that, because I know I'm not doing anything -- other people aren't intentionally doing anything to help with their performance or anything like that.

The reason for our success is from old school hard work, grinding in the weight room, studying film, practice hard, leadership, and being a good program.

Q. Did you find out on Sunday -- I know Dabo [Swinney] said that Dexter [Lawrence] thought it was a joke when he told him. He did think he was kidding at first. What was the -- how did you find out about it?

DT CHRISTIAN WILKINS: Yeah. When I first heard, I was like -- I just thought it was interesting. I'm like Dex doesn't take anything. He's 6’5”, 350 pounds. What more could a person of that build need to do to improve their -- you know what I mean? It was just funny to me almost.

But it's like I understand it a little bit more now because just could have come from anything, obviously, just unfortunate, things like that. But he's like -- it's just such a weird situation to when I heard, I'm just like -- I don't know. Like, I don't know how that could happen. He's clearly not taking anything. He doesn't need to take anything. Could just come from anywhere. It's unfortunate.

Q. Does it make you guys paranoid? Everything you're eating you're checking labels now saying okay, is there something weird in it?

DT CHRISTIAN WILKINS: You kind of are always conscious and cognizant of what you take in and what you put into your body. From what I hear, this is something that could have come from anywhere. Even with you being conscious, you being as comfortable as possible, it still could have come from anything, even if everything, was okay in the substance or, supplement, whatever you're eating and putting in your body.

Q. What can you tell us about the guy who would take his place if Dexter [Lawrence] can't suit up?

DT CHRISTIAN WILKINS: I just know the guy taking his place will be more than prepared. And it's a special opportunity on the biggest stage to perform and be able to help out the team. I know they'll be ready whether it's Albert [Huggins], Jordan [McFadden], Alex [Spence], whoever it is. Guys have learned it. They put in the work all year, all their career. I'm pretty sure they won't let this opportunity pass to be successful and help the team as much as they can.

Q. Christian, that substance is illegal. Does that scare you that something that's flat out illegal can't be controlled better than that?

DT CHRISTIAN WILKINS: I mean, does it scare me? Not really. Like that's just something you can't prevent, even if you try your best. Some things can't be prevented. And, if you kind of live your life in fear of things like that, then -- I mean, what -- what can you do? Just with that -- it's just like unfortunate in that situation because there was no way to prevent it.

Q. How do your trainers drill through your heads "any supplement goes through us"?

DT CHRISTIAN WILKINS: They do a really good job of that. Not a lot of guys on our team take any more supplements or anything other than what's given to us and that we know is already cleared and already okay.

Even if guys do, they do a really good job of going back to our staff to make sure it's all right and make sure everything is cleared.

But, again, this isn't like -- this isn't like he was taking something. It was something that could be found in anything.

Q. How different is it preparing for this game without Dexter [Lawrence]?

DT CHRISTIAN WILKINS: It's not really that much different. Because we rotate guys in and prepare, and everyone does a good job preparing like they're the starter and having the right mindset.

And Dex is still -- he's still out there with us. He's still on -- he's still there and can still give his coaching and knowledge and his tutelage and things like that. He's still just as present as normal.

Doesn't really feel any different, honestly. Because he's still out there with us, which I'm thankful for because he can help us all in so many ways and his leadership. And it's got a little bit more motivation. You see a guy who might not be able to play and is going through a little something, so you kind of want to give your all in for him.

Q. Is it your understanding he was leaving early anyway?


Q: When you look at the Notre Dame offensive line people like to talk about Clemson as a

D-line in a lot of ways. Do you look at Notre Dame that way?

DT CHRISTIAN WILKINS: Definitely. Still to this day I think one of the best O-line I've faced was that 2015 offensive line. I think they had four or five starters go in the first round of the draft, if I'm not mistaken. And just really talented O-line. And when you think Notre Dame -- well, me, personally, when I think of Notre Dame I always think of a very good offensive line.

That's no different now. They've got a really good offensive line. They're second for offensive line. And it shows when you watch the tape, because they're just really talented. They work well collectively as a unit. And they don't beat themselves. And they don't make a lot of mistakes. They're really big, and they can move pretty well. And they do a good job of covering you up.

They're just really talented.

Q. What does it say for a group to lose two top 10 picks and still perform?

DT CHRISTIAN WILKINS: It's a testament to the guys on the team and their coaching staff just to be as productive as dominant as they've been.

Tre Lamar

Q. You've been at this stage before. How much does that help you guys, if at all? It may not, but describe the experience of being on this stage before compared to a squad like Notre Dame that hasn't.

