Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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) --
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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?
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
They have players capable of doing that with more of a balanced monster running back. You know, they've been feeding him. I'm not sure if they felt quite as good about their backs then. I think they featured J.T. Barrett a little more in the running game, and then Curtis Samuel. I see more similarities. Just a very balanced and very physical, very explosive -- I'm not sure what their rankings were offensively. I know they were really good in '16. They're the number one scoring offense in college football, and the best third-down offense in college football. Almost close to 60% conversion rate, which is just -- it's got to be historical for an offense, other than a triple-option offense, who are typically really good on third down. It's pretty frightening when you put the tape on, what they have been able to put on the field.
Q. Brent, any bowl season like this, right, in the ACC, you know those teams so well. By now you get a real feel for them. When you really start game planning defensively for a new opponent in bowl season, what's that like for you?
BRENT VENABLES: Usually it's -- at first, you're always excited to see the first video. And then when you start watching it, it just gives you -- because again, when you're talking about -- again, we've been fortunate enough to go to five straight playoffs, you're playing against the absolute best of the best. And the way teams are built anymore, it's usually offensively based. And they're, again, historically good. And so it's pretty -- to be honest, for me personally, I get just -- I don't know if overwhelmed is the right word, but it's just like, how in the heck are we going to get in their way and trying to understand personality and DNA and philosophy? It's a challenge. And then this year, we actually didn't have near as much time as we've had the past years. We had a week less preparation time. And so our first week, we missed recruiting because of championship week. And so that first week out was our only week to be able to recruit. Really had four days. Start in Miami, Florida, to Charlotte to Atlanta to Virginia to Los Angeles. So you're going all over the place trying to recruit, and trying to get a little bit of game time in there when you can on your plane flights. So again, just a little bit less time as far as preparation. Ohio State has the same issues.
Q. How does Ohio State compare against the offenses you've played against the last five years?
BRENT VENABLES: They're every bit as good. They can match up with anybody. Same. Great quarterback play, great offensive line play, terrific running back, great balance. Take the top off, you have not just one guy, you have got multiple guys that can run right by you. The secondary, well-coached, great schemes. They have answers. They make adjustments. Have a lot of confidence. They've been on this setting, so they have experience. So from that standpoint, comparatively speaking, I would put them all more in the category of being similar. Slight differences in who they are. They're really, really good.
Q. From your side of the ball, what you've been able to do with Clemson and this defense and your time here? How would you compare a Clemson defense? For instance, when you played Ohio State, obviously you change players but, also, you have a core philosophy. How much has the core philosophy of what you do defensively stayed the same in your Clemson time? And how much have you had to adjust to the different guys.
BRENT VENABLES: I think every year is different. You have a system and a philosophy. We're aggressive. We're press man-to-man. We're probably a little more multiple this year because we feel like we've had to do that. And some years you don't. A year ago, everybody is like, Oh, you don't have to do anything. You can just rush four all day. That's not true. You're getting different kind of protections, people are chipping and sliding and everything else. You've still got to find ways to generate pressure. So I think our philosophy, without question, has been the same. This year we felt like we've had to be a little bit more multiple and play to our strengths, which has been our back seven and try to help our young guys. We have one starter on our defensive line that's ever started a college football game. That's what we rolled out there with at fall camp. Two of the starters, not including Tyler Davis who has become a starter, but Jordan Williams and Nyles Pinckney, they did nothing from January all the way until the first day of fall camp. Nothing with the football team. So they were going through different rehabs and some missed winter conditions, summer drills
Q. Isaiah, was PlayStation the sponsor when you came last time?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: Yeah.
Q. That was the first year?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: Yeah.
Q. What impresses you about this Ohio State offense?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: They have great players at every position. That's the main thing. Great running back and great receivers as well. They make a lot of tough catches.
Q. For [J.K.] Dobbins specifically, they really relied on him the last four games. Giving him 30-some carries a game. Do you guys go into the game expecting him to carry that kind of load again?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: I would assume so. I give one of my best players the ball. Nobody has really stopped him, so it kind of makes sense. Why not keep giving him the ball if nobody can stop him?
