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Clemson’s Lawson believes Tigers can take advantage of young Oklahoma OL

VIDEO: Shaq Lawson at Orange Bowl Media Day

Defensive end responds to talk that the Clemson defense isn't what it was last year
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Defensive end responds to talk that the Clemson defense isn't what it was last year

Oklahoma offensive players have stated that they do not believe Clemson’s 2015 defense is as good as last year’s unit. Tigers defensive end Shaq Lawson feels the same way about the Sooners’ offensive line.

“We see that they had a better offensive line last year than they did this year,” Lawson said during Tuesday’s Orange Bowl Media Day. “They feel like that about our defense, and I feel like that about their offensive line. They’ve got two freshmen trying to go against two veteran players. So we’ll be ready to play.”

The junior, who has already announced his plans to enter the NFL Draft, leads Clemson with 22 1/2 tackles for loss and 9 1/2 sacks. On the other side is redshirt junior Kevin Dodd, who has 15 tackles for loss and eight sacks.

Oklahoma starts redshirt freshman Orlando Brown at left tackle and true freshman Dru Samia at right tackle.

Sooners offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley knows that blocking Lawson and Dodd with two freshmen is a big challenge.

“There’s always concern, but I’m confident in our guys. We’ve blocked some pretty good players,” he said. “We know it’s going to be as big a test as we’ve had all year against these guys, but we think our guys up front will be a pretty good test for them, too.”

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TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

Clemson players have made sure to enjoy their time in Miami, but they also are well aware that they are on a business trip first and foremost.

“I think there’s a time to have fun, and there’s a time to take care of your business,” safety T.J. Green said. “In practice, we’re focused in and locked in on our plan and preparing for Oklahoma. When practice is over, we go and try to enjoy ourselves.”

Not all Tigers players are going out, though. Dodd, who is 23 years old, said as an older player he is spending most of his down time in his hotel room watching TV and letting his legs relax.

FOCUSING ON FOOTBALL

Tigers safety Jayron Kearse, who is from South Florida, said he has had several friends and family members reach out asking for tickets. He is focusing on football, though, and letting others handle potential distractions.

“I’m really not focusing on the tickets,” Kearse said. “I’m letting my mom handle the tickets, and I’m just worrying about football.”

Another potential distraction is NFL Draft talk, and while Kearse said he has a decision made, he is waiting to go public.

Fellow defensive back Mackensie Alexander, who is also from South Florida, is also focusing on football and not the draft. However, Alexander said he has yet to make a decision.

“Me and Coach (Dabo) Swinney talked and we’re just going to focus on the game. No decision has been made yet. I haven’t made my decision yet,” he said. “I’m at Clemson. I’m enjoying it. I’m here with my teammates right now. That’s all that matters.”

BIG OPPORTUNITY

Alexander said Clemson is not respected nationally the way Oklahoma is because the Sooners have more tradition.

He believes the Tigers can go a long way toward changing that with a win in the College Football Playoff Semifinal and eventually with a national title.

“We’ve been knocking on the door for a long time here at Clemson, and I don’t think, as far as brand-wise, everybody respects the Clemson brand,” he said. “That’s going to be big for us to come out here and get this ‘W’ and win the title.”

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