LB TRE LAMAR: I would say just the experience. And when I say "experience," I'm speaking to just kind of having a calmness of mind and knowing you've been here before. You don't have to play better than you have before or worse than you have before. This shouldn't change anything that you've done with your preparation. Every game's the biggest game as the next one, that kind of mentality.

Q. Describe what you see in that Notre Dame defense when that guy wearing 2 (Jordan Genmark Heath) is on the field?

LB TRE LAMAR: I just think they're a more dynamic team in general. He really brings that extra threat, the X factor in the team. In fact, he really runs that ball with a lot of force, a lot of downhill power. And when he gets away from people, he can really get away. He's got a lot of speed to him. I think he just adds that much more fear, and the defense knows he can really get out there and run.

Q. When it comes to the devotion and dedication of this particular team on this stage, is it true you guys went full pads on Christmas Day?

LB TRE LAMAR: Yeah. Tuesday practice was just like any day. We got our little Christmas brunch for about an hour, and we got there in pads and hit each other just like every other day. So Merry Christmas to everybody, I guess.

Q. Do you think there's a chance that Dexter [Lawrence] could play?

LB TRE LAMAR: I'm not too familiar with the situation.

Q. You haven't been told?

LB TRE LAMAR: No. We're hopeful. Obviously Dexter's a huge part of our team, and we want him out there just to kind of help us out. But we'll see.

He's really been a great leader for our team, helping the younger guys. So I feel like whether he plays or whether he doesn't play won't affect our preparation at all. We're going to get ready in the same way.

Q. Are you guys preparing a lot of use from Notre Dame's tight ends, maybe multiple at the same time?

LB TRE LAMAR: Yeah. I think they have some good tight ends and they play a good game. I think you have to account for them coming at those sets, not just passing as well. They're good blockers, so you just got to be ready for them.

Clelin Ferrell

Q. Were you here for the 2015 game?

DE CLELIN FARRELL: I was. Any time you have a big win against a good team and it's a hard-fought win early in the season, that's always good for your team, regardless of whoever you play. So, when you get one like that, it shows how balanced that team is and what the mindset is and you're going to fight to the very end. That's what I take away from a game like that. Any close game you play in, it shows how strong the team is. And that's what you need in a game like this. Because you're playing against a good team. And that very well might be what happens. It might go down to the wire. And you want to know that you're battle-tested.

Q. How does Brent [Venables] get the most out of you?

DE CLELIN FARRELL: He gives us everything he has. He doesn't just ask for our best and he's not going to give us his. That's what I feel like he gives us every single day, not just his best in the film or his best from our meetings. But, when he's on the practice field, his intensity is the same ask as what he wants us to feel. We've got to match his intensity. I love that.

Q. How does he remain so intense all the time? Can guys match his intensity?

DE CLELIN FARRELL: You can match it. But it's about being consistent. That's the hard part. Being consistent. I'm not going to give him too much credit. He's not out there getting hit every play or getting tackled. He's scouting. So I want to see can he still be running around screaming after getting tackled and hit in the mouth every play. But definitely just the whole mindset is something he really brings to hold us accountable.

Q. Talking a little about Christian [Wilkins] and what he brings as a leader. He certainly seems to keep it light. Is that his role on the team to sort of keep it light?

DE CLELIN FARRELL: I mean, he's a very, very serious person when it comes to football. He takes it very, very seriously. And that's what I feel when we're off the field is just who he is right now. Just fun lover, like you said, keeps it light. When we're on the field, he's a very serious person. But, when he makes plays, that's when he goes back to him having fun. But he's a very serious person when it comes down to that.

That's what I love about him. I'd rather somebody be annoyingly positive than somebody who is just detrimentally negative. That sucks. A lot of times his positivity gets on your nerves. You can't be mad at him for it. When you're having your worst day, you see him having a smile on his face and trying to get you up. And then it's going to make you get out of that negative attitude. And that's huge.

Q. What do people need to know about Albert [Huggins] and Nyles [Pinckney] particularly this week?

DE CLELIN FARRELL: That they're not nervous or afraid of this opportunity. They're battle tested. Both of them have played starter reps before. Especially Albert. I consider Albert a starter regardless of what game you play. So we really just look at it as no big changeup. Really. Obviously, there's a reason why Dexter [Lawrence] is out there. And you can't really replace a Dexter as far as what he brings. But Albert brings a skill set that's unique as well.

Q. What's unique about it?

DE CLELIN FARRELL: Just his strength and his overall just presence on the field is really, really big. He's a very, very strong player. He has a natural just kind of bulldoze strength to him. And he has quickness to match it. Albert is an intelligent person as well, too. Game plans come to him easy. I feel like he's going to have a good performance.

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