Steele pleased with unit despite missing key components

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said he turned around early in Saturday’s scrimmage in Death Valley, and wondered who he was going to play.

Five key players were already missing from his defense, and a sixth went out early enough in the day that he wondered if he would find enough healthy bodies to challenge Chad Morris’ offense.

Defensive end Kourtnei Brown and safety Rashard Hall were not available because of graduation, bandit end Andre Branch is still out with a head injury, cornerback Xavier Brewer is nursing a leg injury and defensive back Garry Peters suffered a bruised calf in practice late last week. Then, Steele learned that starting safety Jonathan Meeks suffered an early injury that would keep him out the rest of the scrimmage.

“We were already missing some guys, and then they come over and tell me Meeks is done, and I was like ‘whoa’ because then I had to scramble to put guys out there,” Steele said. “Overall, at the first scrimmage of fall camp what you have to be careful of is evaluating the result of a situation, the frustration of the completion of a pass, you’ve got to look at the individuals. That trainer puts it down that you have lost another one back there, but that could happen during the season. We have a lot of moving parts right now, and today Andre, Rashard, and Xavier weren’t there today and Jonathan went down, so four starters were out so you’ve got to not think about that and look at each individual player and evaluate how they’re doing which is hard to do. You have to say ‘How is Rennie playing? How is Brandon playing?’ And that is difficult to do at that time.”

He was asked how Thompson and Moore performed – especially against the run – and he said that they were “effective.”

“Brandon and Rennie, I think the video is going to show were effective,” Steele said. “We’ve got to get a little bit better at pushing the pocket in our pass rush with those guys up front.”

Another player that has drawn raves during fall camp is strongside defensive end Malliciah Goodman – from players and coaches alike – and Steele said nothing changed Saturday.

“I thought Malliciah played exceptionally well today,” he said. “He brought his ‘A’ game today and played really well, I still have to evaluate his film, but he definitely impressed me. He has mastered the technique at the position and is really playing well with his hands. His footwork and power are both good and he’s just really playing well right now.”

Steele said Corico Hawkins, Quandon Christian and Tig Willard took most of the rotations with the first team, but he also sprinkled in the freshmen where he could.

“We had a rotation of linebackers. We roll those guys,” Steele said. “Quandon, Corico and Tig got most of the one work, but occasionally we would throw a B.J. [Goodson], a Stephone [Anthony], a Tony [Steward] in there with the twos. We loaded those young ones up. They made some mistakes. Like one mistake that Tony made was costly- a 30 yard gain. He knew what he had. He just let his eyes drift on it. When he realized that he made a mistake, you saw a jet kick on. It was like 'whoa'. Marion Hobby, the defensive line coach, grabbed me and said, 'Coach did you see that?' Yeah. I saw it.”

Steele said he was actually pleased with how his shorthanded defense played against the run.

“We actually allowed about a 19 or 20-yard run on the first play,” Steele said. “But, the first team offense only averaged 3.4 per rush and the second team only 1.4 per rush. But we allowed some catches because we tightened up our coverages out there. We would not have to do that if we had those other guys in there. We had [Kantrell] Brown and [Carlton] Lewis with the ones for a while, and with the twos we had Robert [Smith] and then Lewis and Brown had to go with that, too.”

He said he would also have liked to have seen better tackling from his squad, but overall he was pleased with how the defense responded.

“They’ve got a good focus,” Steele said. “We’ve really got some talented guys that we’ve got to get ready through repetitions like today and put all of the moving parts together. We’ve got some good moving parts but we’ve just got to get it all together.”

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