'Sign Stealing' Still Hot Topic Despite Clemson's Sugar Bow Loss

Sign stealing has been a hot topic when it comes to the Clemson Tigers success on the defensive side of the ball in recent years.

Very few teams have been as consistent on the defensive side of the ball as Clemson has been since the arrival of Brent Venables. 

The 2020 season will be the first time one of Venables' units has finished outside of the top-ten in total defense since 2014. However, with that kind of success, there will always be detractors. 

Multiple coaches have accused the Tigers of "stealing signs" over the last few years and in the lead-up to the Sugar Bowl, it was once again a hot topic after Ohio State head coach Ryan Day made a comment many assumed referred to Clemson staff's ability to know what play the opposing offense was running.

“He seems to always know exactly what the other team is doing in terms of the plays that they’re running each play and seems to call the right defense into that play a lot," Day said. "Why that is, I don’t really know. But I can tell you that he’s been doing it for a long time, and it’s a good challenge.”

It should be pointed out that there is nothing against the rules when it comes to stealing an opponent's signals. It is a practice that has been going on since teams actually started using them to relay plays in. 

On his most recent podcast, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit even goes as far to say that he doesn't think that is what Day was referring to with his comments.

"Some people interpreted that as ‘he’s stealing signs,'" Herbstreit said. "I think Ryan Day was just saying, ‘Listen he’s very good. His guys are all in-tune with him, checking over to the sideline, trying to make sure everyone’s on the same page.'"

Either way, Herbstreit says the Buckeyes came in with a brilliant plan that kept the Clemson defense on its heels all night long in New Orleans. The Tigers got caught out of position frequently and at times just look confused, resulting in what was a dominating 49-28 win for Ohio State.

"Well, he came up with some wrinkles of trying to change his tempo," Herbstreit said. "Sometimes he’d go really fast. Sometimes he would wait and they’d be looking over to the sidelines, and then under 10 seconds, call, boom, line of scrimmage fast, and snap the ball."