Tuesdays with Kevin Steele

CLEMSON - Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele talks about this weekend's game versus rival Georgia Tech.


Saturday will be the third time a Clemson defense under Steele will defend Paul Johnson's wing bone triple-option.

"The option game is what it is," Steele said. "It comes at you from all different directions. We're going to have to be very focused, play really well with our eyes…it's the ultimate in eye focus and doing your job."

Although discipline is important against any offense on any given Saturday, it's magnified versus the Georgia Tech, which is predicated on three quick options to choose from—quarterback, dive and pitch.

"When the ball can be three places in a split-second, it can be in the fullback's belly on a dive, it can be in a quarterback's hand or it can be pitched outside," Steele said. "You put a clock on that—it's happening really, really quick.

"You've got to be pretty disciplined and pretty instinctive with your reaction."

"When the ball can be three places in a split-second, it can be in the fullback's belly on a dive, it can be in a quarterback's hand or it can be pitched outside. You put a clock on that—it's happening really, really quick."

The Georgia Tech offense starts and ends with quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, who will be simulated on Clemson's scout team by freshman tight end Vic Beasley. Nesbitt has rushed for 649 yards and eight touchdowns and thrown for 591 yards and six touchdowns.

"The quarterback is the one that drives the show, and he's certainly doing that very well," Steele said.

Nesbitt has seen a 7-point dip in completion percentage and a 30-point drop in his rating.

The passing game has been far less explosive. Nesbitt's yards per completion—10.5 in 2009 is 7.1 in 2010. The current go-to wide receiver, Stephen Hill, leads the Yellow Jackets with 11 receptions for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas, who had 46 for 1,154 and eight touchdowns, averaged 25 yards per catch last season.

Clemson end Da'Quan Bowers will have to continue his senstational play Saturday against the Yellow Jackets in order for Clemson to win. (Roy Philpott)
Georgia Tech is 12 of 22 on fourth-down this season. If the Yellow Jackets don't pick up 10 yards on the first three downs, as long as it's fourth-and-manageable, Johnson won't hesitate to go for the conversion—no matter where the ball is on the field.

Steele said that's a problem because a typical short yardage defense gets beat.

"It's hard to come up with a scheme in their base stuff where you can throw a fastball, curveball, knuckleball, a slider, then you get to short yardage and it's even more limited," he said.

In the two games against Clemson last year, Georgia Tech rushed for a combine total of over 600 yards. Steele said the vast majority of those went to the short-side of the field.

"They did not run to the field at all in the second game. They tried the first game and didn't do it in the second game at all," he said. "They ran probably six plays out there, probably for about three or four yards. Everything came to the boundary."

Steele was pleasantly surprised with the first practice of the week. Before Monday, he wondered how much retention there would be from last season's preparations.

"These are smart guys, I just didn't know it was more important to them sometimes than you think," Steele said.

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