Q. They had to do that the last few games because [Justin] Fields didn't run the way he did earlier in the season. Are you still preparing as if that's going to be a threat?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: Yeah, we're prepared for him to obviously play the best game of the season. That's what everybody is here obviously to do. So like I said, we're going to prepare for the greatest run ever.
Q. Why does that make them tougher, the way [Justin] Fields can run?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: You've got to cover the whole field. That's probably the hardest thing to do in football. Just being able to cover the field, stop the run, stop the pass, quite honestly.
Q. As much as you've accomplished in the past years, is this still a chance to prove something going up against an offense as good as Ohio State?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: Yeah. A lot of people think we're not supposed to be here. So I guess it's more to prove them wrong, because apparently we didn't play anyone. That's been the rhetoric out there. I would probably say, yeah, we've got a chip on our shoulder, something to play for.
Q. Is it personal motivation for you as well? Either by sticking up for the team or something you want to prove for yourself when you're on a stage like this?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: Not really. That's not really a motivator for me. I know what we've accomplished and how hard it is to get to where we're at. We can never discount that. If it was as easy as everyone is saying, then why aren't more people not doing it? It's not really motivation for me. It's all just media talk.
Q. For you personally, what would it be like to go out with another national championship? You've already said your plans after this year. But what would that mean for you?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: It would mean a lot. Nobody's been 30-0 ever with back-to-back CFP national championships. So to make history would be awesome. We made a lot of history this year, just within our team, and I think a couple nationally. Just making history is really cool. It's not something that happens all the time. That's why it's history. To do that and, obviously, it would be nice to leave my last game with a win.
Q. What's this year been like for you, kind of rising up? I know you try to tune this stuff out, but running up the draft boards, that kind of stuff. What's it been like going into this year?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: I really don't pay attention to anything like that. I've just been trying to have fun with my teammates and enjoy this whole process and enjoy the moment more than what's coming in.
Q. Do you guys talk about making history at all? Does that even enter the conversation? Or just hanging out with teammates and the fact that you have a chance to do this 30 back-to-back?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: Everybody definitely knows. Why not make a goal? Dream big. Shoot for the stars. We're not really -- you don't ever go into a game just hoping to squeeze out and win everything. You want to have a goal, something you can reach for to do it. You don't want to -- you don't ever want to go to a game thinking that was my last field goal. You go in the game thinking you can build the team out. Everybody knows what we could do and what's in front of us. It gives everybody something to strive for.
Q. Does it make it a different feeling for you guys this year, as opposed to last year's playoffs, when you were going in just looking for another national championship? This year you're going in to really leave your mark on history.
ISAIAH SIMMONS: Last year we weren't just going in looking for another championship. We wanted to be the first team to be 15-0 in the CFP. So each and every game is something we're looking to go get. So this year, it's kind of the same thing, another 15-0 mindset. It would just happen to be 30-0.
Q. Some of the stuff Dabo [Swinney] says, as far as you guys don't get any respect, you talked about it some. Do you feel like there's some, I guess, pressure on this game? Not pressure, but you guys can prove something that maybe you guys have played somebody. And if you do lose, maybe some of that talk about you guys haven't played anybody is true?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: I don't think that's ever going to be true. We're 9-1 against SEC in our past 10 games. I guess we don't play anyone still. We don't really worry about who we play. We worry about who we are and who we got and what we got to do opposed to who we play. I feel like teams that are opponent-focused don't really succeed as much as teams that are team-driven.
Q. Along those same lines, I know it's a statement game. It's such a cliché. It usually never applies to the playoffs. But in some ways, is this kind of a statement game to show the world, Hey, we can beat a team that's respected across the board?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: Absolutely. Like you said, we've got a lack of respect. Apparently we don't play anyone. But I guess you could say it's a statement game. Us as a team, we know we can play with the best of the best. So I don't -- if you want to take it as a statement game, we're just trying to play our best four quarters of the year, no matter who the opponent is.
Q. What did you notice about the Ohio State offensive line watching film?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: They are a veteran group. They all play really well with each other. You can tell they're players who have played a lot of ball.
Q. Given what Ohio State does, given what I asked you before about [Justin] Fields and how he plays, what does that mean for you specifically? Does it change the game at all to play a team with that kind of balance?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: Absolutely not. I'm just trying to play within the game plan.
