CLEMSON - When Jayron Kearse first saw Clemson in person, he was an Auburn commit, supporting his cousin, West Virginia defensive back Brodrick Jenkins, at the 2012 Orange Bowl.
The south Florida native admitted he couldn't have imagined he'd be starting for Clemson's Tigers in the same game just two years later.
"I got to treat it like any other game," Kearse said. "I'm a freshman, but at the same time, I'm on a team with juniors and seniors out there to help them leave here a legacy. I'm not really going there like I'm a freshman and it's overwhelming - I'm just going to play football."
The South Fort Myers product has two starts under his belt, coming off a career-high 10 tackles against South Carolina. Fifth in snaps among DBs, he's totaled three interceptions and five passes defended.
A summer enrollee, Kearse says his game has transformed by experience.
"I'm a smarter player (now)," he said. "I'm able to diagnose plays before they happen rather than in fall camp when I didn't know much. They'd ask me a question in the meeting room and I couldn't quite give them the best answer.
"Now when they ask a question I'm back with it quick with the right answer and let them know why I think like that."
That development came first from the right work ethic.
"I learned how to practice better and how things off the field can contribute to things on the field," said Kearse. "Can't be a slacker off the field and get on the field and think you can do good. That's what I learned most on the field."
The 6-4 athlete knows he has his work cut out for him with Ohio State's attack, led by dual-threat Braxton Miller. The junior quarterback has a top-15 passer rating and has rushed for over 600 yards in his last four games.
Two words you'll hear plenty from Clemson's back-seven and defensive coordinator up to Jan. 3: eye discipline.
"It's one of the most important things because he can improvise," Kearse said. "I can be dropping back and if I take my eyes off him for one second - he can be taking the ball down and running right up my back. My eyes on him are one of the bigger things I'll do."
The plan, in some regards, is simple for the young Tiger.
"Just basically we have to fly to the ball. My role is I have to give my all every play," said Kearse. "Not really anything in particular, just go out there like I played against South Carolina. It's a running quarterback with a running back that can do some good things.
"It's basically flying to the ball and not letting him get the extra yard after that first contact."