As we continue to preview the Sugar Bowl between Ohio State and Clemson, we now focus on the passing game for the Buckeyes.
We already covered Chris Olave versus Derion Kendrick so the big-play OSU threat won’t be mentioned as much as Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. With Clemson safety Nolan Turner forced to sit the first half due to a targeting call against Notre Dame, Lannden Zanders, and maybe Joseph Charleston will have to rotate at both safety spots until Turner returns in the second half. This matchup is where Ohio State could thrive early in the Sugar Bowl.
Nolan specifically has been playing really good football and has helped himself from probably being an undrafted free agent to a late-round selection. Nolan thrives if he can keep plays in front of him and diagnose the play. Where he struggles is when he’s forced to play man coverage, as his ability to stay on the hip of the receiver still needs some work.
Ohio State can take advantage by forcing the safeties to play man coverage or forcing Clemson to choose which receiver in the zone to play. Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Julian Fleming have the speed to get into the secondary and force these decisions. Justin Fields has to be on the same page as the receivers and see which way Turner shades.
Route combinations will be huge for Ohio State if the offense wants to push the ball downfield in a single shot. Nolan will also at times react to play-action early which would allow for a crossing receiver through his zone. Getting man coverage might be hard to come by, but with the right scheme and playcalling, the Buckeyes could make some hay with Nolan being out, then exploit his blind spots in development when he is in.
Ohio State’s bowl history over the past 20 years