Tuesdays with Kevin Steele

CLEMSON - Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele talks about Thursday's game at Georgia Tech.


3 Questions with Kevin Steele

When is the last time you faced an offense like this?
I kind of thought Florida was like that last year in Atlanta really. They don't do it all the time but they get to the same elements more frequently than people realize. But past that, to get to where people are this good at it was my days at Nebraska when Oklahoma was still in the wishbone and Colorado was in the I-bone.
Have you heard that Paul Johnson doesn't really watch film of opposing defenses?
They say he watches tape on fast forward. That was the direct quote. A direct quote.

What do you take away from Saturday's win?
I was pleased but we aren't anywhere close to where we need to be. We have a lot of work to do. We need to be better tacklers. Better in leverage. Be more responsible. That's not to say that it didn't happen eight plays out of 10. But that's what keeps you from getting to the top - those two plays you didn't get. It's about doing your job. We played 55 plays the other night and they had 180-something yards. Then there were 27 plays in the last two drives. They didn't score, but the bottom line is did you play those 27 plays like you would have played if it was 14-12 and there was one play between winning a championship or not? That's the way you have to play.

-Roy Philpott
According to Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, Paul Johnson style of option never stopped working.

Well, it did stop working one way, Steele said. It stopped attracting recruits.

"Everybody wanted to go to the NFL so the quarterbacks wanted to be at the schools where they were throwing it around," he said. "That's why you walk out here in the summer, or in any college campus, and 50 teams are in a passing league."

Planning for Georgia Tech started in the spring, continued through the summer and into fall camp. The game plan has been done for a while, Steele said. Practice video with the basics has been waiting for this short week of practice. Because of the limited amount of time this week, only so much could be done in the practices before Thursday.

During spring practices and fall camp, a 15-minute period was reserved for Georgia Tech preparation. But that was also the case for the other opponents on this year's schedule.

With a simple game plan in place, the bottom line to defend Georgia Tech is simple. Someone is assigned to the fullback, another to the quarterback and another to the pitch man.

"If you do the job up front, it's going to run into your lap," Steele said. "The MIKE linebacker has got to play both sides. Those tackles and those ends, if it goes that way, they're home free. They can clear things and chase the ball."

Along with the assignments, sound tackling is also essential. It's all easier said than done when trying to stop reigning ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer. There are also the tasks of being ready to contain quarterback Josh Nesbit and slowing down a stable of four to six running backs.

Steele marvels at Dwyer's ability to be explode for a long gain after being stopped at and around the line of scrimmage.

"He just keeps on hammering and eventually somebody doesn't take the right guy. Off he goes," Steele said. "There are two ways he makes big plays. The number one way is somebody doesn't take the right guy and he's off to the races…the other thing he does a lot, more times that makes you lose sleep, you've got him and there's a missed tackle."

Challenges for the secondary come into play when deciphering what is happening in the blocking. Whether it's the full back arching inside for support or loading out to block the linebackers, they've also got to have an eye on the crack block from the receiver with an arch block.

"If one guy makes a mistake, they're going to see it and it's going to be crack and go," Steele said.

Demaryius Thomas is the Yellow Jacket's best receiver since Calvin Johnson. In his two years at Georgia Tech, Thomas has averaged 16 yards per catch and started 22 of the 25 games he's played.

The scary part of his game is how he's used blocking and how it throws off the corners.

"Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler have covered a lot of good wide outs," Steele said. "But there's not a load back coming at them with a pitch man, the ball on the line of scrimmage and now they have to change their eyes."

Accountability, responsibility and technique come into extreme focus against the triple option, but that's always the case week to week. Although it's a challenge for teams to prepare for Georgia Tech, especially since no one else runs that style of option, Steele said it's a two-way street.

"They don't really know what they're going to get. They can watch Middle Tennessee State film and there's nothing…they practice what they're going to do, not so much what they're seeing," he said.

With the success last year against the Yellow Jacket option, Steele believes the Tiger's defense is comfortable in defending the option because of the experience seeing it.

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