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Clemson Football Practice Report – August 6

Aug. 6, 2011

CLEMSON, SC – The Clemson Tigers held their second preseason practice on Saturday afternoon and early evening on the practice fields behind the Jervey Athletic Center. The Tigers worked for two hours and 45 minutes in varying weather that included some light rain showers that cooled off the players.

“It was another day of installation,” said Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney, who will lead his Tigers into Death Valley for the season opener against Troy on September 3. “We have gone over a lot of installation over these first two practices. That will be the routine, install, then look at the video and make corrections. The goal is to learn from the mistakes and get better each day.”

Part of the process of reviewing the video includes watching some quarterback helmet cam. For the first time, Clemson quarterbacks are wearing a camera during practice that helps Tiger coaches more accurately review what the Clemson quarterbacks see and do when they are running the offense.

“The good thing about the helmet cam is that you can see and hear,” said Swinney. “You can hear the calls by the quarterback. Previously you really weren’t sure what the quarterback called. Was there a problem in that the wrong call was made? But this camera gives us that information and allows you to follow the quarterback’s reads throughout the play.

“You can only watch a little of it at a time, though because it is like watching video of a rollercoaster ride. You might get sick to your stomach after a while.”

The Tigers will take Sunday off, then go back to practice next Monday and Tuesday in shells. The Tigers will put on the full uniform for the first time next Wednesday.

All practices are closed to the public. The team will hold its annual Fan Appreciation Day on Sunday, August 21 from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM.

Tigers are Throwing in Different Looks on DefenseBy Will Vandervort, IPTAY Media

CLEMSON, SC – When asked why he is gradually moving Clemson towards a more 3-4 style of defense, Clemson Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele admitted it has a lot to do with the maturity of defensive end Andre Branch.

Popular wisdom has said Clemson’s move to the odd defense had to do with the loss of Da’Quan Bowers and his 15 sacks, plus the team’s lack of depth at defensive tackle. Though those are logical reasons, the Tigers’ move in this direction would not be possible if was not for the level of talent and maturity in which Branch displayed over the last half of the 2010 season, and in the spring.

“He has always had good ability,” Steele said after Saturday evening’s practice. “Branch is a smart guy. He has a good football IQ. He was just a little bit loose with his stuff.

“Rather than being tight and structured with a bent knee and striking, he would be a little high sometimes or wide and misplace his hands. He just needed to refine his technique. He is not there yet, but he is headed in the right direction. Marion (Hobby) has done a good job with him.”

But, it just isn’t Branch that has Steele excited about his defense and the possibilities it can display when the Tigers take to the field this fall. He says safeties Jonathan Willard and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore have all played a big role in developing a mentality needed for the team as a whole to be successful.

“My hat goes off to the older guys,” he said. “The older guys have done a really nice job. The Halls and the Meeks are helping Robert Smith, while the Coricos and the Tig Willards are helping the (young linebackers).

“That has really helped. In the summer time we can’t meet with them. We can’t touch them.”

Steele is very familiar with the 3-4 defense. He has used it at other stops in his career, plus he is great friends with Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, whose background goes all the way back to the days when he started running the zone blitz schemes as the defense coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Because of his familiarity with the 3-4, Steele often studies film on the Packers and the Steelers, as well as other NFL teams such as the New England Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals. At the college level he often looks at Texas and Alabama, along with TCU as well.

Steele coached with TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas when the two were assistant coaches at the University of Tennessee. The Frogs have been one of the top 10 defenses for much of the last seven years.

“If you study somebody it is good to study someone you have some familiarity and conversation with so you can understand one another,” Steele said. “They have finished very high in the Bowl Championship Series stats for the last five or six years. They have been up there.”

TCU has also played against a lot of spread offenses the last couple of years, so Steel took an even closer look to see what they did different against teams like that. Steele says he saw a few new wrinkles upon closer inspection.

“They do a really good job of setting the edge,” he said. “Their packages are set (to spread offenses) because they see a lot of that outside speed stuff, so they do a really good job of setting the edge, which is the key to that defense.”

Steele says a 3-4 defense can cause problems for a spread offense, especially when they try to break down the protections. When a defense gets in an odd look, it creates different multiples as far as who has to pick up whom.

That’s why having a player as dynamic as Branch allows Steele the ability to throw both odd and even looks at an offense at any given time.