And it's partially because of that background that Koenning, now Clemson's defensive coordinator, isn't intimidated by the multiple passing schemes South Carolina has under offensive guru Steve Spurrier.
He and his staff are taking the exact same approach to the Gamecocks as he did Florida State, N.C. State and the remaining eight teams Clemson has played.
"I think you have a respect level," Koenning said. "I hope he's sitting down there telling, ‘I don't even know who this guy is, so I don't have to worry about him.' I'm not playing a snap and he's not playing a snap. It's about the players and it's about how well they play."
Even though the South Carolina running game has been a joke this season (112th out of 119 teams), Koenning said the Gamecocks are running just enough, especially of late, to cause more of a dilemma for him than those crazy offenses in the Rocky Mountains ever did.
"The ones that are toughest to defend are the ones that can run effectively and still throw the ball – it's the one's that are two dimensional," Koenning said. "When you play a team that's limited in their passing ability, then you can pile and stack the box. When you play a team that is wide open, then you can basically play for the pass and use a bunch of variations and you can let your linemen pin their ears back and try to get pass pressure when you don't worry about the run or draw as much.
"They've been able to run the ball effectively down the stretch here and that's probably been the key to their offense."
Even in South Carolina's five-game winning streak, the offense hasn't exactly lit up the scoreboard. But whenever it's been crunch time, star receiver Sidney Rice has made a big play.
"He has got great ball skills," Koenning said. "The ball's in the air and he has a way of finding it and if he doesn't get to the ball, he does a good job of throwing an arm up. He gets some calls his way. …
"It seems like the SEC plays a lot of press coverages and it'll be interesting because that's not something that we've done a bunch of this year."
Regardless of what happens this year, Koenning believes stopping the South Carolina offense in the future is just going to get harder and harder every year.
"I don't know that right now Coach Spurrier may have the weapons that he thinks like he wants to have," he said. "Maybe in a few years he'll have the weapons that he feels like he needs to go back to being what he maybe did at Florida."
But Koenning is in no rush to face that test just yet. He want to first get a passing grade Saturday.
Koenning vs. Spurrier
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