After Monday's practice, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said there's a long way to go before he's satisfied with the Tigers' defense. Then again, it's hasn't even been a full week since Clemson opened camp.
"We've got a lot of things to worry about. We're training for a race and we ain't but a couple of days into the training," he said.
Taking it easy would be the wrong way of putting it. But with 85 scholarships to give out, coaches and players must exercise some caution when working in full pads. The days of 100 man rosters in college football are long gone. Even with all the pads on, Steele said players must be conscious of how they play on the practice field.
"Back in the day, you could have 160, 170 guys out there and just beat ‘em and beat ‘em and beat ‘em. The strong survived," he said. "You've got to play fast and smart nowadays. You've got to stay off the ground and tackle when you need to tackle.
"Our guys are learning to practice like an NFL team."
With all the pads on, the key now, according to Kavell Conner is intensity.
"Coaches keep harping on that at practice so we can get game ready," he said. "We just want to keep coming out here and work hard everyday."
The hard work Conner mentions is along the lines of what Steele likes out of his defenses—relentless persistence—something he believes that's required to be a dominant defense.
"I'm not talking about being dirty. I'm talking about nothing intimidating you," Steele said. "Be ready to play if its eight degrees or 98 degrees. Be ready to play whether it's on the street or on the field."
DeAndre McDaniel did his fair share of intimidating last year by making a name for himself last year as a one of the heavy hitters on the defense. With all the pads on at practice he's able to cut lose. He loves it.
A smile even creeps across his face when he talks about hitting.
"It feels real good. Everybody was ready for the pads to get on," he said.
Make no mistake about it. McDaniel doesn't fancy the idea of hitting his own teammates for too long. Sept. 5 and Middle Tennessee can't get here fast enough.
"We're ready to get this over with so we can get started with the season," he said.
But there's plenty to do before the season gets here, according to Steele.
Installing new schemes everyday is something he discovered a long time ago is the best way to operate during camp. Trying to load up before classes and the season starts is a tried and true approach that he'll continue in the coming days of camp.
"We'll kind of throw it up against the wall and see what sticks. If it doesn't, we'll put it back in the bucket and throw it again," he said.
As things are continuously hurled towards the canvas, one thing is for certain, it will be done with a lot of fire, passion and intensity.
"The intensity is definitely rubbing off on the whole defense, the whole team," Conner said. "All the coaches have picked it up and are pushing us beyond where we thought we could go. Everybody is trying to take their self to a new level."
Steele's intensity rubbing off
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