Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables says Clemson will have its hands full this week when it comes to defending receivers.
No. 3 Ohio State heads into the College Football Playoff semifinal Sugar Bowl against the No. 2 Tigers with a top-notch duo of pass-catchers in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.
"This would be the best group of receivers that we've played against this year," Venables said during Monday's Sugar Bowl press conference. "We'll be challenged for sure."
Led by QB Justin Fields, the Buckeyes are averaging over 250 passing yards per game. Olave, a junior, has 528 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 36 catches. His 105..6 yards per game leads the Big Ten, and he had three catches for 50 yards and a touchdown against Clemson in last year's Fiesta Bowl.
"He's a great player. He can take the top off the defense, very savvy, really understands ball and can make all the competitive plays," Venables said. "He's got speed, length, size, toughness, savviness. Chris is a terrific player."
However, he might not be at full strength. Olave missed the Big Ten Championship Game because of COVID-19 protocol, and it's been reported that he had the virus. He has returned to practice, according to a photo posted on social media by athletic director Gene Smith. That's a good sign that he'll suit up Friday, and the Tigers have to expect as much.
The Big Ten recently changed its 21-day protocol to 17, so Olave is eligible to return.
Olave's presence on the field makes this passing game really go, but Wilson, a sophomore, can play as well. The sophomore leads the team in catches (38), yards (628) and yards per catch (14.86). He's also got five TD catches.
Clemson will counter with two of the ACC's best cornerbacks in Derion Kendrick and Andrew Booth Jr., both all-conference selections. It'll take more than just those two to keep OSU from making plays down the field, and the Tigers will be without starting safety and Fiesta Bowl hero Nolan Turner for the first half as he serves a targeting suspension.
Clemson's has had to play a lot of players on the backend because of injuries and suspensions already, and this defense has allowed 10 passing plays to go for 40 or more yards this season. It's a key matchup to keep an eye on Friday night.