Clemson Defense Ready to Get Nasty

by - Senior Writer -
Photos by Fotoman [Aug 17th Practice Gallery]

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney hired defensive coordinator Kevin Steele away from the Alabama Crimson Tide at the end of last season, and immediately tasked the 51-year old Dillon native with making the Tiger defense unit a feared unit in the league.

So far, so good, at least if you listen to the reviews of Clemson’s offensive players, who frequently use one word to describe their defensive teammates: Nasty.

And that is just fine with Steele, who wants his collection of defensive talent to be known as the nastiest group in the Atlantic Coast Conference, if not the nation.

”Playing good defense is all about effort, tackling and persistence,” Steele said after a recent scrimmage. “We want them to be known as relentless and persistent, of being a nasty team on defense. We are not talking dirty, just where you are ready to play whether it is eight degrees or 98 degrees. You have to be ready to play whether it is out in the street or in the field. We have told them it will be more about what we do than what the other team does.”

Steele laughed when he was asked if the defense was ready to take the field against Middle Tennessee in two weeks, and said the process is almost complete, but not quite.

”It is a process, and we are not ready to play anybody yet,” Steele said. “That is our focus and our goal, but we have to get the details down. We are working them hard physically, but there are still a lot of things to work out mentally. We have to run a long race, but we are just a couple of days into it, and we are not ready for the starting gun yet.”

Steele said that the players have been picking up his defense at a rapid rate, and he has found that throwing it at the players fast rather than in small portions get them ready to play in a shorter amount of time.

”It changes from day to day, but this has been a pretty rapid install,” he said. “Some people give them a little and then let them work on that until they get it perfect. But I have found out in years past that when you do that you come up short. We kind of throw it against the wall, and hope it sticks. If it doesn’t, we stick it back in the bucket and stick it back in there at a later date. We are on pace to be ready, though. “

Steele has made some pretty impressive stops during his coaching career and has coached a number of All-Americans and future NFL greats, and once again doesn’t have to rebuild a defense, just tweak the talent that was already on hand.

”I’ve been pretty lucky, because when you coach at FSU, Nebraska, Tennessee, Alabama and the Carolina Panthers, you don’t have to rebuild a lot,” Steele said. “This is no different. These guys are special and they have a lot of ability. But ability won’t win you any games. It is that attention to detail, the effort, and the persistence. I have been pleased with how this group has progressed. They are practicing like professionals.”

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