McDaniel on Newton: "We just have to hit him. Hit him as much as we can."

by - Senior Writer -
McDaniel and his defensive teammates will install the game plan during Tuesday night's practice
McDaniel and his defensive teammates will install the game plan during Tuesday night's practice

CLEMSON – Clemson players and coaches met with the media in the West Zone on Tuesday, and the main topic of conversation, at least from a Clemson defensive standpoint, centered on how to stop Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton is the transfer – he played at Florida behind Tim Tebow before transferring to a junior college last season – who at 6-foot-6 and over 250 pounds might be the biggest quarterback Clemson has ever played against.

Newton possesses a strong arm, but also has the ability to gain yards with his legs, a big reason why he is currently second in the SEC in rushing yards per game. He is the sixth-most efficient passer in the country with a 186.51 rating, and is averaging a little over 120 yards per contest on the ground.

Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers admitted that the Tigers will have to play disciplined against a player with Newton’s ability, but also said that should be the case every week.

“Our defense is disciplined for every team- it’s no different for North Texas or Presbyterian,” Bowers said. “It’s basically me doing my job and everybody else doing their jobs and it’ll be good. We’re just going to play our game. We can’t worry about him scrambling a whole lot. When you worry about things, that’s when things seem to happen.

“We’re going to go out there and play great football, have a nasty attitude, play hard and physical and try to handle the game. We can’t put all of our focus on Cam Newton because that’s when the other daggers start to hit. We just have to come out and play good defense and handle business with everyone.”

Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said the Tigers will have to tackle better than they did in week one if they want to stop Newton.

“He’s a big guy carrying the ball. He’s strong,” Steele said. “He’s powerful. He’s got good cutting ability. It’s almost like he’s got very good vision in his running ability. He feels it. Your tackling technique has got to change a little bit. You still run through the man. You still lock up, but when the opportunity presents itself to hit a quarterback, you hit him, regardless of who it is.”

Steele said that it isn’t the designed running plays that make Newton so dangerous – it’s when the play breaks down and he begins to ad lib.

“Where it becomes an issue is when it’s a scramble,” Steele said. “That becomes an issue. Now, when you’ve got guys in coverage and you have a pass rush and he gets through the pass rush, there’s obviously a difference. “

Safety DeAndre McDaniel said the game plan against Newton should be pretty simple.
“We just have to hit him,” McDaniel said. “We have to wrap up when we hit him, but we just gotta to hit him. Hit him as much as we can.”

McDaniel said that while Newton presents intimidating size for a quarterback, the Clemson defense just needs to “do their job.”

“He’s very big and very athletic,” McDaniel said. “From what we’ve seen, he’s a very good quarterback- we give him a lot of praise. We just have to go out there and do our job and make sure we get him down to the ground. For him to be so big, he’s very athletic. He can throw the ball and he can run the ball.

“But it’s not scary at all as long we go out there and do our job. If we don’t do our job, then it could be very scary. We are going into this game with the mindset of everybody doing their job. As long as everybody goes out and does their job, this could be a great game for us.”

McDaniel played 80 snaps and tallied 11 tackles in the opener against North Texas, but played just 25 snaps [with three tackles] against Presbyterian, and admitted that Saturday will be his kind of game.

“I would be pretty key in this game. It’s a game that big-time players step up in,” he said. “This is just a normal week for us. We are just going to go into this game and do our jobs. We are Clemson- we just go out to play Clemson football. We’re going to see Auburn like any other opponent. It’s just another game- it’s game three. We’re going to take it week-by-week and game-by-game; they’re just our next opponent.”

*Steele admitted that he has been working long and hard on the game plan for Auburn, saying at one point that “I think I passed myself coming into work yesterday” as he tries to prepare for the offense of Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

Steele was asked if the offense is comparable to any other’s he’s coached against, and he said that the system is similar to the one that current Michigan coach [and former Clemson offensive coordinator] Rich Rodriguez runs.

“Rodriguez was a lot like that,” Steele said. “He had a lot of different stuff, very fast tempo. It reminds me of Canada where they got 12 men.”

Malzahn likes for this offense to have a quick tempo, but Steele said that it’s not like the faster pace is something Clemson hasn’t seen before.

"You see a lot of that. It's not like something you'll walk into and say, 'Oh geez, we've played 11 huddle up teams and our teams huddle up.' We play a lot of teams who don't huddle. That helps a bunch. It's not like the old days. They are faster than normal. They are very, very fast. You have to practice the best you can. It's all about reps in practice, too. You can't get 150 reps and then walk into the stadium with dead legs because you tried to show something all week long on the scout team.

“They do go faster and you have to think ahead. You have to know what you're going to do in certain situations and the players need to know. Fortunately we've got an older group of guys. I think we'll be okay in that. Where it really messes you up is if you're in the red zone and the ball has gone to the 16 to the 3 on one snap and it's a totally different deal."

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