Auburn Defensive Corodinator Kevin Steele Quotes
Friday, December 30, 2016
KEVIN STEEL: First, we would like to say thanks to the Sugar Bowl Committee for having the Auburn Tigers, and the City of New Orleans. It’s always a treat in the education business to see guys experience something for the first time, and the looks on the faces of our guys when they realized they were coming to the Sugar Bowl and the looks on their face when they got here. And even something that we take for granted when you bring 18%u2011 to 22%u2011year%u2011olds in the educational process and drive them over to practice and they see the Superdome for the first time, you know you’re in the right business of teaching young men when you see guys experience the things like that. So we would like to say thanks to the city and the committee for that.
As far as the preparation, briefly on that, obviously, we had pretty lengthy practice sessions back home. It went very well. Practice has gone very good here. Everything appears to be that we’re as healthy as we’re going to be, which is pretty good, considering some of the bumps and bruises that we had along the way.
I think this will be a great challenge for us. Obviously, the opponent is a very talented football team and a well%u2011coached conference champion; so we have a great challenge there.
The thing that I think is probably the biggest thing for our guys is that we just have to carry the process that we had in the season into the game and then we will go from there.
Q. Coach, talk about Oklahoma’s big pliability and the type of concern that is for your defense.
KEVIN STEEL: Well, anytime you play, you coach defensive football in college football or NFL football, and it’s gotten to where some high school football, every game you watch now, the top gets knocked off the coverage frequently in games. That’s just the design of offense now. With the hurry%u2011up spread, you know, explosive plays are key to that. It’s not something new. We see it in practice. We see it in teams that we play in the SEC.
But obviously, when you turn the film with Oklahoma, with the quarterback and the receivers that they have, they certainly do well at knocking the top off of coverages. So it’s going to be a big challenge. But again, it goes back to the style of play that we are used to and what we’re trying to prevent and what they’re trying to make happen.
So it’s not anything that we haven’t seen. We see it every game. It’s just sometimes that the guys that you’re trying to prevent from doing it have some special talents, and I think that’s the case this week.
Q. Before you became an SEC staple, you spent some time in you part of the country. What do you remember about Stillwater and Waco?
KEVIN STEEL: You forgot Lincoln, Nebraska. The longest tenure at that point in time, it confused me %u2011%u2011 I have been doing this long enough to remember when Nebraska was in the Big 12 and the Big Eight. In fact, I think that the total is ten years in what is some Big 12, Big Eight years. It’s a great time, great football. And I have been to Norman. I have been there as three different schools and sort of experienced Norman Oklahoma, and the type program it is and what it’s like to play. There, and obviously, in terms of just the Big 12 %u2011%u2011 probably the biggest difference for me is, I remember Big 12 being a whole lot colder on Saturdays than the Southeastern Conference because you go to Ames, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Boulder, Colorado; and even Stillwater, Oklahoma. I coached in the Ice Bowl, I guess that’s what they called it, in ’84 or ’85, some of the people covering this room right now were not born then, but I was actually there.
Q. Kevin, Carl Lawson, after going through a lot of adversity his first few years at Auburn, getting hurt twice, gets through the year. How valuable has he been not only in what he has done on the field but just his maturity and leadership and those sorts of things. How valuable have they been for you this year?
KEVIN STEEL: Well, it’s been huge in terms of his leadership. Josh Holsey, Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson, Tray Matthews, those guys are really, really good leaders, and Carl being one of those guys. But Carl is not necessarily a vocal leader. He is a guy, when you watch him on the practice field, he leads by example, and, you know, on Saturdays when he plays, he plays with a high motor. Of course, he has an extreme skill set and allows you to do things as a caller when you can utilize somebody like that, you have to know who can do what, but you also need to know who can keep things from happening. And Carl has the ability to help other people on the field because of what he can do.
Q. Tell me what you’re going to miss most about having Crime Dog here and what he brought this year.
KEVIN STEEL: Well, Wesley McGriff, our Secondary Coach is %u2011%u2011 for you that don’t know it %u2011%u2011 I’m sure everybody in this room knows it, but we have some from the Big 12 %u2011%u2011 has taken the defensive coordinator’s job at Ole Miss. And first of all, as a friend that I have known for a long time, I’m excited for him and the opportunity. So there’s a positive there. We’re happy about that.
But really going to miss him. I mean, he is the consummate professional. He is great with the players. But probably the biggest thing, he is as good a teacher in the back end as you will ever see. And one of the reasons that we have so few of deep balls, there are very few deep%u2011ball big plays against us this year, as few as I can ever remember being around, and I attribute that to how good of a teacher he is of keeping the top on the coverage.
Q. Discuss and tell us a little bit about Rudy Ford, what type of player that he has been during his career at Auburn and what type of guy he is off the field as well.
