Koenning Sees Improvement

CLEMSON – There was significant improvement in a lot of areas for Clemson's defense against Maryland this past weekend, however Tigers defensive coordinator Vic Koenning admits the unit will have to play much better to have a shot at beating the likes of Miami.

"We're still learning how to do the most basic things," Koenning said Monday. "Our guys have got to continue to learn what we're trying to get done. We've got to get some continuity. We're kind of going to be a work in progress."

Koenning isn't one who likes to make excuses. He's a results type of guy. He looks at the bottom line, regardless of how painful it may be.

But at the same time, he understands there are some valid reasons why the defense has looked out of sorts at times.

"I was there about 4 o'clock in the morning, I was thinking in my head how many freshmen we played, and I think it was eight freshmen, whether it's red-shirt and/or true freshmen we played in the game," he said. "That's an awful lot, not to make excuses and we're not taking any excuses. But we should continue to get better and better every week if we can stay healthy. …"

"Back in the spring, and I don't want to name any names, but if I'd thought six guys that are playing a ton that we've been playing, I'd would have gone, oh, my God, we'll be 0-2. Either our guys have made a lot of progress or we've been very fortunate."

Koenning said in against Texas A&M, the Clemson defenders missed assignments or were lined up wrong in 46-of-51 plays.

That number was greatly reduced against the Terrapins.

"We've got to let them play, too," he said. "We can't complicate the game so much for them. We're not so sophisticated and years into this package to where we understand every little wrinkle. We've got to give them a chance to be successful, but then we've got to keep it simple enough for them to play.

"The two things that will get you beat faster than anything is missed tackles and missed assignments. We've got to try to continue to get better at tackling and we can't have missed assignments. We still had too many Saturday. We vastly cut down. I'd be guessing, but I'd say it was less than 25 percent, probably. There was a lot less."

However, once again, the Tigers found themselves a man short on the field.

"We had 10 guys on the field again the other day at corner," Koenning said. "It ended up not costing us a 50- or 60-yard run, but he ran off the field (at one end) and I'm calling the play. It's one of those, ‘What are you doing?' We can't keep making freshman mistakes. That's an issue that I've never had that before in however many years of coaching. We've had it twice in two games, so we've got to get that squared away."

He fully expects the number of mistakes to be even less this week against the Hurricanes. Last week following the game against the Aggies, Koenning said he in disbelief at how few of the players came in on their own time to look at the game film the day after the game.

A lot more players showed up this Sunday to review the Maryland game. And because of that, it's as if the players will have an extra day of practice.

"Yesterday, I can't think of anybody on our defense that I didn't see over there watching a tape on their own," Koenning said. "When we meet after the special teams meeting, we're not going to watch Maryland, because they've already watched it. Now, we get to move on. Now, Monday is Miami day, instead of wasting the whole day, we're actually going to get to work on our future opponent.

"(Last week) the meetings were all (reviewing Texas A&M). So then you go onto the field and here's what we're doing against (Maryland's) two-back stuff, well, they've haven't seen that. They haven't had a chance to do anything.

"We're a day ahead in my estimation. We're already a day ahead. That's going to be a big help. Now on Thursday, we're not putting the finishing touches on what we're doing on long-yard situations or two-minute drills or this and that. We're going to be able to do that on Wednesday. This is almost going to be like an open date thing I think, because we should be able to have two polished days, Wednesday and Thursday. This is going to be a big difference, a big difference. We're going to be much improved, I think and we're going to get much better."

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