Koenning Optimistic on Clemson Secondary

Despite the losses of former starters Duane Coleman and C.J. Gaddis, could the Clemson secondary could see improved play in 2007? CUTigers.com recently spoke with Clemson defensive coordinator and secondary coach Vic Koenning to find out!

For the first time since he arrived on the Clemson campus a little over two years ago, defensive coordinator and secondary coach Vic Koenning has the tools to work with to put together one of the better defensive backfields in the ACC and possibly the nation.

But it's going to take time.

Koenning will be the first one to say that the wealth of talent with his cornerbacks and safeties is something special. But it also comes with a catch.

"We have some young talent, but it remains to be seen how they'll play in a heat-of-the-moment-type deal," Koenning said in an interview with CUTigers.com. "It's going to be interesting how the Byron Maxwells, Chris Chancellors, Crezdon Butlers and DeAndre McDaniels do in game situations. I kind of wish that the first game wasn't Florida State, so if they make a mistake it won't be a touchdown, but that's the way it goes. …

"The concerns are what's Byron Maxwell and DeAndre McDaniel going to do in that first game when they run down the hill for the first time. So there is some anxiety as far as I'm concerned on how those guys are going to play. And there were times during the spring when Crezdon didn't play as well as we need him to play to be successful."

"We've come a long way," Koenning said. "A couple of years ago when I first got here, they really used concerned me because they didn't spend enough time studying football. I think as we've recruited different kids with different maturity levels, we have a little bit different clientele, you might say."
The entire upcoming season will be somewhat of a work in progress for Koenning and the secondary.

As they get more comfortable with playing and knowing the proper techniques, he will feel more at ease to put in more schemes.

"I do think we're closer to be matched on both sides where I don't have to protect one side or the other in certain down and distance situations," Koenning said. "The last two years, I probably had one side that was OK, but I had to protect the other side."

The learning process, however, is already underway. Class is definitely in session.

"It starts with me giving them every tool imaginable for them to spend more time studying," Koenning said. "Going against an offense as complex as Florida State's with (new offensive coordinator) Jimbo Fisher, it's going to be necessary for us to match up.

"Right now I'm in the latter stages of finishing a handwritten playbook, which I didn't even do one last year because we had so many veteran guys returning. I'm going to do a clinic film where I got videos of every drill and every defensive call, so all that will be available to them during the summer to study."

Besides the talent level, maybe the thing Koenning likes best out of this young group is their willingness to listen and learn and do what's asked of them.

It hasn't always been like that.

"We've come a long way," Koenning said. "A couple of years ago when I first got here, they really used concerned me because they didn't spend enough time studying football. I think as we've recruited different kids with different maturity levels, we have a little bit different clientele, you might say. I sense they spend more time doing that than those that did when I first got here."

There are two trademarks that Koenning wants with his secondary. One is interceptions. He thinks there should be many, many more.

The other is big, brutal hits. He wants opposing receivers to wonder where and when the big hit is coming.

"There are some heat-seeking missiles back there," he said. "There's not any areas where you can catch the ball with any confidence that someone's not going lay into them pretty good. We've just got to work at being guided heat-seeking missiles instead of unguided heat-seeking missiles. But we're getting there."

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