Steele says defense not very good, needs to stop "chunk" plays

by - Senior Writer -
Steele’s defense is 110th in the nation against the run [224.67 yards per game] and 97th in total defense (419 yards per game], yet hasn’t given up a second half touchdown.

CLEMSON – Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said Tuesday that he will be glad, if only for one week, to coach against a traditional offense.

Three weeks into the season, his Tigers have faced the spread, throw-it-all-over-the-yard of Troy, the multiple spread option look of Wofford and the spread misdirection of Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, but this week face the traditional two-back set the Seminoles feature, an easier task for his younger defenders.

"We were at three weeks of three dramatically different looking offenses," Steele said. "So you spend all your time adjusting. It's like writing your English paper for freshman English and you never learned how to read or write. You've got to learn your ABC's first. It's a hard way to learn.

"You take some of those younger guys and you bring them in, they're having to adjust to all this stuff, make all these adjustments in game one, two and three -- they haven't even lined up in base defense yet. That's a hard way to learn."

Steele said because of Clemson’s early start this past Saturday, he went home and watched college football on television, and was amazed that so many defense are having trouble.

“You get these new offenses, and they are doing this [waving hands in front of his face, mimicking players in motion],” he said. “They have five guys lined up over here, and three over here, and they send them in motion and it’s hard for defenses to catch up. And I sat there and I saw a lot of missed tackles, and I was a fan and said, ‘Man, can’t you coach them any better than that?’ “

Steele’s defense is 110th in the nation against the run [224.67 yards per game] and 97th in total defense (419 yards per game], yet hasn’t given up a second half touchdown through the first three contests, and he said it had less to do with halftime adjustments than people would think.

"Really what happens, it’s not some ingenious halftime adjustment. But when you play non-traditional offenses, they change a lot,” he said. “You can't draw it all up. And out of their first 15 plays, there might be nine that we’ve never seen before. After they've shown us what they've done, we've been able to get them on the sideline, tell them to calm down and tell them, 'We're ok.' Which is what we did Saturday. Once our guys have gotten a grasp of how people are trying to attack us, they've executed very well."

The defense has played well the majority of the time, Steele says, but has problems with “chunk” plays that turn into big plays.

“We actually had more chunk plays last year than we do this year,” he said. “But this year, they are going for 57 yards rather than 27 yards. We know what the issues are. The biggest difference is, we played three games with an average of 60 snaps a game. Out of that, probably 168 of those snaps are pretty strong football. And then we've got about 25 snaps of chunk plays.

"We're not a very good defense. The reason we say that, it is what it is. We're not very good and here's why we're not very good. It doesn't mean we don't play 55 really good plays, but good defenses don't play 55 and seven plays don't play with their eyes, don't tackle well, don't take good pursuit angles. You can't sugar coat it. Some of it you can put your finger on and say, 'Young guy,' or 'They got us,' but some of it is that we have to play better with our eyes, play with better technique, coach better and tackle better. Until we get that corrected, we're going to be very, very average."

Other highlights from Steele

On preparing for starter E.J. Manuel or the backup

“Obviously there are differences in the offense if Trickett plays versus Manuel. We'll prepare as if both will play. You don't see the QB runs as much [when Manuel is out]. But he (Trickett) did run the ball. They had a little bit of the Cam Newton-type runs with No. 3 [Manuel]. He is a talented, good football player. He's got speed, now. He can outrun you on the edge. They've got the speed option they run. They run what I call the Newton series where it's a power, but there's a stretch-read off of it, so it's two plays in one."

On FSU offensive line

"This team we're playing is very well coached. They've got a good scheme and they've been coaching it a long time. And I think the guy who coaches their offensive line does an unbelievable job. They're well-coached. They're physical. They make very few mistakes. That goes back forever with his offensive lines. I just think he's a very, very good offensive line coach."

On playing younger players in first two games, but not so much against Auburn

"We made the decision early that we were going to suffer some statistically in the first two weeks, but we felt like we had to get those guys exposed. There will be a time this year when we need to play them. Sometimes there were three or four out there at a time. We didn't do it Saturday and not to take anything away from the first two opponents but it was the defending national champion. So unless it was a fatigue issue, we felt we would keep them out there as much as we could."

On play of Coty SensabaughCoty Sensabaugh
RS Sr. Defensive Back
#15 6-0, 180
Kingsport, TN

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“When you get good on defense – and I said we're not very good right now - as a coach, as a playcaller, you don't worry about that job. It's taken care of. With Coty, [Xavier] Brewer and Rennie [Moore] and really for the most part Andre [Branch] and Brandon [Thompson], those guys, they're really doing their jobs effectively. Coty goes out - and we're asking him to do a lot - and he's stepped up. He's doing his job. He's doing it effectively. And that's a hard way to make a living, out there on that island. When Brandon ThompsonBrandon Thompson
Sr. Defensive Tackle
#98 6-2, 310
Thomasville, GA

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messes up, nobody knows it except us. But when Coty messes up, my mom knows."

On coaching under Bobby Bowden

"Just every day he was a phenomenal guy. People would ask me, 'Does he coach?' Yes. He does. He had an uncanny way of getting his point across without having to prove he was the boss. We had an argument in the staff meeting one time between the defensive ends coach and the running backs coach.
And they were sitting there yelling across the table at each other. I sat at the opposite end of coach Bowden at the other end of the table and I was looking straight at him. So they're arguing and he's just staring down there at me and he says, 'Hey buddy, when I woke up this morning, I thought I was still the head coach here. Did I miss something? Did that change?' After that, you could have heard a pin drop. Most people would have pounded the table and said, 'Shut up and listen. We're going to do this. I don't care what you think.' Not Coach Bowden.”

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