War Eagle Extra

Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele a players’ coach with bite

New Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele watches spring football practice on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 in Auburn, Ala.
New Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele watches spring football practice on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 in Auburn, Ala. Auburn Athletics

Auburn defensive lineman Devaroe Lawrence found the description of new coordinator Kevin Steele as a player’s coach on target.

Lawrence was one of Steele’s new players to share their early impressions of the veteran assistant hired at the end of December to replace Will Muschamp.

Lawrence, who is one of only five seniors on the defense, said Steele’s willingness to listen to players’ input is appreciated within Auburn’s locker room.

While Steele’s calm demeanor carries over to the practice field, Lawrence has already seen the coach flip a switch when he needs to prove a point.

“He’s more calm (than Muschamp), but at the same thing you have to realize he’s still going to bite too,” Lawrence said with a laugh. He’s got an edge to him. You can’t get it twisted.”

Steele wouldn’t put any labels on his style, but did acknowledge he’s toned down his approach considerably over the years.

“My style has evolved, changed back, evolved some more to get to where it is now,” Steele said. “It’s been remade many times over to correct mistakes that I feel like I made based on my personality. At this point in time, I’ve been doing it long enough now, I feel pretty comfortable with it.”

Steele tries to be mindful of different players’ personalities. He’s learned a non-stop fiery approach has the potential to do more damage than good.

“You can put them (players) in a shell, and it takes you a while to get them out,” Steele said.

Steele is also working to make the transition from Auburn’s previous defensive staff a smooth one. For players like Lawrence, Steele is the third different coordinator in as many years.

Lawrence said the transition this offseason has been easier than year’s past with the coaching staff emphasizing continuity.

“We've tried to facilitate the learning curve a little bit…” Steele said. “The dictionary is pretty similar so we've tried to keep as much of it the same as possible, which makes it friendly for the players.”

Steele is staying patient with the group in these early spring practices as he works to establish the core principles he wants the defense to follow.

“What we are trying to create right now on the third day — the first day of pads, so the first real day of football — is to be a physical dominating group that plays with relentless effort,” Steele said. “The thing that is the most encouraging at this point over the first three days is we’ve got a really, really good attitude and we have really tried to play with great effort on every play.”