Q. I know it's raining and everything right now. You're back in Arizona. What it's it like to be here, in a new spot again and enjoying the desert valley?
ISAIAH SIMMONS: I kind of like it here. I've never been here in the summer, so I don't know if I can say that for sure. I know it's super hot here. I like it here. It's really nice. Kind of different. It's really different compared to where I'm from. I like it, though.
Q. Tanner, how would you compare this year's defense to last year's defense?
TANNER MUSE: I think this defense is a little quicker. I think on the back end, we were just getting started. Just getting our groove together. I know that was Isaiah's first time playing Sam and a couple of other guys at corner and things like that. But all in all, we had a great frontline that helped us cover it up, you know. But this year, we're building a really strong back end. We're kind of young on the front end. So we've definitely been trying to help them, but it's been a whole year. They've definitely grown up. I think just the speed that we have on our back end is just really, really good.
Q. How much of the experience of being here and being in this playoff the last few years does that help you this year?
TANNER MUSE: I think it helps me, just personally, because I'm on a loop. Every year I've been in this playoff and it's been awesome. It's just something I've definitely taken advantage of, just being here for this opportunity has been great to me. It helps me just let the young guys just hear my experiences and what I've -- the things that I take advantage of during this scheduling that we have. So definitely just my experience has helped everyone.
Q. Tanner, what do you do with all the gear you've gotten from all these playoff games?
TANNER MUSE: I usually give them to Mom and Dad. Some things I'll keep. I'll probably keep this shirt. This jacket is a little something-something, so I'll probably just put it in the closet. It's not my favorite. It is what it is.
Q. What is your favorite thing?
TANNER MUSE: They always do a good job of pants sometimes through the years. They've had some really good pants. They've had the chrome swoosh, which is really nice. That's a nice little feature, people are like, Whoa, that's pretty cool. But, yeah, definitely the pants we've gotten over the years.
Q. When do you guys get to celebrate Christmas?
TANNER MUSE: I celebrated Christmas with my mom and dad and them Friday night, just this past Friday. And then we'll have Christmas tomorrow. So we'll have that as a team, Christmas morning breakfast, take a little break, go to practice and then that will be it. So I definitely have already done my Christmas and I'm moving on.
Q. Looking at this wide receiver group that Ohio State has, what's your impressions of them?
TANNER MUSE: Definitely really good. Crafty route runners, speed, whole the nine yards. I think the tight ends do a great job as well just being receivers, as well as the quarterback. You can't really take a play off when you're covering those guys because they're always very dangerous. So looking into that, you've just got to be able to understand your scheme, understand where your help is and just be locked down the best you can.
Q. You were on the 2016 team, do you remember kind of that offense and how this is similar or different?
TANNER MUSE: Yeah, J.T. Barrett and the boys. Curtis Samuel was their go-to guy. At the time, I think it was [Mike] Weber, Jr. was their running back. I think we had kind of like a key thing on Curtis Samuel because he was obviously one of their better players. And trying to contain J.T. He was a very good guy as well at the time. Just making sure he was -- just take care of them.
Q. How does this offense compare to that one?
TANNER MUSE: It's not the same. By no means. I think they're better in all phases. So we really have to bring it this time just because they're so much better. They're just better in every facet of the game.
Q. What does this matchup mean for Isaiah [Simmons]? I mean, as far as -- just obviously the versatility of the Ohio State offense, especially with the way [Justin] Fields can run the ball? Does having someone like Isaiah on defense factor into trying to neutralize that?
TANNER MUSE: Yes and no. He's obviously featured that in a lot of game plans, but you don't want to bring the same thing. People can't key in on that. They'll adjust and things like that, or they've already adjusted to it, what they think is going to happen. You have got to bring different aspects of the game -- or what you do to your offense. We're definitely going to have to do different things. But he's obviously going to be a big factor in the game. Don't let me tell you he's not. But, yeah, he's going to have to do different things and use him the best we can.
Q. You mentioned route running for the Ohio State receivers. How does that make it difficult on a defensive back? Those can sometimes be tougher matchups than someone who is more athletic but sloppier with their protection.
TANNER MUSE: Definitely. You take a guy like Hunter Renfroe, super crafty. He's probably the hardest guy I've ever covered. He beat me all the time. But he wasn't overly fast. He wasn't overly powerful. He was just super crafty. When you've got guys like that, it just makes it so difficult because they understand your leverage, they understand where they've got to be. It's just really a nightmare.
