By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- When Clemson lost several of their key playmakers on defense after last season, Tiger Nation knew that the Tigers’ would suffer some growing pains in 2011. However, Kevin Steele let it be known Tuesday that the young players who have earned significant playing time this season will be great players for the Tigers and this is something he hopes happens soon.
The one game that sticks out in my mind where Clemson’s defense played a full game and almost completely shut a team out was against Virginia Tech early in October, in Blacksburg. What’s changed about the Hokies since their loss to Clemson?
“Their passing tree concept has changed a little bit but that’s not unusual, “Steele said. “They’re featuring some different style routes than they did going into the first game and are featuring more of the Cam Newton style quarterback runs, the Q-Power in short yardage situations.”
The mistakes made against South Carolina last weekend go back to what Coach Steele has preached all season long, some players just weren’t doing their jobs.
“I can’t explain what went wrong except that some guys just weren’t doing their jobs,” Steele said. “It’s something that we’ve worked on and is simple. As far as the run game, those scrambles and few big pass plays killed us. What we’ve got to do is be more accountable and responsible to do our job. If it’s something that wasn’t worked on, coached or repped in practice than that’s on me, at a point in time, if this continues to happen then the other part falls on me too. Why are the guys not making the plays? If it’s there, why aren’t you making the play?”
What Steele is frustrated in is that some players that have played a lot of football for him are the ones that continue to make mistakes.
“We’ve got to teach tackling better, double coverage better,” Steele said. “We’ve just got to teach them better so that they’re making the plays. They’re there; we’re just not making the plays.”
With the kind of quarterback Logan Thomas is, Steele sees areas of concern for this weekend’s contest.
“From the scrambling part, we’ve got to have the right guys out there,” Steele said. “We’ve got to be in our rush lanes and we better get off blocks. Thomas doesn’t have any magic dust so he didn’t improve his ability since we’ve played him. He’s very fast, strong, and they’re utilizing him more in that way.”
Although he does have some older guys on his defense that need to be accountable and responsible, there are a few that have played lights out, even during the tough losses for the Tigers.
“Although there are some that need to improve, we’ve got some guys really playing well,” Steele said. “(Koty) Sensabaugh is playing lights out, so are (Andre) Branch and Brandon Thompson. We’ve got guys doing that. The problem is that there are 11 guys out there. Some of the youthfulness, getting on the big stage, the quick response, there’s some hesitation out there.”
Defensive End Andre Branch had a career game against the Hokies during their first meeting, how has he continued to improve this season?
“He knows his job and does it, he studies very well and knows what to expect,” Steele said. “Then you put his talent and speed together with all of that. Marion (Hobby) in my opinion has done a great job escalating his pass rush, because Branch is just a two year starter, he’s become a complete player.”
One thing that Steele has become frustrated in is the negativity.
“We live in such a negative country that everyone forgets that these boys are 18-22 years old, it surprises me just how negative people can be and what these kids are exposed to,” Steele said. “Some of these guys have not played a lot of football, they’re growing, they’re getting better and are going to be really good players. They’re smart, talented, and have pride in what they do. Right now our results are not what we want them to be, but I’m more frustrated and upset with the 10% out there. You don’t hear from the 90% that have a job and are positive and raising their kids. You hear from the 10% that complain about everything, and that’s what our players hear because they’re the loudest. I don’t hear it but they do, now if you’re a true believer in what we’re trying to do right here, is that what you do to try and prepare your team for a championship game? I don’t think so.”