Life for Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele doesn't get any easier when the Tigers head to Raleigh on Saturday.
Once again he's faced with the tough task of figuring out how to slow down another high scoring offense that features a quarterback who ranks among the top 25 most efficient passers in the nation. This week, it's N.C. State and Russell Wilson.
The Wolfpack are scoring 34 points per game while Wilson leads a passing attack that averages 281 yards a game. He's the 16th most efficient passer in the nation, one place ahead of last week's opponent--Christian Ponder.
"This is what we do. It's what we see," Steele said.
Top quarterback or not, he keeps the Clemson defense focused no matter who they see at quarterback.
"They could have me at quarterback and it's not going to change. They're going to be focused and have attention to detail," Steele said. "That's not a choice. It's a fact."
Similar to what Clemson saw from Florida State through the air, he expects a very similar passing scheme from N.C. State.
"They do throw the ball down the field a good bit. The group we just played threw the ball down the field, but they threw a lot of quicks too," Steele said.
He believes the good coaching Wilson receives and his quick release are reasons for concern. Plus, there's Wilson's added dimension to make plays happen with his legs.
"Against Duke, he pulled it down and ran a little quicker. The other games, it seemed like he was scrambling to throw," Steele said.
Several of the passes Wilson has completed this year have been check downs to tight ends and running backs, Steele said. There's an added threat of hitting the tight end in the seam vertically. Tight end George Bryan leads the Wolfpack in receiving with 35 catches.
Steele called running back Toney Baker "old school".
"He runs into contact," Steele said. "A lot of guys tail off here and tail off there. He runs into contact. When he runs into contact, you better wrap him up. His yardage after contact, I don't know what it is, but I know somebody is paying for it."
With 21 interceptions, the Clemson secondary is four picks away from tying the school's single-season record. Steele believes it's a credit to several factors- starting with the players.
"We've got good pass rushers. We've got a lot of talent back there," he said.
Second, he believes, is the system. It helps that those talented players are buying in to what they're being taught.
"They've been coached very well by coach (Charlie) Harbison and up front by coach (Chris) Rumph and coach (Dan) Brooks," Steele said.
He can't talk about the interceptions without giving credit to the pressure that's created up front.
"I'd say we're pretty good up there in the number of sacks," Steele said. "Coaches get just as excited when you knock ‘em to the ground and the ball is flying over our heads on the sideline. There's been a lot of that."
Tuesdays with Kevin Steele
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