Steele talks about his defense, North Texas offense

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON - Clemson linebacker Corico Hawkins said on Monday that he was going to challenge his teammates on the defensive side of the ball to be the No. 1 rush defense in the nation this season, and Clemson coordinator Kevin Steele was asked on Tuesday if he had heard Hawkins’ comments and what his thoughts were on them.

“You’ll have to talk to Corico about that,” was the response Steele gave to the assembled reporters, and he then backed that up by saying a team has to go and play some snaps against an opponent before you know if that’s a realistic goal or not.

“I guess anything is possible. Somebody’s got to be [number 1], so it’s realistic,” Steele said. “That’s way away- you’re talking about the stuff at the end of the season when we open up the deal and have the banquet and say this happened, this happened, and this happened. We haven’t played one snap. We have to play the first snap effectively, first. We don’t know what we have- we have a new offensive coordinator that comes from South Florida, we have a head coach that called all of his plays and was his own offensive coordinator. They’re together now. What are we going to get? We’re going to get North Texas’ offense, South Florida’s offense, we’re going to get a combination of both. We gotta play three technique, one play at a time and then we’ll total all of that stuff up at the end.”

In talking with many of Clemson’s defensive players throughout camp, each one has said that it’s not about what the offense does, it only matters what the Clemson defense does, and Steele concurred with those statements.

“That’s a fact. Now, we are on to something that’s tangible and that you can control,” Steele said. “And, that is that it does not matter who you play, where you play, what time you play, or the circumstances and environment in which you play- you’ve got to be a defensive football team. If you play in a stadium half full, pouring down rain, cold, no television, that the score’s not even going to be on ESPN, do you play and do your job to dominate? If you do that then you have a chance to be all you can be. The process is it- the process of lining up and doing your job.”

Once the games begin, Steele said there are statistical measures to see how the defense is progressing.

“We’ll talk after the game and see how did it measure up, but that’s hypothetical,” Steele said. “Obviously there’s indicators- rush per carry, yards per attempt, scoreboard at the end - that’s a pretty good indicator, keeping them out of the end zone. Red zone defense -We were not very effective in the red zone. We did some really good things last year, but were not very effective in the red zone defense against certain personnel groups. Against other personnel groupings we were very effective so we had to clean that up and we’ll see how we’ve done with that.”

Steele was asked if the defense was where he wants it to be coming out of camp, and he said he is never satisfied.

“No. I’ve never really been where I want to be- even when I’m at work I want to be on vacation and when I’m on vacation I want to be back at work. I don’t think I’ve ever really been where I want to be.”

If the Tigers are to be better against the run in 2010 than they were at the end of 2009, Saturday’s opener, with North Texas running back Lance Dunbar, will be a good indicator of how far they have come during the offseason.

“He’s good. He’s a real good player,” Steele said. “People don’t realize the parity in college football now. You can go and find a first round draft pick at defensive end at Troy State. There’s always been a way of finding those gems in the history of football, but now it’s pretty prevalent. He’s as good as any back that we’ll face- that’s not to say that aren’t others that are good or great one’s that we’ll face, but he’s special.”

New offensive coordinator Mike Canales coached under the legendary Norm Chow at Brigham Young, and Steele was asked what the differences between the North Texas of last season and what this season’s version might be.

“One’s a lot more motion than the other,” he said. “You can put the North Texas film from last year on and see very little, if any, motions and shifts. The other one, there’s extreme motion- many times 10-15 plays in a row where you’ve got some kind of motion or shift. So the multiplicity of formations and then the changing pre-snap is probably the biggest difference.”

Considering Dunbar’s abilities – he averaged 114 yards per game last season – Steele was asked if he thinks North Texas will throw more in order to keep the Clemson defense from stacking the box against Dunbar.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” he said. “I know what the personality predictors of him says and all of the video. Again, I go back to is it married? Are there two voices on the head set? Is it ‘here are the keys you do it, I’m just going to be the CEO?’ I don’t know what the situation is- we’ll find out pretty quick, I’m sure.”

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