Steele now in charge

CLEMSON - Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele talks with about the 2009 defense.


Do you have a sense of what you have to work with now?
Steele: We do, but first before we start off anything, everybody understands this thing is not broke. They were pretty good on defense here. There's good players, they had a good scheme and they were coached good. We've watched all the tape, some multiple times, the key games. You get more of an indicator in watching the key games within the league. Generally that's mostly the most explosive talent. Your indicators of evaluation are a little bit better. I've tried to assess the talent and tried to make sure we've had the right guys in the right places, and to help forecast and project in recruiting. There's not a huge difference in the scheme. We were in a 4-3 front at Alabama 68 percent of the time. A lot of that is predicated on the personnel groupings you get. If it's 28-0 and they're throwing the ball, you don't want to be in a three-man front rushing. You want to balance it out a little bit. But we'll be 4-3. The biggest difference is that they were a little bit more predicated on boundary and field last year in terms of alignment. We're more formation oriented in terms of our alignment. And secondly, the fact that DeAndre McDaniel won't be a SAM backer in base defense. He'll be a safety. When they get three and four wides on the field, he'll go back to being a nickel.

Would you characterize your defense as more aggressive?
Steele: Who's at quarterback, what's the down and distance and what's the score? I like to blitz and that's my personality, but you guys have heard me say this before, "You won't coach defense long if you blitz Payton Manning just because you like to blitz." He'll get it to that guy right now and that guy right now, then the owner is saying come here. I'm like a lot of people who watch football. I love pressure. It's fun. It creates a lot of things. Sometimes not so good, particularly if you've got a team that understands protection and a quarterback who knows where to go when he sees things or if you have an elusive receiver who can beat one-on-one coverage. You have to know when to do it and when not to do it. What if you're up at halftime 28-0? You going to go back out in the second half and blitz, it's 28-21 and you're an idiot? No. You cover, make them bleed slow and go to the house with a victory.

Will you continue the rotating of your defensive line throughout the game?
Steele: In this league now, and really in college football now it's not the old days ... it takes a lot of energy out of you to rush the passer. It's a hard task because most of those guys up there are not fighting one guy. They are fighting doubles and trying to push the pocket back in the quarterback's lap. You know they are coming off the edge and turn speed to power on a guy that weighs 320 pounds that is sitting there hunkered down will wear you out. Because of that you have to keep fresh legs on the field. Those big guys will wear down. So you know you have to do that and you do that in practice. You practice that way. Play a lot of people in practice and then don't be afraid to do it in the game.

Will Sadat Chambers get the first crack at free safety?
Steele: It will start out that way. But Coach Swinney has been very clear- this is a new staff. This is a new beginning. Look at it as 10 new guys walking out there and we've told them that. So then we have to say, we don't know who is first, second and third. We've got people lined up at positions and then we will sort it out and move them around based on how they practice. Obviously someone has to go out there when you call out this group or that group [initially] and he'll go out there with that group.

Will Byron Maxwell and/or Marcus Gilchrist get a look at free safety as well?
Steele: Could. Could. That's not a big deal anymore but it used to be because so many teams were in [to] big people. You are putting a safety in there and tell a guy who's used to playing basketball on grass to playing linebacker based on what happens- that's a big difference now. But when you spread out now as much people spread out now, and there's space out there, a lot of times that safety is down on a third wide receiver, he's over the top and he's really just playing corner at a different position. Most of the game is happening, 70 percent, will be in three or four wide outs.

How long will installation of your defense take? Is that into the fall?
Steele: No. It's a little bit more of a philosophy. It's a library. You don't want it to be complicated, but you want it complex. You want to have the ability to say "whoa" when you need to say "whoa" if the guys aren't processing it. "It's too much." But there are answers built into the package for pretty much everything. It's time tested. I didn't event it I just copied it. Because of that, it's a little bit more, because you see so much. You get every formation known to mankind in the first three days of practice so you have to have answers for that. So there's a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff. It's as hard as a lot of classes you take. Because of that, you kind of put it in the bucket, throw it on the wall and see what sticks. What sticks, we let stick. What doesn't stick we let hit the floor and we kind of scoop up put it back in the bucket and see what else sticks. When the bucket gets low we fill it back up. Then in the fall you get the freshmen and you do it all over again. So it's constant. But the bottom line is players play the game, not coaches and you have to know what they do well, what they understand and what they can execute and don't complicate things. Top Stories