Last week's open date allowed him to take a step back and evaluate where the defense stands through three games.
"I think it gave us some time to assess some things and make a couple of changes that we feel like can help us—not drastic changes," Steele said. "And then work on fundamentals and technique. [We] had a good week last week."
He indicated that the level of competition was cranked up a notch during last week's practices.
"Tweaks in the scheme and getting some guys—make sure we're getting some snaps to the right guys. And to be quite frank—to create a situation where you do your job or somebody else will," Steele said.
Against the run, Clemson ranks 96th in the country—giving up an average of 184.7 yards per game. The Tigers' pass defense is 64th at 203.7 yards. Scoring-wise, the defense is has allowed just over 19 points a game, which is 43rd.
"Of course, the challenge this week [it's] the conference opener. Again, it's what many people think is the best team at this point in the league, in Miami," Steele said.
And the Hurricanes' quarterback is regarded as one of the league's most talented. Junior Jacory Harris has completed 55 of 86 passes for 690 yards and 6 touchdowns through three games. He's fifth in the ACC with a 140.4 pass efficiency rating.
Steele said one of the biggest in keys in slowing down a pro-style offense is upsetting the quarterback's timing. He added that sacks aren't the only measuring stick of doing just that.
But Clemson is 10th in the nation with 3.3 sacks a game.
"You've got to disguise your coverages and make sure that he doesn't get into the rhythm of knowing what he's seeing coverage-wise and make the reads on him," Steele said. "You've got to push the pocket and get people back in his lap. When opportunity presents itself, you've got to get him on the ground."
Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple runs a very balanced attack. The Hurricanes have attempted 97 passes and run 99 plays on the ground.
"They're balanced in what they do. They're running the ball effectively with [Damien Berry] having the most right now," Steele said.
Berry's rushed for 226 yards and a touchdown. Lamar Miller is second on the team with 104 yards and leads the team with his two scores on the ground.
And the wide receivers all possess the speed that's expected of the skill players at ‘The U'. Leonard Hankerson leads the team with 16 receptions for 241 yards and 3 touchdowns. LaRon Byrd has 12 catches for 118 yards and Travis Benjamin has 10 for 158 and a score. Benjamin's 15.8 yards per reception is best on the team.
"They have wide receivers that are good players that are big play receivers and a quarterback that fits their offense," Steele said. "They've got an NFL-style offense. He's an NFL-style quarterback and he can make the big throws. Obviously, we've got a big challenge."
Tuesdays with Kevin Steele
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