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Kevin Steele finds a lot to like with Auburn's defense
Auburn's Tray Matthews and Co. occasionally lowered the boom on Clemson
Sept. 5, 2016

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn defense coordinator Kevin Steele doesn't patrol sidelines during games. He's watching from the coaches' box to get the big picture.

The big picture looked good to him last Saturday.

Steele had an easy time praising his defense Monday while reviewing last weekend's 19-13 loss to Clemson. The Tigers' defense, apparently, was cool, calm and collected.

"I'm not sitting up there emotional, screaming and pounding the table and throwing headsets," he said. "Those days are long since gone. Plus, at my age, you're getting closer to having a heart attack or a stroke. I don't want to risk that so I just stay calm, play the next play."

Auburn held Clemson to 115 fewer yards than it averaged in games last season, allowing the home-standing Tigers to stay close enough to make two throws into the end zone as the clock wound down.

Not good enough. "A loss is a loss in this business," Steele offered.

But he also said the defense played well, even offering some amazement the Tigers were able to play 11 defensive linemen in a big-time matchup, that the linebackers made an impact and adding his secondary was solid.

"The thing that we first would say is that we asked the guys to play with great effort. I think it showed up in the game," Steele said. "We asked them to be physical and we practiced that way. We created ways to challenge them physically and we feel like they responded in that way."

Steele said holding high-scoring Clemson to 19 points "was a good number."

"We're going to work very, very hard to build on the positives of the game."

Like holding Clemson to 3.4 yards per carry. Like playing well in pass coverage. Like having no major breakdowns in the secondary.

Steele will be looking for more of the same when Auburn entertains Arkansas State at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"As far as the next game, the guys came out today and had very good focus," Steele said. "There was a seriousness about them. We challenged them to practice like pros and we do that every day. They did that, they communicated well and were on top of what was going on."

Steele broke down his first game as Auburn's defensive coordinator this way:

**He said linebackers Deshaun Davis, Darrell Williams and Tre' Williams "did an outstanding job."

"They quarterbacked the defense very well, they fit the run very well and in the passing game they were effective. They're instinctive guys and I think that showed up. And they're very good students of the game, that's what really helps them. They study the game. They just don't go out there and play."

**The fact Auburn was able to play 11 defensive linemen "was very valuable."

And very unusual.

"I don't know if I've ever heard of 11 guys playing in a game that is that close" with "the type teams that were out there. Eleven defensive linemen? That's a lot of guys. And they all played well. And it allowed us to keep them fresh."

**He said true freshman Marlon Davidson "did very well" in his first college game - and first start.

"He had a winning grade. That's hard to do as a rookie."

**He said safeties Nick Ruffin and Tray Matthews were solid.

"We didn't get the top knocked off the coverage. They played the run very well when they were asked to get down in the box. They communicated well. We had no major busts in the secondary. None. And that's hard to do particularly with the multiplicity of formations and motions you have."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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