Steele defends defense, looks ahead

CLEMSON - Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele talks about running quarterbacks, the loss to South Carolina and this weekend's ACC title game.


On Tuesday, Steele offered his explanation for the Tigers' inefficiencies against the Gamecock running game.

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw rushed for a game-high 107 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown. Most of those yards, Steele said, were a result of scrambles.

"Stopping the quarterback running for 76 yards when they're running pass routes and you've got rushers, if there's a four-man rush there's more gaps than four up there -- somebody's got to get off blocks and you've got to make sure you're in your gap," Steele said. "The first-one, 34-yard scramble. A guy that's played a lot of football is lined up in the b-gap, for whatever reason, goes inside and loses his rush lane. The guy comes right out of it.

"The next one that happened that was of any consequence -- we had a 13-yard, maybe a little bit more than that -- we have a young guy in the secondary that is supposed to come off the edge and blitz. That's all he's's so easy. If Tig [Willard] goes over there, you go over to the other side and rush off the edge. He didn't do it."

As for the rest of the Gamecocks' production?

Forty-four carries for 151 yards.

"Forty-four times is a lot of runs. But that's 3.4 yards per carry. That's winning football in anybody's book," Steele said.

Steele will face another dual-threat quarterback this weekend when Clemson heads to Charlotte, N.C. to take on Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship. Hokie quarterback Logan Thomas is first on the team with 10 rushing touchdowns and second with 414 yards rushing.

"They've featured a little bit more, they had it, but they're running a little bit more -- particularly in short-yardage situations -- the Cam Newton-style quarterback runs. The QB power," Steele said.

And there's plenty reason for Steele to be concerned about Thomas, particularly when it comes to him running the ball.

"He's very fast. He's very strong," Steele said. "And they are utilizing him more in that way."

Through the air, Thomas has completed 193 of 319 passes for 2,525 yards and 18 touchdowns with seven interceptions.

His top two receivers, Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, have 54 and 50 catches, respectively.

"Their passing-tree concept has changed a little bit, but that's not unusual. They're featuring some different style routes than they did going into the first game," Steele said.

Running back David Wilson, who's fifth in the country with 132.92 yards rushing per game, drew high praise from Steele.

"I've seen some, but that guy is special," Steele said.

In the first matchup of the season, which Clemson won 23-3, the Tigers held Wilson to the third-lowest rushing total of the season -- 123 yards.

That night in Blacksburg, the Hokies were held to their worst offensive output of the season -- three points and 258 total yards.

Steele said there can be some carryover from the first Saturday in October, but not much.

"Having been in the NFL, where you play common opponents in the season, I'd have to tell you, no. That's just my opinion," he said. "There are some things, yes, because we have video evidence of them doing certain things against what we do." Top Stories