AUBURN, Ala. — Kevin Steele has learned simplicity is a major key to winning in the nearly four decades he’s spent around the game of football.
The Auburn defensive coordinator asks just a few things of his players, regardless of who their opponent is.
“That’s great effort, great tackling, understanding the concepts, communication, those kind of things, the technique things,” Steele says. “You don’t get tired of doing the right things the right way.”
And as Steele starts his second year at Auburn, the Tigers have found Steele’s way is the best way. So when he reiterated that last year was last year, players understood.
“We got to be much better this year,” senior linebacker Tre’ Williams said. “Going throughout camp we were just focusing on like I said reaching the expectations and making them higher for ourself and just getting better by the day.”
It was evident in Auburn’s historic showing in its 41-7 win over Georgia Southern that they’ve taken Steele’s messages to heart. More importantly, it’s what players are trusting heading into a rematch with defending national champion Clemson.
After all those years around college and pro football teams, Steele doesn’t make more of moments or games that are deemed bigger by outsiders. He’s done what he can to make sure his defense plays with the same mindset.
“You do not understand how much we hit on this nail,” Steele said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, what time we play or where we play. It’s about us. It’s about us. It has nothing to do with where we play. What time we play, who we schedule. You get into that, you’re going to ride a roller coaster, so we don’t allow it and we hammer it home.”
Williams and the rest of the defense has shown they believe in a big way.
“The leadership has bought into it,” Steele said. “I think they’ve really bought into the process of next play. In practice its the next play. Play the next play at a higher level than you played the one before with better technique, better focus, and improve. At the end of the day assess it and be better the next day.”
Auburn will focus just as much on Clemson as it did on Georgia Southern’s triple option offense.
Still, if anyone knows how tough playing Clemson in South Carolina can be it’s probably Steele. He did, after ll, serve as Clemson’s defensive coordinator for three years (2009-11). Death Valley was home. In 2011 he led the Tigers to their first ACC championship since 1991.
Yet even as Auburn prepares to be an unwelcome visitor in what Steele calls “a typical SEC atmosphere” nothing changes. The plan is simple and Auburn will stick to it in hopes to knocking the No. 5 team in the nation down a few spots in the rankings.
“They’re really conscientious about focusing on what’s in front of them at that moment and not be distracted by things they have no control over,” Steele said. “That’s part of the process of teaching them because there’s going to be adversity in games. There’s going to be adversity in every facet of the game. Really you don’t have control of that.”
“The only thing you have control of is your job, your technique, your responsibility on that play. Then line up and do it again…Just be ready to play the next play better than you played the play before.”
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