New weapons

SUNSET, S.C. - Kevin Steele has a full cupboard of linebacker talent stocked for his third season as Clemson defensive coordinator.

And he announced Tuesday at Dabo Swinney's annual golf tournament with the media where each one would initially line up for preseason camp.

Four-star Tony Steward and Colton Walls will start their careers at MIKE. Five-star Stephone Anthony and two-star B.J. Goodson are scheduled for looks at WILL. Four-star Lateek Townsend is listed at SAM.

"There's a little bit of discrepancy with Walls and Goodson. We may flip those," Steele said. "Hopefully, we can get some solid play out of some young guys, to help relieve some of the pressure that we've really had for two years now.

"We played a lot of games [last year] with four and five linebackers. If one of those guys got dinged, we didn't have a lot, just in sheer numbers. We think we've improved there, athletically. In sheer numbers, we've just got more guys that can run and hit you, and are strong."

They'll join the starters at MIKE and SAM, Corico Hawkins and Quandon Christian, plus Jonathan Willard, who has experience as the starting at WILL linebacker.

Daniel Andrews has added depth at all positions over the last three years. Justin Parker is set to compete at SAM. Spencer Shuey played some at MIKE last season and Vic Beasley recently made the switch from the offensive side of the ball to WILL in the spring.

""We say, ‘if' with those young guys at linebacker. I think it's a little bit stronger than 'if.' We're going to put them out there."

But the freshmen - it's hard to imagine many of these first-year players not seeing the field. And Steele confirmed as much Tuesday.

"We say, ‘if' with those young guys at linebacker. I think it's a little bit stronger than 'if.' We're going to put them out there," Steele said. "They'll learn the stove is hot. They're athletic enough. They'll run around enough."

Throw in the key departures from the defensive line, plus a couple of talented linebackers, and it makes sense Steele would consider a fulltime move to the 3-4.

Truth be told, Steele's defense wasn't just a 4-3 in the past. And it won't only be a 3-4 moving forward.

It doesn't work like that.

"The multiples of four and four--four secondary and four linebackers, and three defensive linemen--the multiples, you're going to play the same stuff. Everybody does," he said.

"That is a big fallacy. To say the Green Bay Packers, who say their a 3-4, and the New England Patriots, who say they're a 3-4, don't play even fronts, and play it a lot--it's not right. It's just what guy you're putting down and what guy you're not.

Kevin Steele's unit in 2010 finished 19th nationally in total defense and 13th in scoring defense. (Roy Philpott)
"It's a play on words. It's not like the old days when everybody lined up in one tight end and two backs and you were either a 3-4 or a 4-3, and you played it the whole game."

Steele has also been busy this offseason studying film. And it's not just reviewing his own either.

As he does every year, he takes a hard look at the teams that were dominant from a year ago - at both the college and NFL level.

"There will be a little bit more diversity in terms of the calling of the situations," he said. "But we've also tweaked some things so that we can get those tweaks done, and give you different looks without changing the personnel.

"We spent a lot of time in the offseason looking into the NFL. We've got a bunch of tape on that, as well as some other teams around the country that did a good job. TCU being one of them, so we've got some scheme things that we're tweaking on that.

"But the bottom line, at the end of the day, it comes down to keeping them out of the end zone. You've got to be able to do that. No excuses. That's just it." Top Stories