Talking D with coach Cheese

CLEMSON - Clemson co-defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison looks ahead to the 2011 season.

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The third-year co-defensive coordinator defensive/defensive backs coach filled in for defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who missed Tuesday's interview because of a personal matter.

Coach Swinney said this is a lot like Hal Mumme's offense that he ran at Kentucky. A lot of wide zone, screens, stuff like that. Good challenge for your young secondary?
Harbison: Absolutely. The fact that they spread the ball out, get the ball out of their hands. We've got to do a good job of matching up, contesting the throws and getting them on the ground -- recognizing their formations and playing.

From a coaching standpoint, would you rather have somebody like this, rather than somebody that's just running out of the I the whole time?

Listed behind starting free safety Rashard Hall is redshirt junior Carlton Lewis. (Roy Philpott)
Harbison: We see things from all things in this league. It's what we do. We just go out there and compete.

A week ago, Steele said Robert Smith was on the bubble for consideration. Today, he's on the depth chart at second-team. Have y'all made the decision that he's going to play this fall?
Harbison: What we do is rotate kids in. That situation, whatever situation comes up, depending on what we've got going on with our guys out there, we'll go from there. We rep kids.

No definitive decision on Robert Smith yet?
Harbison: With our kids, it's a situation whether the kids plays comes up to
our kids. Right now, we have rotation. Sometimes, we can use anybody. For practice purposes and as we get ready for each game, we've got to have a two-deep to work with. If he falls in that two-deep, so be it. If he doesn't fall in that two-deep, he won't.

What's Robert shown you guys that's put him into consideration for playing this fall?
Harbison: It all depends on Robert. He's had a good camp. He's still got a ways to go, like all young kids do. Depending on the situation, like I was saying earlier, he controls that. If he's playing good, he'll play. If we don't feel good about it, we'll keep working week to week.

What are your thoughts on Troy's quarterback?
Harbison: He had a good year for them. Considering he's a freshman, he had a great year. He gets the ball out of his hands well. He plays with great poise. He's playing well in their system. He does a good job. He had a great year last year.

With the scheme they run, is tackling an even bigger deal this week?
Harbison: When you're playing a spread team, they're going to spread you out, try to put gaps in the defense. You have to tackle the catch. You have to do a good job of tackling in space and pursuit to the ball. It is a concern. Because, No. 1, with the youth, and, also, the part of recognizing formations and getting on top of things.

Jonathan Meeks, we've heard a lot about him. He's made substantial gains this offseason. How so?
Harbison: No. 1, with his playing time last year, he's older. He's playing better, with poise. When you understand this defense, you understand this system, you get more confident. That's how he's playing. I'm happy with Meeks. We'll have to lean on him.

How comfortable or not comfortable do you feel with some of your back-up safeties?
Harbison: Some guys that didn't get a lot of playing time like Carlton Lewis and a freshman like Smith, where it's a week-to-week, on the job training. Lewis has more knowledge of the defense. When it comes time to take snaps, we'll put whoever on the field and win with them.

What has DeShawn Williams done to elevate himself?
Harbison: I think, with him, he's done a good job. He works hard. I think, with the way the rotation is going, he'll have his role.


Tony Steward is one of several freshmen who will play this season. (Roy Philpott)
So, he'll have to help you this year?
Harbison: We have a lot of youth. Like I said, everything is proven in how the game unfolds, situations. We'll have rotate kids in to help us be productive.

How many young cornerbacks have earned game snaps?
Harbison: The young ones haven't even played. As far as game snaps, I can't say that. The kids I'm leaning on are Coty [Sensabaugh] and [Xavier] Brewer. I feel good about [Bashaud] Breeland. [Darius] Robinson had some snaps last year. He's doing a good job. We have a good rotation. Depending on that spread offense, depending on how many times we rotate kids in, if we get three-and-out.

What are your thoughts on some of the young linebackers?
Harbison: They're still learning. They're quick learners. I feel good about what I've seen. Coach Steele can elaborate more when you see him. They're doing a good job. We'll have what we have. It'll come down, again, to on the job training.


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