New Defensive Coordinator Steele Talks About Changes to Defense in 2009

by - Senior Writer -

When the search began for a new defensive coordinator, and philosophy for his Clemson football team, head coach Dabo Swinney made it no secret that he was looking for an in-your-face, physical approach that would be reminiscent of Clemson’s defensive past.

Swinney also mentioned his alma mater, Alabama, and their physical approach to defense, so it was no surprise when he hired Kevin Steele away from the Crimson Tide and brought him to Clemson, where he was given the reins to an athletic defense. He will also coach inside linebackers.

However, Steele said he wanted to make it clear that there won’t be any wholesale changes to what was a pretty good Clemson defense in 2008.

“Before I do anything here I want to make sure that everyone clearly understands that this thing is not broke,” Steele said to the media last week. “They were pretty good here on defense. They had a good coach, they were well coached, and they had a good scheme. But obviously there has been a change.”

Steele spent two seasons in Tuscaloosa, where he was the defensive coordinator in 2007 before assuming the title of Associate Head Coach and Head Coach of the Defense for the 2008 season. Alabama finished the regular season with a 12-0 record and won the Western Division Championship of the Southeastern Conference.

The Tide ranked third in the nation in total defense (256.9), fourth in rushing defense (78.9), sixth in scoring defense (13.0), and 13th in pass efficiency defense (101.6) at the end of the regular season, and led the SEC in rushing defense and total defense.

At Clemson, Steele said some of the change will be in the way the Tigers line up against certain teams and formations and the way certain personnel will be used. DeAndre McDaniel, who lined up strongside linebacker under former coordinator Vic Koenning, will move back to safety, falling back into the “SAM” role when opposing offenses show three- or four-receiver sets.

Steele also mentioned that his defense will line up predicated on what the opposing offense shows.

“Last year, they were more predicated on the boundary and what sides of the field,” Steele said. “This year, we will be more formation oriented in terms of alignment.”

Steele also said that he likes to put pressure on the quarterback, but will also let certain conditions on the field dictate when the blitz will happen.

“The blitz will be according to down and distance, who is the quarterback, and what is the score,” he said. “I like to blitz because that is my personality, but you will not coach defense long if you blitz Peyton Manning just because you like to blitz. He will get it to that guy right now and to that guy right now, and then your owner will be saying, ‘Come here.’

“It is not a matter of what you like and what you don’t like. I’m like a lot of people who watch football. I like a lot of pressure. It is fun and it creates a lot of things and sometime it is not so good. Particularly if you have a team that understands protection and is good across the board protection-wise.”

Steele also said he will be keeping an eye on the linebackers this spring, with Scotty Cooper getting the nod at the SAM backer spot.

“We are going to start there with Scotty, but nothing is etched in stone,” he said. “We have to figure out which one is going to be the best fit. He needs to be versatile, and play the run as well as be a blitzer. You can watch all the tape you want, and go out there and run around in practice, but until you buckle that chin strap and go man-on-man, you don’t know anything yet. “

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