By Gray Gardner.
Although Hobby will not have the luxury of coaching DaQuan Bowers, he will have a group of ends that have proven themselves in the past.
“Malliciah (Goodman) has played and has played very well. He’s very talented,” Steele said. “We’re asking him to be Malliciah, not to be DaQuan.”
According to Steele, experience should not be an issue when talking about Goodman.
“You probably would be shocked at how many times he and DaQuan were on the field at the same time,” he said. “He’s got a lot of snaps. He’s really kind of a returning starter. He’s a very, very good technician. You could make a clinic teaching tape off his last year’s game tape.”
Behind Goodman on the depth chart is fifth-year senior Kourtnei Brown, who redshirted last season. Brown played bandit in years past, but Steele thinks he will be best suited at the down-end position.
“The bandit does a couple of things in our schemes where it requires a little more dropping, a little more sorting of routes. He’s just a little more suited to be on the side where Malliciah is.”
Andre Branch will play the bandit position on the other side of the ball. Behind him in depth will be new enrollee Corey Crawford – a guy that Steele expects to make a considerable impact as a freshman.
“That’s not that unusual,” Steele said. “You look back through the record, there have been freshmen start here. You can get guys ready in this system to play early. That’s a misnomer that they can’t get ready to play early – it’s been done before.”
“Obviously having Brandon (Thompson) back at nose, that’s a big plus, because it starts inside. You got to be good there,” Steele said.
As mentioned before, the interior defensive line is what concerns Steele the most heading into spring ball. But Steele is willing to wait for August and new enrollees before making any final decisions.
“It will be a big spring to see how the next three (defensive tackles) work out in (Tyler) Shatley, (Josh) Watson, and Trey Thomas. That will be huge. If we can get it sorted out and they step up, then we’ll be in good shape. If not, then we have some young guys that are not on campus yet and one of them will have to step up.”
Steele compared his linebacker corps from a year ago to that of an NFL team in that he only had five or six players to work with.
“Obviously we’ve got a few more guys coming in,” Steele said.
Of course he meant the home runs of the 2011 recruiting class – Tony Steward, Stephone Anthony, and Lateek Townsend.
But Steele was unwilling to talk about the roles each might play in the upcoming season, stating that he wanted to “make it a little bit easier on himself.” He would, however, talk about the rest of the players he currently has at the position.
“I thought Quandon (Christian) did a very, very good job of both playing the SAM position and setting the edge then he was very athletic and as the season went on played more at the money position,” Steele said. “He’s very instinctive and understands what he’s doing. He does not bust things. He’s a just a smart football player.”
“Justin (Parker), in the regular package, is still playing SAM, then he goes to the MIKE position when we go to the nickel package. Both of those guys are very incorporated in what we do there.”
Steele mentioned that Corico Hawkins is slated to play his same position from a year ago, while Spencer Shuey will be trained at two positions.
“We’re going to cross train Shuey a little bit in that we’re going to train him at the MIKE linebacker position and at the bandit position, simply to try and get him more snaps,” Steele said. “He’s a smart guy, a tough guy, he’s just getting better. We’re going to put him at the bandit to get him more snaps as that defensive end that we ask to drop and sort routes.”
On the other side of the ball at the WILL position will be “Tig” Willard and Vic Beasely.
When asked if Beasely at linebacker was just an experiment for the spring, Steele responded, “Experiments? I don’t know about experiments in this day and age.”
Three big losses in the secondary come in the graduation of Marcus Gilchrist, DeAndre McDaniel, and Byron Maxwell. But Steele is sure that his young talent will step up.
“Obviously those are three very capable players,” Steele said. “We’re blessed in that we have a lot of those guys back, (Xavier) Brewer, (Coty) Sensabaugh, and the younger guys, Martin Jenkins and (Darius) Robinson who played as freshmen, then we have (Jonathan) Meeks and (Rashard) Hall back. So we have people that are very capable, they just don’t have as much experience.”
Steele went on to talk about the amount of time Rashard Hall spends watching film voluntarily.
“It’s amazing guys, we’re not allowed to coach them this time of year other than in spring practice. And we do have within the time frame of the eight-hour rule when they’re not practicing. You can’t talk football with them more than two hours per week, at all. And then, if they’re doing something else, if they lift and are running too, then you don’t even have that time because they can only be over here and doing things for eight hours. But they can come over here any time they want not with us in the room teaching them,” Steele said. “I think Rashard Hall has an office back over here because I see him here all the time.”
Among many things, Steele made it clear that spring practices and scrimmages are not so much about the end results and statistics as they are the process of preparing for the season.
“It’s about the fundamentals and the process of developing the players – not the results,” Steele said. “We’ll call things just to get them on film. I don’t even know if the scoreboard is on during the scrimmages. If it is, then I don’t think it really has anything to do with my house payment at that very moment. The process of getting it done does.”
He went on to say that the most important thing during the spring is for each player to learn how to do his job.
But Steele knows there’s a big difference between the spring game and a regular season game in Death Valley.
“At the end of the day, at some point in time, you have to do it when the stands are full,” Steele said.
“An astronaut down in Houston flying a space shuttle is a little bit different than when he’s up there close to the moon. He messes up in Houston, they open the door and say, ‘Hey, we have to do this again tomorrow.’ He messes up, up there close to the moon, he may not come home. There is a difference, but obviously training is important.”
For the Clemson defense, a good spring will be a step in the right direction.