Q&A with Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele

by - Senior Writer -
Steele said he was pleased with the way the defense responded in Saturday's fourth quarter

CLEMSON – Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele sat down with the media on Tuesday to talk about the Auburn game, the critical third quarter, and the upcoming game against Miami. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation.

Do you get the feeling that sometimes you’re stuck in 2nd gear?

“What was your reasoning for picking 2nd? It goes back to what we said in the very beginning about the process of becoming a dominant defense. We have to get to where you get out of those highs and lows. If you look at the whole body of work from these first three games, you can put your finger on a lot of different reasons all the way down to when you substitute, and all the way up to execution of a simple call. But, still, somewhere in the middle lies what we’ve got to get out of and I believe we’re headed out of it. There are indicators that we’re headed out of it, but there are still times that we are up and down. Right now, what that makes us is where we were as a total body of work of last year’s defense. Sometimes you look and say, ‘wow, impressive’ and other times you say, ‘whoa, where did that come from, and we’ll get out of it.' We know the reasons, we know our problems, and we know what have to do to get better. We’re starting to feel the true game personality of this defensive unit and how well they execute from a call standpoint. Every year is different, and every team is different. Some teams are blitz teams and others are cover teams. That’s just what they are. I think right now you can call it only what it is. Sometimes we flirt with that inconsistency as a unit, and that’s everyone in the unit. However as Coaches, we have to help them get out of that. We have to help them as coaches with technique, alignment, assignment, execution, calls- it’s all of us together. Right now we are not dominant, and at times we are very ineffective. It’s frustrating, but you can’t just throw your hands up and say it’s frustrating, you have to fix it.”

On the play of defensive end Da’Quan Bowers

“Da’Quan has come to realize that if I know my job and do my job, the plays will come, and I don’t have to go find them. He will be the first to tell you that last year he would go try to find plays and that caused us some problems. This year he’s doing his job. If the play comes he makes it, but if he doesn’t he moves on to the next play. If he keeps progressing, and he’s on the right track, he will be playing at a very, very high level.”

The Critical Third Quarter

“They had a 34-yard over route where we were in position, and we just don’t play the ball. Then you had two stutter-and-goes that were big plays. Those didn’t occur in any of those other drives, and consequently you had first quarter, second quarter, fourth quarter and overtime- 164 yards. Most likely we were just pressing too much, and trying to finish them off.”

Are you pleased with the way they responded after the long play?

“We got out of that lull, and we responded very well. We played some really good football from about the last drive of the third quarter, the whole fourth quarter and all of overtime. If you are a bad football team, you don’t go out there in overtime and get six yards and have to kick a field goal from basically where they started. Those things just don’t happen. You have somebody ring up 21 unanswered points and they are on a roll, and then you have a whole quarter to play. Things suddenly go back to the way they were. You have some 3-and-outs, some 5-and-outs, and-some good football in the fourth quarter. However, in the third quarter, you just say ‘whew’.

Fatigue was not a factor. Those guys played hard, they really played extremely hard. Those guys up front- Brandon Thompson, Jarvis Jenkins, Miguel Chavis, and Rennie Moore, (The four inside guys), they really played some pretty impressive football up inside. When you look at film and you see yardage, it didn’t come between the tackles. Those guys were very effective. A lot of the plays in the first half and the fourth quarter made by Da’Quan [Bowers] or made on the edge by Gilly [Marcus Gilchrist] were made simply because Brandon or Jarvis was in the backfield. They didn’t have anywhere to go but out there. What happens is you start pressing and trying to go do someone else’s job.”

On limiting Auburn quarterback Cam Newton’s running

“He had a scramble on the outside where we lost containment. That’s not design, that’s lost containment. The quarterback draw- the front side player needs to bull rush instead of speed rush and they got a crease in there. I don’t think that anyone would say that Cam Newton’s running won them that game.”

On the Miami Hurricanes

“Receivers, 81 and 85 [Davon Johnson and Leonard Hankerson] are good players. Six and three [Lamar Miller and Travis Benjamin], they’ve got jets, and you better know where they are. They are more of a pro-style offense in that you get more of two backs. They’re very efficient on offense, and their quarterback gives them a chance. He’s got a big league arm, and he throws the ball around. He has really grown up a lot. The offensive line is a typical Miami offensive line, in that it is a big, NFL style type. They ask them to come off and hit you and move you. They’re not all over the place, but it’s very similar to what they were last year. When you watch the Ohio State tape, probably the most impressive thing was their pocket push in the middle, which gave them a chance to affect the passing game. They are a typical, fast team. You have to keep them corralled, and keep them from getting to the edge. They can pop on up inside too.”

On the yardage given up in the Auburn game

“The funny thing about assessing our deal is like when you talk about the stutter-and-go that was so important, the other stutter-and-go didn’t result in a touchdown. The touchdown resulted in an interception by Brewer. There’s too much yardage, but it’s not coming in big chunks. You’d be really shocked at how many of them come from more than 15 yards. There are not many plays that have been above 15 yards. There are 11 runs, and that’s too many, but there are none over 23. Our biggest challenge is turning the 4’s and 5’s into 2’s and 1’s and the 7-8’s in 3.5’s. And, part of that problem is we’re still not tackling crisp- we’re not missing them like we did in the first game, but it’s not as crisp as it was this time last year.”

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