Fairfield alum preparing to battle Heisman finalist in Ohio State-Clemson matchup

Jackson Carman meets with the media during Fiesta Bowl preparations Thursday.
Jackson Carman meets with the media during Fiesta Bowl preparations Thursday.

Leading up to the College Football Playoff semifinal game between Ohio State and Clemson, perhaps the most talked about Ohioan is not a Buckeye.

That’s what happens when you take the road less traveled and it leads back to a showdown with a familiar foe within two years — especially if you are a little over 48 hours away from lining up across from Chase Young.

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That is reality this week for Jackson Carman, a Clemson offensive tackle who starred at Fairfield High School.

A five-star recruit in the class of 2018, Carman signed with the Tigers two years ago and has not looked back.

“I don’t really feel any way towards it, honestly,” he said when asked to reflect on forging his own path rather than follow the majority of the Buckeye State’s best prospects and don scarlet and gray. “I don’t really think about that.”

He has thought plenty about Young, though, and that should come as no surprise.

Carman, who is listed at 6-foot-5, 345 pounds on the Clemson roster, probably has not met his physical match many times on a football field.

Neither has Young, a junior who has already been named the best defensive player in college football by multiple organizations, the Big Ten’s most valuable player and an unanimous All-American, so all eyes figure to be on the pair Saturday night in a matchup that could go a long way toward deciding who advances to the national championship game.

“Usually people who are athletic specimens like him aren’t necessarily the most refined in their technique because they had the ability to rely on being better than everyone else physically,” Carman said, “but he’s really done a great job with his technique and his coaching and being able to just go to work with his hands and find where you’re leaning, find when you’re oversetting. He can really take advantage of that really easily so he’s a great physical specimen, and he’s a great technical player.”

While Carman said he has watched more hours of film than he could count, Young has previewed the sophomore as well.

“He’s definitely pretty good,” Young said Thursday. “He’s shown he’s going to be a really good tackle in the future, but I feel like the whole environment of the game is going to be exciting so I’ll just be pumped up for that.”

Earlier in the week, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott both said Carman is excited for the chance to prove himself against Young, and Elliott praised Carman for how he has developed off the field in the past year.

“Jackson has really matured,” Elliott said. “Not that he was in a bad situation, but he’s really just taken ownership. He’s not relying on his talent. He’s starting to focus on the details and the fundamentals. He’s an extremely smart young man. Sometimes when you’re smart, sometimes you overthink things and you try to do too much. That’s what I’ve seen the biggest in him. He’s not overthinking things. He’s really trusting his technique, and he’s not just relying on talent. That’s a tribute to the maturity that’s taken place over the last year with him.”

Carman confirmed he feels his technique has improved, but he feels he is far from a finish product.

“The thing about o-line play — especially if you talk to the best of the best like the Joe Thomases of the world and all those guys — their technique is never good enough,” he said, referencing a former Browns All-Pro. “You know what I mean? You’re always, always, always developing and coming up with new stuff or training. I bet those guys at those levels have probably taken millions of pass sets and probably another million haven’t even been live, just like thinking about it so my technique is still development, but I feel comfortable where I’m at going into this game.”

He also feels good about becoming a Tiger two years ago, a decision that has turned out even better than he envisioned.

“It’s actually way more way more incredible than I thought it was going to be,” he said, noting Clemson’s 28-0 record since he joined the squad.

That includes a national championship last season and a shot at another one upcoming.

“Inside out of the program, coach Swinney does a great job providing that environment for people to grow and flourish,” Carman said. “Just the way we go about doing things, this is great. I couldn’t have dreamed I would be in the position I am right now starting for a national championship team, going into another game undefeated, it’s just crazy.”

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