A few highlights from Clemson coordinators Kevin Steele and Billy Napier in their Tuesday sessions with reporters:
Steele, the Tigers’ defensive coordinator, first:
On Auburn quarterback Cam Newton:
“He’s a big man, a big guy carrying the ball. He’s strong, he’s powerful, he has good cutting ability. He looks like he has good vision in his running ability. He feels it. But (responsibility is) not a LB deal, that’s whoever’s got that gap. Could be a nose, could be a cornerback, could be a defensive tackle, could be a linebacker. It’s whoever’s got the gap.”
On Auburn’s quick tempo:
“You see a lot of that. It's not like something you'll walk into and say, 'Oh geez, we've played 11 huddle-up teams and our team huddles up.' We play a lot of teams who don't huddle. That helps a bunch. It's not like the old days. In the old days, you’d go along and get a no-huddle team and be like, ‘Oh my word, what are we going to do now?’ Defense huddled up, offense huddle up, it’s what you practiced all the time.
On how you prepare for that in practice: “They are faster than normal. They’re very, very fast. You have to practice the best you can. Which is hard because you have a scout team and you have to show them cards.
“ It's all about (quality) reps in practice, too. You can't go out there and just because you want to do hurry-up, come off the practice field and normally you’d do 75 reps, and now you do 150 reps (in a practice) And then you walk into the stadium with dead legs because you tried to show something all week long. They do go faster and you’ve gotta be focused, got to think ahead. You’ve got to know what you're going to do in certain situations and the players need to know. Fortunately we've got an older group of guys. I think we'll be OK in that.”
On who Auburn OC Gus Malzahn reminds him of:
“Rich Rodriguez was like that in a lot of ways, had a very fast tempo. It reminds me of Canada where they have 12 men.”
On how Mississippi State, who held AU to 17 points, slowed them down.
“You're watching the film and there's 40 seconds to go in the half and the next time you see it there's 7 minutes and 56 left in the third quarter. They had the ball a long time. The other thing is, they did affect their run game. They did a nice job with that.”
On MSU using a 3-4 to slow them down:
“ (Did I notice that) the first time I watched it or the ninth time I watched it? They're an odd front team. That's what they do. What happens in their style of play is that they're an odd front team that is multiple pressure-schemes with who's coming and who's the fourth rusher and who’s the fifth rusher. Generally with deeper coverage, a lot of three-deep coverage and an extra guy in the box. Real deep coverage.”
More on the up-tempo:
“"Hey guys … it is what it is. You’ll make a big deal out of it anyway, but … there's 11 men on both sides, the officials will spot the ball. When they get in place, it's going to go. Yes, it is fast and yes you have to think and get lined up in a hurry, but it's still human beings having to get lined up. They’ve got to make a call, they’ve got to get lined up.
“ It's not like they’ve got some magical power or something where it's a vapor that's going to appear all of a sudden and they're going to snap the ball. They have to get a call and they’ve got to get lined up. That should be enough time for us to get lined up correctly and we’ve got the right system.”
On Justin Parker’s effort Saturday: “He got a lot of snaps. Young guy, running around out there. He'll hit you. Still learning. I think he’s having fun. He's fast. He is improving, fundamentally, technique-wise. He is."
More on Newton and who has responsibility for his runs;
“It adds another dimension to it. Where the problem comes in is not the designed runs. You’ll say, OK, play Georgia Tech it’s dive, quarterback, pitch. Somebody has the quarterback. You play the zone read teams, someone has the QB in the run. Where it becomes an issue is when it’s a scramble. Now you’ve got guys in coverage, pass rush, and he gets through pass rush, puts the ball down. There’s obviously a difference, you only have to watch football on Sunday.
“There’s a difference between when Peyton Manning scrambles and when Michael Vick scrambles. That adds a whole other dimension to things.
He’s a good cut runner. He’s got that bob kind of deal where he dips his shoulder like he’s going to run into you, but as he gives it to you, just as you make contact, he takes it away. He’s powerful and linear enough, that it gives a dragging motion rather than a run-through motion. People fall off of him. There was a play where five (players) dropped off of him. I’m not talking about reached out and touched him, it’s hit him and he ain’t down yet.”
Now, on to Napier:
On Clemson’s offensive identity:
“Hopefully throughout spring, summer and fall camp we've developed somewhat of an identity, who we're going to be and what we're going to be about. It's no different than what you are early in the season. Guys are just getting comfortable, getting in their routine and what's expected of them in terms of their preparation. Obviously, Saturday will be a big step forward in determining how these guys are going to handle some adversity. If anything, that's probably the biggest question mark is how we're going to handle being in a difficult environment.”
On quick drives and the lack of extended drives:
“The exciting thing to me is we have a pretty good nucleus of veteran players who have been a part of drives like that. Winning third down obviously is very important, and that starts with first down efficiency. If we can keep third down manageable - it's all those core objectives and goals that we talk about to our players, that can allow us to continue drives and keep the drive alive and finish it when we get into the red area.
“I think we've had maybe one eight-play drive or something like that. I think it's just a product of how the first two games have went. I do know that in scrimmage situations in the preseason, in spring, we've had several opportunities to do that and capitalized on it.”
On what he sees in Auburn’s defense:
“Just personnel wise, I think they've got really good players. Their front guys are long, tall players who can play well and use their length to their advantage. They're very experienced at linebacker, even though one of their veterans ( MLB Craig Stevens) hasn't been playing. I'm not sure if he's back or not. Even though the guys in the back end maybe have had some injuries and haven't been there, they have played a lot of football for Auburn.
“So you're dealing with a pretty savvy, veteran group that's been a part of some tough games. More than anything, they're in their second year with Coach (Ted) Roof and Coach (Gene) Chizik. Obviously they're benefiting from that just like we are. I think that's evident just watching the first two games. They're a little more comfortable with who they are and what they're doing defensively."
On if you can take anything away from the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2007 despite both teams having new coaches and systems since then:
“It tells you a little bit about Auburn and the type of fan base and passion they have. So going into their home stadium will be very similar. We won't have as many people at the game, obviously. But I think that familiarized some of our players and our staff, some of the guys that were on that staff. Obviously a lot of our guys are SEC guys that have come over and are very familiar with Auburn. I think that would be the only thing to take from that, given that it's two completely different staffs.”
On the wide receiver rotation:
“At that position, we continue to play the same group. The quantity of snaps will ultimately be dictated by what we see throughout the week this week. But I do think some of those guys are showing they're capable and had another good week. Making the layups I guess is how I would describe it. Hopefully we'll continue to whittle that lineup down and develop some more continuity as we go. But I do think at this point, we're going to continue the way we had it the first two games."
On Kyle Parker’s big-game experience:
“There's no question, in particular at that position. It's extremely important that he's been there. He knows what to expect. He can visualize what it's going to be like. We can take this week of preparation and apply it to what that game is going to be like. And as a player, he can anticipate problems within each scenario and each play. I think it's a huge advantage, given that he's a veteran guy."