Steele moves Branch to linebacker out of necessity, but move pays off

by - Senior Writer -
Steele moved defensive end Andre Branch to the weakside linebacker spot for the game.

CLEMSON – Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, fresh off his defense’s hard work against Georgia Tech’s option attack, smiled for the first time in weeks and had the quote of the day when he was asked how it felt to see his defense play so well.

“I guess I finally grew a brain today,” he joked to reporters in the hallway outside of the Clemson locker room. “But the players did this. They did this. They executed the scheme and played hard. I'm really happy for them."

The Yellow Jackets mustered a decent 242 yards on the ground, but only out gained the Tigers by six yards. Tech was 6-of-16 on third down, lost the time of possession battle, and quarterback Josh Nesbitt was held to just two yards rushing on 15 attempts.

Nesbitt had rushed for 100 yards or more in all but one game this season.

“The coaches did a good job of showing the players what was expected of them, and the players went out and executed and did exactly what we asked them to do. And it is unlikely that anyone would say they ever dreamed you would hold their quarterback to 15 carries for two yard. Nobody would have ever said that,”

Steele moved defensive end Andre Branch to the weakside linebacker spot for the game, and frequently employed a 3-4 scheme instead of the usual 4-3, which seemed to keep the Yellow Jackets off balance, especially early.

He said that moving Branch to linebacker was a move made out of necessity.

“What happened is that Brandon [Maye] missed Monday practice, Tuesday practice and most of Wednesday practice,” Steele said of the regular weakside linebacker. “Tig [Willard] has this arm injury, and you don’t know how much you will get out of him. Quandon [Christian] missed a whole day of practice this week.

“So I don’t know if anybody noticed it or not, but Carlton Lewis actually played SAM linebacker. So we used a safety at linebacker, and a defensive end at linebacker. We were limited in the number of bodies we had to practice. Against this offense, it is such a rep thing. Now these guys were ready to play on game day, but they had not had the repetitions on what is basically a foreign subject in the option.”

Clemson’s defensive line was solid – three of the top four leading tacklers were defensive linemen – and Steele said that the disruptive play of the line set the tone for the entire defense.

“We had challenged the guys to dominate up front,” he said. “It all starts up front. Everybody knows that. Da'Quan, Malliciah [Goodman], Kourtnei Brown, Jarvis Jenkins,
Rennie Moore, [Miguel] Chavis and Brandon Thompson - those guys, that's where it starts and they made sure it started and continued throughout the game."

Bowers was third on the team with seven tackles, and even threw in a sack against Nesbitt, his 10th of the season, a fact that Steele mentioned after the game.

“We were walking down the hall on Monday, and me and Coach Harbison and Coach Rumph saw Da’Quan,” Steele said. “I said ‘Hey Da’Quan, you got this sack machine going, do you think you are going to get any this week?’ And he said “Whatever, it doesn’t matter.’ And then he went out and got one. He just continues to elevate his game.”

Bowers said he took particular satisfaction in the win.

“It is all about being patient,” Bowers said. “We had to keep putting them in passing situations. We played technique ball. Everyone did their job and we were able to get stops. These guys gave great effort. There was a lot of emotion put into this game. We cut their offense short and gave our offense more chances to score. We all had a chip on our shoulder after the ACC Championship last year, and it feels good to get it off.”

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