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December 31, 2020

Kevin Steele

Orlando, Florida, USA

Camping World Stadium

Auburn Tigers

Q. Wondering what the timeline is for y'all heading to Orlando, if you haven't left already and whether you're going to do any sort of stadium walk-through before the game tomorrow?

KEVIN STEELE: We're still at Auburn. We'll do our walk-through and meetings this morning, normal pre-day-before-game stuff here at Auburn. We'll do the walk-through at the indoor this morning and I think we depart 10:45, we depart for the airport. Get down a little early because there are some things the Bowl wants to us do before we start our normal night-before itinerary.

Q. In your years at Florida State -- you never know when you're going to influence somebody and on your desk when you are were coaching those great linebackers for Coach Bowden, the only thing on your desk was a Bible, and that had a profound effect on me, and it told me a lot about you and what your priorities were and how you treated these young men.

My question here, trying to keep the players first, I understand that, but for you, in all the universities and all the teams you've been with and all the players you've coached, where would this be on your Mt. Rushmore today, tomorrow, rather, if you could pull all this together with these young men and show them how to win and you could win this game?

KEVIN STEELE: It's a good question, I think, you know, coaching, it's been productive for me, and I learned this from some very, very Hall of Fame-type coaches that -- in coaching, you've got to win today. It's live in the moment. The past is full of lessons; the future is unknown, but today is the moment, and you try to win today.

And so I don't really get into comparing six years ago from what will happen tomorrow. I do know this: Based on all the things that these players have been through, across the country, not just our players; and we've got an added deal in that we had a coaching change, so there's been a lot of change and uncertainty that no one in college football that I know of has ever had to go through in terms of across the one try with what's taken place.

And of course, our players have been the same and they have been remarkable in the way they have adapted; the resiliency in which they have had.

So to be able to have a life experience where you fight through something to the end and you're successful with a lot of adversity that you had to overcome, that's a life lesson that will serve them well for years to come. In that regard, it will be very important.

But in terms of just trying to place it in my career, hadn't done that.

Q. The SEC has had a lot of success against the Big Ten in the past. Those past matchups where there's the physicality against a team that's maybe more athletic, where do you think you guys stack up athletically against a team like Northwestern?

KEVIN STEELE: Obviously you watch the video, we are built a little different than they are. That is just the way that we chose to recruit and they do the same thing for the setting they are in, the conference they are in.

But this will be a battle. They are the champions for the Big Ten West and that's hard to accomplish. They are well-coached. I said in earlier press conferences, their coach is a future Hall of Famer. He has done remarkable things at Northwestern and they are certainly up to the task and they will be a handful. I don't think that anything that's happened with SEC/Big Ten in the past is relevant tomorrow for a lot of reasons.

But it's about lining up and playing to play and winning the down and then that play is gone. It's over. It has a life of its own. Play the next play. And it will come down to execution.

So that will be the focus of the game, not what's happened conference-wise, matchup-wise in the past.

Q. I know you said the focus is on the players and the Bowl game, but there was a coaching change at Auburn, you may have been a candidate. Can you give us any insight?

KEVIN STEELE: It wasn't what you think it might be. I had a job to do in terms of filling in for Coach, which was not -- I mean, we've got good staff members here that are very capable coaches. You know, Chad on the offense, Larry Porter, special teams coordinator. So putting that all together, that was not difficult.

But the main focus, we just stayed focus on our players. That was the thing that we did. Obviously there were other things going on but that was not in my control. That was in somebody else's control. And so when somebody else is controlling things, you just put your head down and do your job and what you're paid to do and let things unfold as they may because you can't control things that are uncontrollable.

Q. Unless I'm wrong, y'all haven't been at a tipping point where you haven't been able to play a game because of COVID. I know you've had issues, but how has the process and Dr. Goodlett been as far as getting you through the season?

KEVIN STEELE: As far as we are concerned as a staff and a team, I think every man, player and coach, would tell you that the captain of the ship through COVID, Dr. Goodlett -- No. 1, he loves and cares about us and takes care of us like we're family, and on top of that, he's an unbelievable doctor, very, very intelligent. He navigated us and took all the pressure off us in terms of getting through it and he was very successful. It seems like he works 18 hours, 20 hours a day. I don't know when the man sleeps. He's been invaluable in terms of getting us through this.

I will add this. I'm going to keep close to the vest, but we got a call this morning. We're still testing and we had a positive this morning. So it changes; that's how quick it changes. We practiced all week. We're ready to get on a plane and we've got a positive, so now we've got to adjust and he's been great at helping us do that.

Q. Can you talk about the week of practice, how it's different than a normal maybe Bowl lead-in practice and what you guys got accomplished?

KEVIN STEELE: Right. Well, we had to take it a little bit more like a game week because we were off those two weeks because of the COVID testing and returning to campus, so we were very limited in our practice. Normally in Bowl week at practices, you've got an extended number of practices so you have shorter practices, and then you work the young guys a lot more. We didn't have that opportunity.

We did as much good-on-good as we could do early in the week to try to catch up on some things so that we had some game speed, having two weeks off. It was more like a game week with an extra Tuesday than it was a Bowl practice.

Q. Chad yesterday mentioned that with Schwartz out that Eli would probably have a bigger role. What have you seen from your perspective of him from the defensive side this year?

KEVIN STEELE: Well, you certainly know when you're calling like in scrimmages and practices, if you're not scripted you certainly know where Eli is on the field. There are certain guys when you call games, that when you go against the offense, OK, let me know when this guy is in. Then when he's in, where is he, because when you can run as fast as he can, you can affect a game and so your matchups are real key.

But the biggest thing about him is he's such a great young man. He's been resilient and a great leader; the consummate pro, just like this week. You would think he was a freshman trying to earn a starting position, not someone who is playing his last game.

Q. Wanted to ask but Northwestern's running game and what do you feel like you need to do to slow them down?

KEVIN STEELE: Well, they are a traditional offense in a lot of ways. Schematically, a lot of formations, but they are built on a power run game, drive the football offense more than a big-play offense. They are a little bit more traditional, but in terms of the way they manage the game offensively. In terms of the formations and motions and shifts and those things, they are not.

So that's all designed I think to get you gapped out and get guys' eyes discombobulated and looking at the wrong things and creating seam runs. We are going to be really good with our eyes and own our gaps. You can't wipe out of your gap too early. You have to hold your gap because there's a lot of eye candy.

Q. Are you going to work out at the stadium before the game? Have you got anything else as far as practice goes before the game?

KEVIN STEELE: No. We'll just have walk-throughs today. We'll have walk-throughs here. We'll have walk-throughs at the hotel. With the COVID issues and transporting and moving people, Doc just feels like where we can stay more in the bubble the better off we are, and that's OK. The size of the football field is exactly the same as the football field here, so they have been on a football field. They will be okay.

Q. Are you taking the normal crew, or is it just like a road game in the SEC?

KEVIN STEELE: It's more like an SEC road game. Fast.

We're excited about being at the Vrbo Citrus Bowl and we can't wait to get the game started and look forward to enjoying our time in Orlando, and we thank you guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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