Hours before Clemson played West Virginia rumors circulated that Tennessee was going to make another run at Tigers defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to run its defense. By the time the Orange Bowl ended there were probably a lot of Clemson fans that would have gladly helped Steele pack his bags for Knoxville. Even Tigers coach Dabo Swinney didn’t seem to be willing to give Steele much of a vote of confidence.
“It’s probably as bad a defensive performance I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Swinney said. “It’s incredibly disappointing.”
Swinney was reminded folks that he was in a similar situation with his offense last year and made the changes necessary to turn that weakness into a strength. He said he will do the same thing with his defense.
“Well, I’m as confident as I was last year standing here in a press conference 6 7 and telling you we’d fix it. I’m as confident as that. We’ll be better.”
The question is whether Swinney will use the same method he did a year ago when he fired offensive coordinator Billy Napier and running backs coach Andre Powell. If your Kevin Steele you might be wondering the same thing, especially since Swinney openly admitted coaching is at least part of the problem.
“We have not played to our standard defensively at all, and nobody is going to tell you otherwise. Our defensive coaches are as disappointed as I am. But again, we knew that we were going to have some struggles this year, but I just really felt like that we’ve got to get some guys to play with a little more discipline, a little more consistency. Just too many missed assignments. We’ve got to look at what we’re doing and make sure that guys know what they’re doing, because again, missed assignments lead to big plays. We’ll look at everything and how we’re doing it and come back next year.”
Swinney did point out that Steele and the Tiger defense were the strength of the team the past couple of years, which could be a sign that he isn’t ready to bail on Steele.
“We were the ninth scoring defense in the country last year and top 25 the year before. Ain’t nobody forgot how to coach or anything like that. We’ve just got to grow some guys up, and they will get better from this experience. There’s no doubt about that.”