By Ashley Denny.
By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- After Clemson’s defense was exposed on Saturday by Georgia Tech’s triple option offensive attack and running quarterback Tevin Washington, Clemson’s Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele said it best when he said, “We were physically whipped.”
On Tuesday, the members of the media had a chance to speak to Steele again and hear what he had to say about his defense’s performance and where the Tigers will go from here.
“We had some guys that played very well Saturday,” Steele said. “There are some guys that you can make clinic tape off of them and the way they defended the triple option. But the problem with the option is that it’s assignment football and it only takes one guy to mess up and they found that our weak spots.”
Leading up to the Georgia Tech loss, Steele believes that his defense had a very good week of practice.
“You could take every play on that game film that Tech ran every single one of them and you could find multiple reps in practice of that play with that call executed correctly,” Steele said.
Although Steele wouldn’t give names of who he thought played well against the Jackets, in fear that we’d use process of elimination to identify the weak links, he was impressed with the play of Brandon Thompson and Malliciah Goodman.
“Brandon and Malliciah, for Malliciah it was a clinic tape, it was very encouraging to watch that,” Steele said. “But he had that last year too; he played very well against them last year so that was good to see.”
The main problem Steele believes his defense had with the option was giving up big plays, something the Tigers have had trouble with all season long.
“It was big plays, they ran the play that they had the 46 yard gain on eight more times throughout the game and got 2 or 3 yards on it,” Steele said. “They ran the quarterback draw for 50 some yards, and then ran the play that they got 46 yards on to the other side and gained 21 on it. I’m not a math major but that’s 120 or 130 yards on three runs.”
One wrinkle Steele threw into the game was using Xavier Brewer and Koty Sensabaugh as safeties instead of cornerbacks, something that he did based on a speed factor.
“It was because of their speed and because Rashard Hall was a little banged up,” Steele said. “We’ve practiced that, it wasn’t something we decided on Wednesday to do. They’re two very disciplined players; understand the concept of what we’re trying to do. We can’t play but 11, that’s why Meeks wasn’t out there too much, we needed twelve out there though.”
Steele is now well into his Wake Forest game plan, calling the team’s bye week a normal week from a staff’s standpoint.
“I’m already well into my game plan for Wake Forest, the only difference with the bye week is that we won’t feed it to the players as quickly,” Steele said. “In a nutshell we’ve got a lot of work to do, we’re a very average defense and the bad thing about that is you can take a huge percentage of our plays and we’re very effective. We’ve created turnovers and a lot of things that have led to points. But we still have the ability in a very inopportune time to give up big plays.”
Are there any fundamentals that Steele will be focusing on over the next two weeks in practice to elevate his defense from average to exceeding expectations?
“The checklist doesn’t change, it’s all the same,” Steele said. “Its alignment, assignment, technique, eyes, effort, tackling, it’s not magic, it’s what we do every day and allows us and affords us a bigger win.”
True freshman linebacker Stephone Anthony continues to stand out to Steele as a player that’s quickly grasping the defensive scheme.
“Factoring in that he’s missed some time with injury, he’s a very good effective player,” Steele said. “When he’s healthy he really helps us.”
As for personnel potential changes, Steele continued to be mum.
“We’re always looking for the best 11,” Steele said. “But I wouldn’t tell you if I knew.”
One player Steele continues to be encouraged by is defensive back Bashaud Breeland who according to Steele was thrown into the fire early this season and has responded.
“He’s a very tenacious, aggressive, calm, cool, and collected football player,” Steele said. “He plays with a lot of confidence, has a defensive demeanor, and because of that he’s an effective tackler. He plays with a reckless abandonment and that lends itself if you have the ability to be a very good tackler.”
At this point, after a difficult loss, Steele knows that his defense is not where he wants it to be and believes that the bye week has come at a good time in order to get the team refocused and mentally prepared for their next challenge.
“Our standards are of excellence,” Steele said. “If we’re average and our standard is excellence then I hope it’s not where we thought we’d be at this point, it’s not about feeling it’s about expectation. Some people may say that an expectation is a feeling but I don’t know that, feelings are too soft for me. Our expectations are excellence and to play to perfection, anything less than that is below our standards and we have way more plays where we’re just not effective than I thought we would have had at this point in time.”