If Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was to be known for one characteristic, it would be his intensity.
This year Steele will be bring that fire to the Tigers’ defense face-to-face, on the sidelines after spending his first three seasons as defensive coordinator in the sky box, Gus Malzahn said Tuesday. Malzahn and Steele settled on the decision during the summer and also will place defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson up in the box to fill the void.
“I think it's really, really good in both ways,” Malzahn said. “I like him down there, and he likes being down there. You know, in practice, that's where everybody's at. So I think that will be a really good move moving forward.”
This isn’t the first time Steele is climbing down to field level either, which Malzahn noted as one of the other contributing factors to switch things up. Steele was on the field for Auburn’s matchup against Clemson years back, going up against the Malzahn-coordinated offenses.
Malzahn noted that what makes Steele so effective, apart from his intensity, is the manner in which he communicates and checks schemes at the field level. Since Steele accepted his position at Auburn, the Tigers’ defense, whether their leader is on the field or in the box, is yet to finish a season outside the top-15 in total defense.
Along with a bona fide fourth-year defensive coordinator within earshot, Malzahn returns one of the most experienced defensive units that he has ever had in his arsenal as head coach. Steele can now relay play calls and audibles at field level, and with speed, to his veteran safeties, Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas.
“It's a positive,” Dinson said. “We don't have to wait to go in to halftime and him drawing up these different adjustments. He can just do it on the sideline. He's a smart, smart defensive coordinator, so he'll probably be calling plays out before it even happens. We probably won't hear him, but it's good to have him down there just for the adjustments.”
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Steele’s defense will face its first test Saturday night in Cowboys Stadium when they face Justin Herbert and No. 11 Oregon.
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