Q. Tanner, I know the running backs group has honored C.J. [Fuller] and Tyshon [Dye] with the heartbeat shirts. Have you seen those shirts?
TANNER MUSE: I have not seen those shirts, no, sir.
Q. Were you around when those two guys were on the program?
TANNER MUSE: I definitely was around. Tyshon, when I first got here, I had a really crap practice. He said, Hey, man. Keep your head up. Just keep grinding and you'll earn yourself a scholarship. I was so mad. I'm like, Tyshon, I'm on scholarship. And he's like Oh, that's what's up. That's my first interaction with Tyshon. But he's always been nice and super encouraging to me.
And then C.J. as well. He's always bright that light wherever he went, real spirited and just a great guy. It's tough -- it was tough on the guys that were here when they were here. But definitely is very cool people remembering them and honoring them.
Q. Why do you think he didn't think you were on scholarship?
TANNER MUSE: Probably my skin tone and playing safety. You don't see many. But that was kind of his point. I ain't never seen no white boy play safety. Yeah, there's a few of us.
Q. How has them passing, how has that changed your perspective during your time at Clemson?
TANNER MUSE: Them passing, definitely life is precious. C.J. [Fuller] went into surgery, it happened. Tyshon [Dye], just a nice day at the lake. They had so much to give to the community, so much just to give to just everyone they were around opinion.
Q. What's the best thing about having Isaiah Simmons on your defense?
JAMES SKALSKI: He's so versatile, you know? He can cover you. As in, like, if you mess something up a little bit, I mean, you know that guy is behind you flying around. So he's so versatile. He can cover up mistakes quick, and he's just a great player.
Q. How do you see someone like him being especially important in a matchup like this? Ohio State can be versatile as well, what they do offensively between the running game and the passing game. Even with the running game they got [Justin] Fields and [J.K.] Dobbins. How does Isaiah [Simmons] neutralize that?
JAMES SKALSKI: We're going to need him to show up and play well. That's how you win games. Your best players show up and play well. If he just plays his game and does his job, just like all of us, we'll be all right.
Q. I think you're probably already getting questions about respect. And your coaches talked about it, too. Does that factor in a little bit for him, too? Do you feel like Isaiah [Simmons] hasn't maybe gotten his national credit or due as much as he needs it?
JAMES SKALSKI: He's a Butkus Award winner. That's pretty solid, if you ask me.
Q. But he's not maybe a household name the way Chase Young is, for example.
JAMES SKALSKI: Well, that's probably more of a question for him. But, I mean, around South Carolina, around Clemson, I tell you, everyone knows how special he is. That's all that matters at the end of the day.
Q. Ohio State, the way Chase Young plays, can that be something the rest of the team feeds off of? Have there been examples this year where Isaiah [Simmons] has been that kind of factor for you guys?
JAMES SKALSKI: 100%. You see him make plays, and it's just a whole energy. I mean, that's -- that's football in general, man. You've got guys showing up on first down and making big plays. I mean, that's just momentum. Everyone else just feeds off of it. And he's definitely been probably the focal point of that constant this year.
Q. How did the support of the program manifest in those few weeks after your dad passed?
JAMES SKALSKI: Well, I can remember just like yesterday being in the office with Coach [Dabo] Swinney. They were no longer coaches. They were just there for me. Football was out the window, who cares it's about being a man then. They were just rocks in my life at that point. I mean, after that -- something cool about this place, it's football and then it's life, family, and being a man. They are together, but there's a time and place for that. And the rest, you have to do that. And that's going to be the rest of your life, too. And they did such a good job of separating the two and helping me understand how important it is.
Q. Meeting with Coach [Dabo] Swinney and [Brent] Venables, is that when you went back?
JAMES SKALSKI: That's right when I found out. I remember being in his office right then and there. But, yeah. We were preparing for our focus Fridays. And my neighbor had called me and said something had happened right before I was going to go to the team meeting. I didn't think anything of it. And then I thought about what she said, something is wrong. Then I got into the facility and I remember the GAs and stuff are coming up to me and saying, I'm praying for you. They found out after I did.