Koenning: Changes on the Way

CLEMSON – Everyone knew with the hiring of new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning that the Clemson defense would have a new look and scheme. But after sitting down for a one-on-one interview with CUTigers.com, Koenning shed some new light on the roles of the incoming freshmen and some possible position changes for veterans on that side of the ball. <BR>

As far as the new crop of freshmen are concerned, Koenning said none of them are suited to play the newly created "Bandit" position, which is more or less a roving defensive end that has to be extremely athletic and can drop into coverage like a linebacker when called upon.

However, that doesn't mean he doesn't like the new group. In fact, he says there are some that can play right away.

"I think we're going to count on a lot of the guys, especially at linebacker and defensive back," he said. "But sometimes it's harder for the defensive linemen to adjust and play right away."

Even though the Tigers did a solid job of signing five secondary players, they are still a ways numbers wise from where Koenning wants to be, especially with several position changes taken place in that area.

"My goal is to have 16 defensive backs on scholarship," Koenning said. "We're going to have to catch that number up. We're really going to have to put a high priority on it next year recruiting."

At first glance it may seem the secondary would be in decent shape with the return of cornerback Tye Hill and safety Jamaal Fudge. But of the top two players at each of the four secondary positions from last year, there's a real possibility that only four return.

That's because Koenning said rising redshirt sophomore Maurice Nelson, who was the No. 2 rover last year behind Fudge, will likely be moved to linebacker.

Then there's safety Tavaghn Monts, who was the No. 2 free safety behind Travis Pugh and whom coaches assumed would be a rising redshirt senior, had his redshirt year taken away by the NCAA because he was in a few plays in the first game of the 2002 season against Georgia. That was the only game he played that entire season.

Clemson is currently appealing that decision in hopes of getting his redshirt status returned.

Another player on the move from the secondary is rising redshirt freshman Adrian Kindred, who will likely be switched to linebacker, Koenning said.

Then there's C.J. Gaddis, who backed up Hill last year at cornerback. The super athlete is being looked at as possibly the new "Cat" safety, which is essentially the free safety position.

"We're just going to take our best four back there," Koenning said. "It's wide open right now. Hill and Fudge seem to be in place, but everything else is up for grabs. We've got to find somebody to play safety and we don't know who it will be. But Gaddis is a guy based on size that we could move in there.

"We need to do the system that fits our players. If that means moving guys around, that's what we'll do. We're going to try to over-speed. We want the fastest players possible."

As far as the defensive line is concerned, Koenning said Gaines Adams might be the frontrunner to play the role of Bandit, he quickly added that there are no guarantees. He wants to see if Adams is fast enough and athletic enough to handle the duties.

"That's what a good bit of spring practice is going to be – finding out who can play where," Koenning said. "But I'm confident we'll get everyone where they can help the team the best. I truly don't anticipate any problems."

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