It's early December and Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is comparing his game plan against Georgia Tech to a baseball game.
He realizes that he can't continue as a fastball pitcher with Paul Johnson standing at the plate this Saturday.
"We threw him the fastball the whole game last time and he's got it on tape," Steele said. "We've had to go back and scratch some things out.
"We've got to be able to throw some curveballs and knuckleballs. We can't give him the same look. He's too good of a coach for that."
It's early December and Clemson just lost to South Carolina. The Gamecocks rushed for 223 yards and scored 34 points. Steele points at one statistic from that game--yards/carry.
In the September Clemson/Georgia Tech meeting, the Yellow Jackets rushed for 301 yards, averaging 6.1 yards/carry. In other games, Texas Christian averaged 4.05 and Miami 5.06. South Carolina's average was the lowest at 3.84.
"We played terrible. I'm not saying we didn't. We were bad. We were not ourselves (versus South Carolina)," Steele said.
The uncharacteristic play last week came about because players looked to do too much.
"Once you start pressing to make plays, you've got problems…you can't start pressing to make a play," he said.
Even down 24 points to Georgia Tech, nobody from Clemson appeared to press to make plays in Atlanta. Having a sound game plan from years of experience around the option and an entire summer to get ready for it, Steele's game plan was successful, all things considered.
The Yellow Jackets scored on an 82-yard run play, an 85-yard punt return for score and on a 34-yard touchdown pass on a fake field goal. The 24-0 score was made possible on a red zone stop by the Tiger defense, which resulted in a 24-yard field goal. The drive ended seven seconds into the second quarter.
Six punts and an interception later, Georgia Tech didn't have a scoring drive until two fourth quarter field goals.
As successful as Steele's plan was that night, he realizes it's not just a matter of duplicating what worked the first time around, especially with the offensive mind that's standing across the field.
"If you study him and talk to people that know coach Johnson very well, he's kind of like: a safety just made a tackle on this play for a four-yard gain. Rune the exact same play--action and then run the post behind him," Steele said. "The corner is going to be one-on-one if that safety is going to help make that tackle."
Correcting the mistakes from last week's loss to South Carolina will be put off since Georgia Tech's a totally different animal on offense. For now, it's just trying to get enough repetitions of the wing bone option.
One thing that will have to change is execution.
"We were executing very well (versus Georgia Tech)…if we get the same kind of execution, we take a lot of confidence from it," Steele said.
Tuesdays with Kevin Steele
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