Steele expects to see plenty of zone read against Gamecocks

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Raise your hand if you expect to see South Carolina run the zone read Saturday.

Anyone that has watched any football this season knows that the South Carolina Gamecocks run the zone read, and that the Clemson Tiger defense has struggled against running quarterbacks and zone read plays over the last few seasons.

As a result, defensive coordinator Kevin SteeleKevin Steele
Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
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expects to see the play in heavy doses this weekend in Columbia.

"It's their number one play by far and away. It's not even close,” Steele told the media Tuesday afternoon in the WestZone. “The hard thing about it is that we're very multiple on defense and they run it out of a lot of different formations. In five games, they've run it out of 148 different formations. It's up to us to make sure you get the reps of who's going to see what and when.”

Quarterback Conner Shaw will be the engine that drives the Gamecock offense this Saturday, and Steele said it’s easy to see how far Shaw has progressed since taking over in mid-season.

“He didn't start the year as a starter and he's come in and you can see the growth,” Steele said. “But that's not a surprise. Coach Spurrier in my opinion is one of the best offensive coaches I've seen in my career. Part of that is that he's always developed quarterbacks in his own, unique way. It's not a surprise.

"They're not doing as much, but all the components are still there. All of his fingerprints are still there. It's the way it's called. It hasn't changed. What they're doing is what they've always done. They're just calling more of one thing than the other."

Steele said that receiver Alshon Jeffery has had to take a backseat because of the Gamecocks switching offensive philosophies, but is still an extremely dangerous weapon.

"They're running the ball 41 times a game and throwing it 25 times a game,” Steele said. “That's probably the biggest difference. He runs very good routes. He's a huge body, so you have a power forward running the lane on a point guard. And he's got really good ball skills. And by that, I mean he can adjust his body and catch the ball in some unorthodox ways."

Senior corner Coty SensabaughCoty Sensabaugh
Gr. Defensive Back
#15 6-0, 180
Kingsport, TN

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will probably line up on Jeffery most of the afternoon, and Steele was asked how he would coach his defensive backs to defend Jeffery.
"It's all technique,” he said. “You have to become the receiver and judge the ball. From the time the ball is turned loose, you have to have the proper leverage inside or outside. You better have some help sometime."

Steele was asked about the immaturity factor that has been talked about since the loss at North Carolina St. last weekend, and he said it’s simply a case of young athletes having to learn how to juggle their priorities.

“They're young people who have a life and they have an academic structure that they're involved with,” he said. “And they need to focus on academics and graduate. But they have a social life, too. I think as a young person, it's learning how to watch film and study and practice. You can't watch film and study like a fan. You almost have to put yourself in the screen.

“You have to look at it visually and imagine yourself playing that play in several calls. If you do that enough times, when you get into the game, it slows down for you. That's probably the biggest thing, is training these guys on how to watch film."

Steele said he hopes to build on what was a very good first quarter against the Wolfpack.

"In all fairness, the first quarter of that game, it was the best defense this defense has played,” he said. “The first 26 plays of that game, four punts, two sacks, two quarterback pressures, two passes broken up, we stopped the run, 3.1 yards per carry - the best they've played. Now , from the 26th play on, we went out there with a pretty short field and our job is to put that fire out and keep it out.

"Our guys are confident. They watch football from a technical standpoint, not from an external standpoint. One of the questions is that, 'Coach you couldn't get off the field, why not?' Well, they punted eight times. We had five or six three and outs. Some things get lost if you're not careful. You look at the scoreboard and you pause. I can't control when we go out there. All we can do is get off the field. Now, having said all that, when you're in the red zone, you do need to force field goals or turnovers. That's a fact."

He said that one thing he can’t afford to do is put too much emphasis on the rivalry aspect of this game, or more important details will get lost in the shuffle, such as the zone read.

"I am from [Dillon] South Carolina. I graduated from high school here,” he said. “This is why you get into the business. I grew up in two states, Alabama and South Carolina. I know full well what it means and I know what it means to people in this state. That's the fun of it. Having said that, that's not really something we worry about from a coaching standpoint. We have to worry about alignment, assignment and technique. If you go into the meeting room talking about the history of the rivalry, you probably should have been talking about the zone read. But yes, we do get that. There are enough people in that room who get that, like players who went to school in this state."

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