CLEMSON — Kevin Steele brought Auburn's bid to make another run at a national championship to an early halt six years ago as Clemson's defensive coordinator.
Now, he's hoping to do the same thing again — this time standing on Auburn's sideline.
Steele been the defensive coordinate at Auburn the past two seasons. He'll try and slow down No. 3 Clemson's young, productive offense when the teams meet Saturday night.
It was in 2011, Auburn's second game of the season, as the reigning national champs when the Tigers played at Clemson — which was coming off a losing season. But without Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, Auburn struggled on offense in Clemson's surprise 38-24 win.
Steele's defense held Auburn to 10 points the final three quarters to end that team's 17-game win streak.
Now, Steele's locked in to slowing Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant , the successor to two-time Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson. Clemson put up 665 yards — 313 of them by Bryant — in a 56-3 victory over Kent State last week.
"Obviously their old quarterback was a first-round draft pick and one of the best to play in modern times," Steele said. "But their quarterback (now) is a very good football player and has a bright future in this game."
No. 13 Auburn defense held Georgia Southern to a touchdown in a 41-7 opening-game victory.
Steele led Clemson's defense from 2009-2011, helping the Tigers win their first Atlantic Coast Conference title in 20 years his final year. But Clemson was routed by West Virginia, 70-33, in the Orange Bowl that season and coach Dabo Swinney let Steele go shortly after.
"This has nothing to do with me or coach Steele," Swinney said of the matchup. "It's all about the guys on the field. He's done a great job. He did a great job here for us."
NEW AUBURN QB
Auburn has a new starting quarterback, too, in Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham . Stidham passed for two TDs and ran for another in the Tigers' win. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 185. Stidham understands the challenge this week and that he must take a step forward. "I was thrilled to be back out there," he said. "I've got to get a lot better personally and as an offense collectively."
Any projections for Hurricane Irma in the state of South Carolina are for early next week. Clemson said in a statement it was monitoring the situation and work with authorities if any action was required. Two years ago, Clemson defatted Notre Dame 24-22 in the face of a historic rainstorm that led to catastrophic flooding throughout much of the state.
NO TOE WORRIES
Clemson's massive defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence showed no ill effects from offseason toe surgery, playing a unit high 23 snaps in last Saturday's win. Lawrence, 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds, said the toe has not given him much problems and he expects to play all game against Auburn.
Clemson has won the past three from Auburn, including a 19-13 victory there to start last season where Auburn was throwing into the end zone for a potential winning score last week. Before Clemson's recent run, Auburn has won 14 in a row stretching from 1951 to 2010.
Auburn tailback Kerryon Johnson suffered an apparent leg injury against Georgia Southern and did not practice this past Sunday. Tigers coach Gus Malzahn was "hopeful" that Johnson would be able to play against Clemson. Kamryn Pettway returns for Auburn after serving a one-game suspension during the win over Georgia Southern.
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