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?
BRENT VENABLES: I got broken into coaching going against Nebraska mid-’90s.
Q. That was pretty tough, too.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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. 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?
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 did you see in Trevor [Lawrence]? There’s still friendships and relationships. How was that transition for you guys?
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?
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?
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. You read that article about Trevor ran 20.6 miles an hour in the championship game. Who’s the fastest guy on the team?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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. Are you guys preparing a lot of use from Notre Dame’s tight ends, maybe multiple at the same time?
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.