FSU a familiar foe for Steele

CLEMSON - Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele didn't have much on his plate after he was relieved of his duties as the head coach at Baylor.

"I really wasn't worried about doing anything…one day the cell phone rang," he said.

The caller identification read: Florida State Marketing. On the other end, it was Coach Bobby Bowden and defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.

"At the end of the conversation I had been told to get on a plane to see Coach Bowden and to bring enough clothes to go recruiting," Steele said.

"I hung the phone up. My wife said, ‘What was that all about?' I said, ‘I don't know, I think I just took a job at Florida State.'"

He spent four years (2003-06) at Florida State as an executive head coach and linebackers coach before moving on to Alabama. But the relationship between Steele and Andrews goes back a lot further.

Steele's uncle played with Andrews at Alabama. When Andrews coached at Livingston State (currently West Alabama), several player that played for Steele's dad played for Andrews.

"He probably won't appreciate me telling this part of the story, but I can remember being in like the fifth or sixth grade and going to Livingston games and seeing coach Andrews after the game and meeting him," Steele said.

During his time under Andrews, Steele gained an appreciation for Andrews' toughness while coaching with him at Florida State.

"He was a great football coach in 1984. He was a great football coach in 1994, and he is now," Steele said.

He shrugs off any ideas that he has some sort of an advantage over the Seminoles by having experience as a coach in Tallahassee.

"If I was going to play, it might make a difference," Steele said. "Fortunately, I won't be out there."

One of the biggest challenges lying ahead for his defense is slowing down the Florida State passing attack, led by Christian Ponder. Clemson has seen three quarterbacks that are among the top 20 most efficient in the country. Including Ponder, there are still two more to be seen on this year's schedule.

"We've been down this road before and got to go down it some more--five in the top 20," Steele said.

In the past four games, Florida State has thrown 37 screen passes. If the trend keeps up, the opportunities for sacking Ponder could be limited on Saturday.

"That's a toss sweep, not a pass," Steele said. "You approach that totally different. When they go to traditional, drop-back passing, we've got to do what we do."

That means a four-man rush up front that tries to push the line back into Ponder's lap. What Steele's referred to in the past as forcing him to "throw out of a well." Of course, when the situation suits, Ponder will be faced with a blitz.

In Florida State's most recent games, Steele said much of the skill player's work has come in space.

"There's a lot of tackling in space. They'll get the ball in space, not necessarily down the field, not that they can't throw down the field," he said.

Surrounding Ponder, Steele looks at tail back Jermaine Thomas as a player who can "hit the homerun." Steele mentioned Lonnie Pryor, who lines up at fullback, but is considered by Stele as a tailback.

Then there's the receiving core. Steele said an eye has to be kept on Bert Reed, who makes an impact on reverses and being the pitchman on options.

Steele said it's a fast group.

"You've got to know where (Jarmon Fortson) is. He's a big presence that they throw to and makes big catches for them," Steele said.

To be successful in slowing the Seminole offense that is 15th in the nation in total offense, ninth in passing and 25th in scoring, Steele said Clemson will have to win most of the one-on-one battles on Saturday.

"If you keep that attitude and that's the way you approach it--that's the way we do, we do everything the same every week…these guys have really bought into the system," Steele said. "It's about the process, the process of being a champion."


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