Steele says his defensive unit still has a "long way to go"

by - Senior Writer -
Safety Rashard has taken on a leadership role for the Clemson defense

AUDIO: Kevin Steele after scrimmage

CLEMSON – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Saturday’s scrimmage was similar to “iron sharpening iron”, but defensive coordinator Kevin Steele says his unit still has a long way to go.

The defense was highlighted by middle linebacker Corico Hawkins Corico Hawkins
5-11, 230
Milledgeville, GA
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’ eight tackles, and freshman defensive end Corey Crawford had a pass batted down, a tackle for loss and an 87-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

Steele admitted that his unit did “some good things” but also needs a lot more work before they are ready to take the field against an opponent.

“We are nowhere near where we need to be,” Steele said. “We’re not close. If we were close, we wouldn’t need this [spring practice.] Take today for example: [Andre] Branch is not here because of a death in his family and Corey Crawford has to step in and play for Branch. He’s been here 10 days. You think he’s ready to do that now? No.

“We’ve got to get better, and we’ve got to get our playmakers making plays. “We have to get better playing our techniques. We are just not there right now. We are in the process, and they are working hard and focused, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. A ton of work to do. We don’t have 11 guys that we could put out there and dominate with right now. It’s our job to get them there and we will. But we don’t have that right now.”

Steele said that defensive tackle Brandon Thompson Brandon Thompson
Defensive Tackle
6-2, 310
Thomasville, GA
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and safety Rashard Hall Rashard Hall
6-2, 200
St. Augustine, FL
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are doing a good job of leading the defense and the younger players.

“If you're talking about leadership, Brandon Thompson is doing a good job of leading, Steele said. “He should. He's started a lot of games. He knows what he's doing and he plays at a high level. He can focus on leading and not lining up in the three technique. That comes natural to him. Rashard Hall is a leader. He knows what he's doing. But like I said, we have a long, long, long way to go."

Steele said that his process entails getting individuals better so that group becomes better.

“It’s all different, because it’s all based on individuals and getting each individual better every day,” he said. “You can't assess the total body. You have to assess if they’re getting better and can we get enough guys over the hump to have a full body. Can we get 15 or 16 or 17 guys that we can put out there and dominate? Yes. But we’ve got a long way to go before we’re ready to play football.”

The lack of depth on the defense – several players that are expected to contribute this fall won’t be on campus until July – means Steele is using the scrimmage situations as teaching mechanisms for the players that are here.

“We’ve got to teach them, let them play, and then watch the game tape to get them to a high level,” he said. “For some, they get it and they understand their technique. Then we have a good bulk of guys that are going to be really good players, but they aren’t ready to play right now. Don’t tell us we have to play right now. But it’s all a process, and that’s just college football.”

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