Changing of the guard

CLEMSON - If it wasn't for Clemson's last trip to the Orange Bowl, there's a chance that Brent Venables may not even be working for Dabo Swinney.

No need to recap Kevin Steele's last game as defensive coordinator at Clemson. Venables elected to go the same route when asked for his take on what happened at Sun Life Stadium on Jan. 4, 2012.

"We've been in big games. We've had our back against the wall. We've come off a loss and played well since that time. That was two years ago. It was a long time ago," he said. "There are a number of guys that weren't playing that will play critical roles against these guys.

"All that matters is how we play on Jan. 3, in particular how we practice and our preparation leading up to it."

Clemson's preparation, no doubt, will be heavily focused on the Ohio State ground game, which is headed up by Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde. Venables likened the duo to a backfield tandem that drove many Big XII defensive coordinators crazy nearly a decade ago.

"It's probably a little bit like Vince Young and Cedric Benson when they had that combination, two big, powerful guys," Venables said, "Both with good top-end speed and good power to run between the tackles."

And, according to Venables, the Buckeyes offensive front does a good job of clearing room for Miller and Hyde to operate.

"They've done a good job at recruiting athletic ability there, too. It's a school that always attracts high-level, elite offensive linemen," Venables said. "You're seeing it right now with the veteran group of guys that can both move and knock you off the ball and bloody your nose.

"They play with toughness, admire them for that. They run it down hill. In crucial, crunch-time situations, they're not trying to trick you. They're trying to out power you and out physical you. They've been really successful doing that."

Their matchup with Clemson's defensive front, the tackles in particular, will be among the most intriguing of the night. Earlier this season, Venables called the Tigers' defensive tackles the deepest position group on that side of the ball.

"That's when we had Carlos [Watkins]. We had five of them," Venables said. "So, right now, we have four, about four-and-a-half. Rod [Byers] has done a good job, too, coming along. So, we could make him a fifth guy.

"We're strong there. We're going to need to play our best against these guys." Top Stories