KEVIN STEEL: Well, I can’t speak for his career. I can only speak for the year. But Rudy is a classy young man, very smart young man. He is a guy that has a good spirit about him, but probably the biggest thing is Rudy is real, real fast %u2011%u2011 real, real fast. And he can %u2011%u2011 because of the change of direction and speed bursts that he has, it gives him the ability to do things that’s hard and rare to do.
Q. Kevin, talk about your pre%u2011New Orleans practices with the young guys, how those went, and did you get a lot done?
KEVIN STEEL: I would say we go got a lot done because it was %u2011%u2011 it sounds like it was long, long practices; it was just periods of practicing. But we did %u2011%u2011 we practiced the young guys and at the end tried to get reps for guys, you know, Marlon Character and Nick Coe and the guys like that that have redshirted and give them competitive reps. So it’s almost utilized like a mini second spring practice, if you will.
And that’s one of the great values of the bowl system that people don’t realize. We’re not like the NFL where we can take six months off. We have to develop players. And in developing players, you have to have them on the practice field to do that. So spring practice is not what it used to be. It seemed like when I was playing, it lasted forever. And now it’s very limited in terms of the contact, the number of days you have. So the developmental player %u2011%u2011 to develop a player is a little bit more difficult, and the bowl time %u2011%u2011 the teams that get to go to the bowl teams have a distinct advantage in that regard.
Q. Oklahoma obviously has a quarterback%u2011receiver combination, Heisman finalists, obviously pretty good, but they’ve also got two running backs that are really good as well.
Which do you want to take out first or control first?
KEVIN STEEL: Well, you can’t approach it like that. You know, when you have got that much talent across the board, you take one out and then, you know, you will %u2011%u2011 most swords have two sides and they can both cut you. So you have to be real careful, of saying, well, we just take something out. They have got 11 guys. We have got 11 guys. We have got to get lined up properly, we’ve got to communicate properly, and we’ve got to have the right matchups on the right guys and be in the right gaps, we’ve got to set the edges in the run game, tackle well, with great pursuit and keep the top on the coverage.
Now, that was a pretty good dissertation. If we get all of that done, we will be okay. But they’re talented, and they’re going to work to try to make those things not happen. So %u2011%u2011 but you can’t just say we’re going to load up and just %u2011%u2011 they’re not going to run the ball. Well, then, they will throw for 450.
If you say, well, we’re going to take away the throwing game and they’re not going to be this deep, we’re going to have so many people deep they can’t be this deep, then the running backs will have 250 apiece.
So you have to be able to do both. That’s just defensive football. I mean, it is what it is.
So having said that, you know, when you watch their games, they have had %u2011%u2011 in the games they have played, the 12 games they played, they’ve only scored under 34 points twice. And that yardage is coming in the throwing game and in the running game in every one of those games. It’s not lopsided in one game and nonexistent in another. It’s there. It shows up. So we’re going to have to be able to do both. But that’s defensive football in our Power 5 conferences now.
Q. Before you came to Auburn, you spent a year at LSU. I was curious what you thought about Ed Orgeron becoming the head coach after spending a year with him and also kind of what you took away from your experience with LSU?
KEVIN STEEL: Well, you know, LSU is a wonderful place to coach football. The players there are magnificent; the people, they work hard. Football means a great deal to them. They have great fans. It’s a great place to work. It really is. And so, it was a great, great year there.
In terms of Ed %u2011%u2011 you know, Ed and I worked together that year. It was unfortunate %u2011%u2011 and I think Ed would tell you this %u2011%u2011 the circumstances which it came about, how it came about, but it did. And you know, he is a guy that has a lot of energy. He is a great leader. And he is an LSU type guy. So I was very excited for him, and I think he will do a great job.
Again, on the flip side of that, like I said, Ed will tell you the same thing. It was sad in the way it happened because, you know, we both work for less. And Coach Miles is a really, really good person and a good man and won a lot of good games there.
Q. Kevin, can you speak to the status of the search? It sounds like there’s been an indication as to who the new defensive backs coach will be? And secondly, can you speak to the challenge that the DBs are going to have with whoever the new coach is as a fifth position coach in four years of that position?
KEVIN STEEL: Well, let’s start with the second part of that. I know that’s good reading and material and fifth %u2011%u2011 but remember, you’re talking to the same group. I mean, people graduate and transfer now like free agency in college football, and pro guys, you know, they sign one%u2011year contracts and be with one team. I have a guy I coached in college that is in the NFL. He is with the third team by choice, contractually by choice, in the last three years.
So, we’re a little different. This is not 1970 where every SEC head coach had been there 15 years. There’s a lot of change in things now. Players change, coaches change. I think just as an American society we’re pretty good at change.
So, I think it’s way overrated. I think it’s just %u2011%u2011 really, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. If the guy coaching you is a good person, a good teacher, and knows what he is doing, the players will adapt. And so that’s no concern at all.
And then, in terms of the search, you know my standard patent answer that y’all don’t like at home, but that’s a question for the head coach. But I will say I know that he has already told you this part. We do have a list. There has been some contact. There’s been no decision and will not be until we get back home.