By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele knows going into Atlanta this weekend as the Tigers face off against Georgia Tech, a team that has always given Clemson fits, that his defense will have to play assignment football, stick to doing their job and not try and help a fellow defender and leave their man to make a big play.
“They still have to play with their eyes, play with discipline, and do your job,” Steele said. “It’s no different than playing any other team, you’re going to have an assignment in every play, the one difference is a split second the ball can be in the dive back’s belly, the quarterback hands or to the pitch man, if you take your eye off of the play for one second you’ll lose leverage on your assignment and you’ve got a plus gain.”
As for any differences that Steele has seen out of Paul Johnson’s offense, he’s seen several.
“Every game there’s something different,” Steele said. “He likes to throw in a wrinkle that’s usually a formation with a variation of a play and how they block it. It just shows up and if you don’t stop it, they’ll continue to run it.”
Last year, the Tigers were very successful against the Yellow Jackets, what did Steele believe his team did well against such a unique offense?
“We were dominant at the line of scrimmage, we tackled well, and people did their job,” Steele said. “When you study this thing, if you read what Paul Johnson says, they don’t see a lot of looks, they see two or three different schemes per year, but the base stuff that people play against them, and they’re almost identical lined up. It comes down to doing your job and dominating at the line of scrimmage.”
Steele feels like if his team is solid up front, they’ll be able to dominate the line of scrimmage and be successful against the Jackets.
“We’ve got to be solid up front, dominate the line of scrimmage there’s no doubt about that,” Steele said. “But in the secondary, they have option responsibility too; they’ve got to have their eyes on the players running deep. Georgia Tech leads the nation in big plays so that’ll be important.”
Steele has coached against Johnson’s triple option for several years and knows that he has a lot of plays in his arsenal that he will wear you out with if you’re not careful.
“One thing that we have to do with this kind of offense, is we can’t wait until game week to practice it,” Steele said. “We practiced it in spring practice, fall camp, and throughout the season we’ll work 10 or 15 minutes on the triple option. I actually think preparing for this type of offense is fun; it’s another week, another game. We play them every year; to have a negative opinion about it isn’t productive, if you don’t want to play them go play in the Big 12 where you won’t see it.”
With a new quarterback for the Jackets this season, the biggest difference Steele sees in Washington when compared to Jonathan Nesbitt is experience.
“You can see Washington growing, getting better and better, but when you saw Nesbitt come up here last year he knew exactly what to do,” Steele said. “They are a very talented team, I can’t tell a whole lot of difference between this team and the 2009 team. Obviously they had a 1st round draft pick receiver and a running back during 2009 that they probably wish they had back but they still have play makers and the ability just not as much experience.”
As for assignment football in layman’s terms, Steele tried to compare it to NASCAR and then also to mowing the lawn.
“If you’re supposed to pump the gas, pump the gas,” Steele said. “If you’re supposed to change the tire, change the tire. Don’t be trying to do someone else’s job. At my house, don’t mess with my lawn mower, I’ll cut the grass. In other words, do what you’re supposed to do not someone else’s position. The words are easy, just doing it is hard.”
Against North Carolina, the second team defense was able to play for the full 4th quarter. Although Steele was very frustrated that the Tar Heels were able to put up 21 points on his second team, he did see some glimpses of a great player in true freshman defensive tackle DeShawn Williams.
“I will say this #99 DeShawn Williams, played really well for a young guy,” Steele said. “He looked like a veteran out there, had a high motor, good technique, continued to do his job. I really think he did a good job.”
After the North Carolina game, North Carolina’s coach said that he thought offensively that they could take advantage of Clemson’s safeties.
“They did,” Steele said. “They bit on double moves, it’s pretty simple. They weren’t playing with their eyes and it’s turned into a habit. But we’re going to get that habit corrected.”