Some of the Ohio State offensive weapons took time Tuesday to talk to the media ahead of the College Football Playoff Semifinal on New Year’s Eve. Lead by quarterback J.T. Barrett, the team is excited to face Clemson football, and expect to be ready for the challenge. Also speaking were offensive coordinator Ed Warinner, running back Mike Weber, offensive guard Billy Price, center Pat Elflein and halfback Curtis Samuel.
The first to speak with the media, the coach said they are striving to be a balanced offense, being able to run and pass it, but that they love their players — including J.T. — and just need to be efficient.
Warinner said he is familiar with Clemson’s defensive scheme and with their coordinator (Brent Venables) specifically, because he’s coached in the Big 12 against him, and then again a few years ago in the Orange Bowl. He did note that Clemson isn’t a team with a lot of tendencies, and them being unpredictable makes it hard to game plan.
The OC was asked if Samuel has been a marked man lately, drawing extra attention. Warinner admitted that teams are definitely aware of where the halfback is in certain situations.
He was also impressed with the young players on the offensive line and the fact that they are making big improvements even at this point in the season. Warinner said, “I like how they prepared. They need to play really well against a talented defensive front.”
The veteran duo of Billy Price and Pat Elflein have a good mindset heading into the semifinal game and have accepted the challenge of playing at a high level. Warinner lauded, “Wow, have they worked hard this December”, citing the amount of time they’ve put in with and without coaches.
They had some help this past week too as former Buckeyes came by to help them practice, including Bobby Carpenter — who ran drills as at OLB — and Zach Boren.
The halfback said there were a lot of talented young guys last year who just didn’t get a chance to play much thanks to the loads of NFL draftees. He quipped “you can’t be mad about it” and is excited to get his chance to step up this year.
Curtis on what he's expecting from Clemson Saturday pic.twitter.com/lU55gO9XIq— Jerod Smalley (@JerodNBC4) December 27, 2016
The center said that their pass protection has “gotten a lot better” since their last regular season game. He also noted that the young lineman have improved and by going against former Ohio State legends and a talented defensive group, they’ve been able to step up their games.
Elflein also said that going from 29 days until kickoff to just 4 really shows how fast time goes and how much everyday really matters.
On playing on one of the biggest stages in college football, Elflein replied, “I know Buckeye Nation will be here, they always travel and have our back.”
Pay Elflein breaks down how the Elf on a Shelf video with him and Billy Price came about pic.twitter.com/kPMmRwDVwv— Eric Seger (@EricSeger33) December 27, 2016
When asked if Ohio State needs to stretch the field, Price was succinct, saying “we just need to execute.”
Price is not underestimating Clemson’s defense. He clearly understands how important it will be for the linemen to get their hands up and really protect their quarterback. He cited their strength and size as possible day-killers for the Buckeyes.
Billy Price on the need to throw the ball well against Clemson pic.twitter.com/MjFil5ACum— Jerod Smalley (@JerodNBC4) December 27, 2016
With so many young players, Price emphasized the importance of leadership and helping keep them focused with so many distractions.
On what makes his quarterback J.T. Barrett unique and what he means to the team, Price said, “The intense passion side of J.T., we live, eat die football, he’s able to reach a lot of people.”
“We’re going to have ups and downs throughout the season,” the running back said on criticism they’ve faced. He said especially in a conference like the Big Ten, you’re not going to win every matchup.
Big players often show up big in games like this. Weber was asked what he thinks will happen Saturday, “I expect a really big game this weekend.” He continued, “I have to rely on my teammates, my offensive line to make that happen.”
Visualization is a big part of Weber’s preparation for games. He said he thinks about it all the time, for pretty much his whole life, and he’ll play like it’s the last game he’ll ever suit up and leave it all out on the field.