And so is Jarvis Jenkins, the guy who Steele is most worried about replacing.
"Probably the biggest thing that concerns me, and us as a staff, is Jarvis Jenkins inside commanding double teams pretty much all year long," Steele said. "You put 98 on one side—Brandon Thompson—and command double teams on both sides of the ball. That's four guys on two, and we're able to handle the rest."
Fortunately for Steele, Thompson is back.
"Obviously having Brandon back at nose, that's a big plus, because it starts inside. We'll be good there," Steele said.
Rennie Moore is, too. He'll start in Jenkins' old spot.
"It'll be a big spring to see the next three sort out in [Tyler] Shatley, [Tra] Watson and Tra Thomas," Steele said. "That'll be huge. If we get it sorted out and they step up, we'll be in good shape. If we can't, we've got some young guys that are not on campus yet. One of those guys will have to step up."
One of the other new faces around the program, defensive ends coach Marion Hobby, was hired to replace Chris Rumph, who jumped ship for Alabama.
"He did a great job. We miss him personally," Steele said of Rumph. "As a coach, he did a great job for us.
"The addition of Marion Hobby at that position is a good addition."
The hire marks Hobby's second stint at Clemson. After working as the Tigers' defensive line coach in 2005, he coached for the New Orleans Saints and served as defensive coordinator at Duke.
"He's really kind of a returning starter. We kind of know what he can do. He's a very, very good technician," Steele said of Malliciah Goodman. (Roy Philpott)
"We're going to miss Da'Quan. He is obviously one of the better players to play college football in the last couple of years, at his position," Steele said. "I've told people, you don't replace a Da'Quan Bowers. You don't replace him, but maybe two or three people can. Then, through the scheme of things, we can move things around, adjust things.
"All of that production doesn't have to come from one guy, one position."
It'll start with Malliciah Goodman.
"He's really kind of a returning starter. We kind of know what he can do. He's a very, very good technician," Steele said. "That's the big plus with him. He's very athletic. He's very smart. But you can make a clinic teaching tape off his last year game tape."
Kourtnei Brown was moved from bandit end to defensive end with Goodman and Tavaris Barnes.
"[Brown] just a little more suited to be on the side where Malliciah is. That was not an option when Da'Quan was there, because that would have been three guys over there," Steele said.
Barnes would move inside to tackle on passing situations.
"We're going to ask him to move around some, simply because he's a smart guy, a smart football player," Steele said. "And he has the body type and athleticism to play more than one place."
Andre Branch and Corey Crawford are left at the bandit end.
"If we were going to get off the bus, we'd want [Crawford] to be one of the first two or three…he is a physically impressive looking young man. Athletically, impressive," Steele said.
More and more over the course of last season, Christian worked in at one of the linebacker spots in the nickel package. (Roy Philpott)
"He's very instinctive. He understands what he's doing. He does not bust things. He's a smart football player," Steele said.
Justin Parker will continue to work on the strong-side and as part of the nickel package.
Corico Hawkins and Spencer Shuey are back in the middle. Shuey will cross-train at bandit end, "simply to get him more snaps."
Jonathan Willard and Victor Beasley are on the weak-side. Beasley was moved from tight end to linebacker at the conclusion of the 2010 season.
Willard, who suffered an arm injury through much of last season, is fully healthy heading into the spring.
"What we've got to get accomplished is simply the base fundamentals. It's all about the process," Steele said.
"Obviously that's three pretty capable guys in the secondary. We're blessed in that we've got a lot of guys back," Steele said.
Xavier Brewer is in line to take over as the nickel back, in place of Gilchrist.
"He's got that [Gilchrist] approach. He's a pro about it. He understands what we're trying to accomplish," Steele said. "He knows how to get other people lined up. He can make the checks. From that regard, we're hoping that he keeps migrating to the role that [Gilchrist] had. We feel like he's headed that way fast."
Brewer and Coty Sensabaugh are expected to start at cornerback. Behind them are Garry Peters, Bashaud Breeland, Darius Robinson and Martin Jenkins.
Hall, a two-year starter, continues to be one of the more tireless workers on the roster. (Roy Philpott)
"He's going to play this spring, safety. He's going to play this spring, corner. And he may play some star, or nickel," Steele said. "He's a very, very smart guy that has worked really hard."
He said Peters is "maturing and coming along."
Rashard Hall and Jonathan Meeks are slated to hold down the safety positions.
Hall, a two-year starter, continues to be one of the more tireless workers on the roster.
"I think he's got an office back there, because I see him up here [at the West End Zone] all the time," Steele said.
Steele likes Meeks' ball skills and potential to be a solid replacement for McDaniel.
"He's always been a very good tackler…he's got an uncanny ability to play the deep ball. He's got really good ball skills," Steele said.