By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele knew what he had to work with going into Saturday’s contest versus the Troy Trojans. Although his starting 11 on defense were all experienced veterans, the backups he had to work with were inexperienced yet very talented. So his question going into Saturday’s game was how his freshmen and redshirt freshmen would respond in a game situation.
“We knew what we had at certain areas going into Saturday’s game and at others we were a little unsure,” Steele said. “At backups we knew what we had we thought, and that proved out to be the case a lot of potential and athleticism there, but still have to improve on our football IQ and football knowledge there. It was kind of like a tale of two games when you watch the tape. When we had our first 11 out there we were very effective minus one or two plays, but when we started substituting, we had some young critical mistakes.”
Steele realizes that these critical young mistakes made on Saturday will statistically affect the Tigers for a portion of the season until his younger backups become “seasoned”.
“If you take out one of the runs from Saturday, we would have made our run goal of 3.3 yards per carry,” Steele said. “But we had a young guy, or rather two young guys out there that made a critical error and it changes to 4.5. Same thing goes for 3rd down conversions, we were at 38% and our goal is 30%. We were just a little hesitant, but it can be corrected and it will be corrected, we’ve got guys that are focused and have the talent, we just have to get them game experience as quick as we can get it.”
Steele and his defense strive for perfection every snap, and although they never have achieved it they’ll continue to try, until they can get as close as they can to perfection on defense.
What do Steele and his defense have to prepare for when the Wofford Terriers come to Death Valley this Saturday?
“Obviously Wofford is one of the better teams in their league,” Steele said. “They can run the football and do it very well; I think they led the nation FCS in rushing. They effectively run the football, are very well coached. The running back and quarterback are both very effective at what they do. I guess the best way to describe their offense is that they’re about 40% Georgia Tech, and the other 60% falls at 30% Auburn and 30% South Carolina.”
With Rashard Hall questionable at free safety this week, Steele’s plan is day-to-day at who will start at the position.
“We live day to day anyway, it’s the nature of the business,” Steele said. “It is what it is, you’ve got guys who have played that we expect to step up and play and then you’ve got young guys that only have 15-20 snaps. For instance Robert Smith, he’s only got 15-20 snaps, but he’s got it built in he’s a good player.”
How does Steele believe true freshman Robert Smith handled himself in his first game as a Tiger versus the Trojans?
“He did a good job obviously he got an interception,” Steele said. “But probably the biggest thing is when you’re on the sideline there and you’re making adjustments you’re talking to them and watching them come on and off, their body language is what you look at their first and second games. When you look at them and they look like they just saw a ghost, that isn’t good. But Robert looked like he’d been there before, that was encouraging for me.”
Another true freshman that Steele had a lot to say about was Stephone Anthony.
“He’s a smart guy, he’s obviously very talented,” Steele said. “He can go from point A to point B in a hurry, he’s very instinctive. He felt right at home, you could tell early I think we put him in on the third series, first play and you can tell in his play and how he came off the field, that it really didn’t faze him, he was just playing football.”