New Auburn defense coordinator Kevin Steele was happy to share his heartfelt childhood memories of growing up a Tigers fan at Tuesday’s introductory press conference.
He was less forthcoming when pressed for specifics on his vision for the defense he took over last week.
Steele spoke generally on keys to running a successful SEC defense including stopping the run, playing physical and eliminating big plays, but was vague when discussing what Auburn’s base formation might be.
Last year, Steele was similarly tight-lipped about his game plan for LSU all the way through fall camp.
“I think you've got to be able to do both in this league,” Steele said. “You've got to be able to mix it up. If you watch the New England Patriots play, they'll tell you they're a 3-4 team but then they line up in a 4-3 a good bit. It's not so much where we start with it. The personnel will have a lot to do with that but we will do both things.”
With three-plus decades of experience, Steele has extensive knowledge of a variety of defensive systems. Steele had success at LSU last year relying heavily on its nickel package and a 3-2-6 on passing downs.
LSU finished 41st in scoring defense (24.3 points per game allowed) and 25th in total defense (347 yards allowed per game).
Steele’s defenses at Clemson finished in the top 20 nationally two of his three seasons (2009 and 2010) at the school using a base 4-3 defense.
The development of no-huddle offenses thanks in part to Steele’s new boss Gus Malzahn has added a wrinkle to the process.
“You’ve got to be really careful about thinking you’re going to just out call everybody in the game because it’s almost turned it into basketball because players have to adjust to it quick,” Steele said. “It’s a fast paced game. It’s hard. It’s not an easy thing.”
A main factor in Steele’s reluctance to discuss strategy for the 2016 season is his desire to first fully evaluate the defensive roster.
While his main focus the past few days has been helping coach Malzahn fill out the team’s coaching staff and recruiting, he started the process this week by rewatching film of Auburn’s loss to LSU and win in the Birmingham Bowl.
“I’m not really ready at this point in time, only been here less than three days, when you start talking about players and position groups, you need a full folder on it,” Steele said. “We’ve got time for that. We don’t kick off till September.”
Steele is familiar with much of the roster from coaching in the SEC West last year, but isn’t willing to commit on a direction of the defense until he gets fully up to speed.
“I don't think in this day and age you can just go in and throw a playbook down and say this is what we do and this is how we do it and conform to it,” Steele said. “I think you've got to find the strengths and weaknesses, improve upon the weaknesses and build on the strengths. Sometimes that means doing some things different than you've done it before.”