"We've got a long way to go. That's not just a coach saying that. That's a fact," Steele said.
Nearly three months removed from Clemson's Music City Bowl win over Kentucky, he's instilling the same thought process that he talked spoke of throughout 2009.
"If you don't have toughness and the mentality to dominate your opponent...then you'll have some things happens like we did last year," Steele said. "We played really, really well at sometimes. And at times, we didn't play so well. Toughness will make that.
"It's play the next play at the same level the whole time."
Having spoken of the importance of continuity earlier this spring, he's starting to see it pay dividends.
"We're just scratching the surface in terms of things, particularly that first group," Steele said. "They have a real good understanding of what we're doing and the application of it."
During Saturday's scrimmage, the linebacker had Corico Hawkins and Shuey split reps in the middle at MIKE.
"Shuey's made a lot of progress, considering he was reading cards on the scout team in the fall. At least Hawk was practicing with us and playing some," Steele said.
Daniel Andrews and Christian shared duties on the strong-side at SAM while Jonathan Willard and Brandon Maye were on the weak-side at WILL.
"I'm really encouraged with the progress of (Willard)," Steele said. "He's made a lot of progress. The light switch has come on. It's totally different. He's always had the ability. He's just grasped the concept of the defense.
"Brandon is playing WILL for the first time. It's hard when you play one and go to the other. It's like moving from fullback to tailback. He does some things just natural. The adjustment on it is good."
Rennie Moore has begun proving he's a little more valuable because of his versatility. He was shifted over from tackle to end late last week and played mostly end during Saturday's scrimmage.
Steele said, "There will always be a window open to us" to have Moore make a permanent move to play end. His reps on Saturday were a result of Malliciah Goodman's excused absence and Da'Quan Bowers' minor injury.
"The other day was (Moore's) first day (at end) and he busted a few things," Steele said. "But he busted them in the right way."
Though Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler have departed, taking nearly 100 starts with them to the next level, Steele doesn't feel he's at a loss for experience at cornerback, especially with the return of the ever-versatile Marcus Gilchrist.
"(Xavier Brewer) played a lot last year and so did (Byron Maxwell). (Coty) Sensabaugh played and played well for us," Steele said. "And then, you've got (Spencer) Adams out there. We're real encouraged with his progress. We've got a long way to go with him. But he's a natural out there."
Communication on the field, Steele said, starts in the back with Gilchrist, DeAndre McDaneil and Rashard Hall.
"They're really good at picking up on stances, alignments, splits—all that kind of stuff," Steele said. "They're smart football players and they communicate well with each other."
Steele assesses early returns
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