By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- One of the main points made by Clemson’s head coach Dabo Swinney last Tuesday at his press conference was that Clemson’s defense had to tackle well in order to beat the Trojans. Although the Tigers finished the game strong, beating the Trojans 43-19, Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele was not impressed with how his defense tackled.
“We didn’t tackle very sharp today,” Steele said. “But we’re going to get that corrected in practice so it won’t be a problem next week.”
What encouraged Steele the most about his defense in Saturday’s contest?
“We played a lot of people early today,” Steele said. “There was some hesitation though from those younger guys. It wasn’t that they were messing up or doing the wrong thing, they just weren’t playing as fast as they needed to play. But they settled down and started doing what they needed to do.”
Although his defense didn’t look sharp at times, Steele believes that the win versus Troy was a good one.
“Some people boo at half time, but a win is a win.” Steele said. “The bottom line is that we did a lot of positive things out there today. There were really some effective things done out there. I thought our front did a very effective job. We were 3.0 per rush, now you can’t take that one long run off, but it is very correctable, just a young guy that just made a mistake. But when they tried to run the ball, they really couldn’t.”
What really jumped out to Steele from watching the game is that his defense needs to become more effective at stopping third down conversions.
“We were very poor at stopping third down conversions,” Steele said. “And this is something that needs to get better in a hurry, we’re trying to hit at about 30% but I think right now we’re closer to 45%. Now on the scoring drives, when you give up a big play there’s usually going to be points. We’ve got to get better at stopping the big plays from happening.”
Did the Trojans show Steele anything he didn’t expect Saturday?
“Offenses like that, they’re all over the map,” Steele said. “Anyone who hasn’t watched college football in the past 10 years, go look at Troy’s record and who they played, that’s a pretty good football team and they’re well coached.”
Did Steele see improvement in his defense after halftime like Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris saw in his offense?
“Well we held them to 3 points after halftime,” Steele said. “The biggest thing was though that we settled down and played a little crisper. We made a few adjustments at the half, but nothing big, we’re not going to get Coach of the Year award off of those halftime adjustments. “
What did Steele think of his freshmen linebackers who saw a lot of playing time Saturday, particularly Stephone Anthony who was very active?
“That guy can run around and play,” Steele said. “He’s very athletic; we played a lot of linebackers early in the game. I think we played 7 linebackers in the first half where last year we’d be lucky if we could get three to play in the first half. “