Clemson Football: Steele out as Defense Coordinator and a New Search Begins

Colby LanhamCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2012

COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 15: Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele (L) and head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers look on after the Maryland Terrapins scored during the first half at Byrd Stadium on October 15, 2011 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Well, Tiger fans, head coach Dabo Swinney is back at it once again.

In 2010, after a dismal 31-27 performance in the Meinke Car Care Bowl and a struggiling offense plagued the Tigers all season, Swinney let go of former offensive coordinator Billy Napier.

The end result was the finding of new offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who led the Clemson offense out of the dark and into the light.

This year, after a struggling defense that failed to hold its ground all season and allowed one of the most points in bowl game history, Swinney has fired Kevin Steele as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Clemson Tigers.

After a season that, while the team won the ACC Championship, the defense failed to make their stand when the offense failed to get anything going.

Now, Dabo Swinney is on the hunt once again. The question is who will ultimately replace Kevin Steele as the defensive play-caller?

As the search begins for a new defensive coordinator, one thing must be kept in mind, and that is whoever becomes the defensive coordinator is likely to coach the linebackers, who were Steele's responsibility.

For the three seasons that Steele remained at Clemson, the linebackers continued to be the Achilles heel of the Clemson defense, next to poor tackling and lack of effort.

The new defensive coordinator must also be able to do what Steele has never been able to do: stop spread offenses and contain mobile, dual-threat quarterbacks.

In big games against the likes of Georgia Tech, TCU, and West Virginia, Steele has failed to stop spread offenses and their mobile quarterbacks.

While Steele generally did better against more traditional, pro-style offenses, he failed to keep up with the spread offenses that teams are gradually moving towards.

But perhaps the biggest thing that the new defensive coordinator must bring to Clemson are two things that seemed to be missing in 2011: a defensive identity.

Clemson lost its identity this season, and while the defense was young, there should be no reason to allow a team to score 70 points against your defense.

Clemson did not have any kind of specific scheme or identity, constantly flip-flopping between 3-4 and 4-3 defenses and not generating any kind of pass rush against opposing quarterbacks.

Any team virtually ran at will against the defense due to the underachieving linebacking corps. There has not been a talent issue at linebacker, especially with the addition of players like Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward.

Rather, as was the case with Billy Napier last season, it has been the player development here that has been lacking. 

With the departure of Kevin Steele, Tiger fans hope that Swinney can hit another gold mine like he did with offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

And who knows: maybe the next defensive coordinator will become the Chad Morris of 2012.