By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Heading into the Maryland game this weekend, Clemson’s Defensive Coordinator knows that in order for his defense to be as successful as they’ve been throughout the past few weeks, they’ve got to continue to do their jobs and be ready for a different Maryland offense.
“Gary, their offensive coordinator at Maryland came from LSU, he’s a very good coordinator, great guy, closet guy to a national championship ring in that stadium Saturday night,” Steele said. “They’ve got talent at Maryland. There’s been a little bit of moving parts, guys in and out of the lineup for different reasons, receivers missing games, offensive line changing up, the only constant I’ve seen in their offense is the running backs. They play two quarterbacks who are the same in some regards except for when running the zone read, #16 CJ Brown keeps it and goes the distance a couple of times, he’s very fast for a tall lanky guy.”
Although Maryland is coming into this game after a tough 21-16 loss to undefeated Georgia Tech, Steele knows that they are capable of making big plays and coming away with the game if the Tigers aren’t careful. However, if it’s up to Clemson’s front four on defense, the Terrapin’s running game will be stalled.
“You expect that out of Brandon Thompson, he’s a dominant player and he had 5 or 6 games last year where he dominated as well,” Steele said. “The fact is, Branch and Malliciah have played very well so far, Tyler Shatley, we’ve gotten some great snaps out of him and Rennie has done some good things as well.”
Coming out of Clemson’s Boston College victory, defensive end Kourtnei Brown has also emerged for his spectacular pass rushing ability.
“He really hasn’t had a lot of snaps this year if you total it up,” Steele said. “He’s a good guy to come in for Malliciah and his forte is pass rushing obviously so he’s been a big factor in that.”
Going against the zone read that Maryland will definitely be running on Saturday with their speedster quarterback Brown at the helm, the most important thing that Steele can tell his defense is simple, just do your jobs.
“It comes down to doing your job,” Steele said. “The hardest thing to convince the young guys is if you do your job and you’re accountable and responsible, don’t lose patience in doing your job, if you start trying to do something else or make plays outside the framework of your job, what happens is you may make an unbelievable play but a big chunk play may also come through you not being in your gap.”
Steele compares the up tempo offense ran by the Tigers and several other teams in the NCAA to a haircut.
“There’s so much no huddle, tempo and all that in football these days,” Steele said. “It’s like a haircut, once you wear it awhile it becomes in style, well no huddle, fast tempo is in style now. You see it all the time, it’s only a surprise now when you’re not prepared for it, you don’t know how to prepare for it, or it’s new.”
One player Steele has seen a lot out of this season is linebacker Tig Willard.
“He has a high motor, relentless effort, very focused, knows this scheme, is a very good tackler, and is just relentless and does his job play in and play out,” Steele said. “A lot of times this goes unnoticed, everybody sees when someone gets three sacks, but them the opponents get two 20 yard runs in his gap, no one figures out that he was out of his gap three times. Tig is one of those guys, at the end of grading the film he goes unnoticed because he does his job. They don’t throw to his guy because he’s there, they don’t run in his gap because he’s always there, and he collects tackles for everyone else. He’s the unsung hero because he doesn’t get all of those accolades for making big plays but doesn’t get minuses either. Tig just does his job; it’s amazing how much focus he has.”
When he was hurt last season, Willard admitted Monday that he learned how to watch film while he was injured, sometimes spending 13 hours a week watching film.
“Obviously his football IQ, that’s the big thing that makes a difference in a seasoned veteran defense.” Steele said. “There are a lot of defenses out there with good players; they’re in different stages of their growth because of their football IQ. When you line up out there, it’s not as important for you to know what they’re going to do, but rather what they’re not going to do. We probably still have some young guys playing that don’t realize when they lineup with one back and four wide outs, that they won’t run the power- o, we practice power-o, but knowing what they’re not going to do is important. Football IQ is eliminating what they’re not going to do so you can focus on the two or three things that might happen out of the way they’re lined up.”
Steele believes that Maryland will definitely take some shots down the field because they have three receivers that are capable of having 10 catch, 150 yard games. However, he knows that his defense is capable of keeping that from happening on Saturday.
As for Stephone Anthony’s injury, Steele knows that he will be good to go, he practiced Monday evening and looked fine.
“We have a rule on our defense, treatment on Sunday practice on Monday,” Steele said.
With two quarterbacks to prepare for this weekend, Steele and his defense are used to this situation.
“It still comes down to us, they’re going to line up in a certain formation, they’ll have so many backs and eligible receivers, whose at quarterback I said before Florida State, you’ve got to be careful because a back up may come in and you’ll think why wasn’t he the starter? Or a back up will come in and will never leave,” Steele said. “They’re going to have a quarterback; I don’t know who it’s going to be what we’ve got to prepare.”