Tuesdays with Vic

CLEMSON – It's that time again for everyone's favorite weekly installment of "Tuesday's With Vic" as Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning sits down to discuss a variety of topics and offers insight as only he can.

Here are some of his thoughts leading up to Saturday's game against North Carolina State:

* Once again, the Clemson defense gave up tons of yardage against a team that had clearly less talent. But Koenning believes the yards-per-play category is much more meaningful than the yards per game. With that said, here are his thoughts on how things went against Furman.

"On a scale of 1-10, I'd say we were probably a five just on results," he said. "You tend to lose site when you're playing teams like La.-Monroe or Furman and they get behind and they technically quit trying to win the game. They're just trying to get yards. It's third-and-10 and they run the ball.

"If you're trying to win the game, defensively you're trying to stop them from scoring and you tend to be more pass-oriented and you don't do as good of a job of stopping a run. It makes you look bad and you might get a black eye, but you won the fight."

* Middle linebackers Cortney Vincent and Antonio Clay are a little banged up right now, but both are expected to play Saturday. Koenning said that it Vincent wasn't expected to play against Furman and that his team can't afford injuries in the secondary.

"If we get anybody nicked up in the secondary, it's about like the grass in my yard, it's kind of hurting right now," he said. "We didn't know if (Vincent) was going to be able to play Saturday, and I think they flew in Oral Roberts."

* However, despite Clay's injury to his ankle, he continues to get closer to regaining the starting spot over Vincent.

"He looks like Tony Stewart catching up to Michael Waltrip the last couple of games," Koenning said. "It's a good thing for the team and it's a good thing for Antonio, but I know that it's probably hard on Cortney, because no one is trying harder and no one wants to do it more than Cortney Vincent."

* Whoever says Clemson doesn't play man-to-man defense clearly doesn't understand all the different dynamics the Tigers employ. In fact, there was quit a bit of man coverage against Furman and oddly enough, it hurt them against the run.

"We gave up a big play in the run game because I was greedy playing man coverage and we didn't have any (defensive back) eyes (watching the offensive backfield), so we missed tackle," Koenning said.

* N.C. State has solid players at every skill position except quarterback. He called running back Andre Brown one of the best he's ever seen and that receivers Darrell Blackman and John Dunlap seem to have been around forever.

"They've got these two receivers that have got to be 25 years old up there," Koenning said. "This is my third year here and I thought they were seniors a couple of years ago. We post up the years of all their players and they make us look like kindergartners. They've got redshirt senior, redshirt senior, redshirt senior. They only have a couple of underclassmen on their whole two-deep. They have an experienced crew with the ability to adjust."

* With the Tigers getting into conference play, that means more and more reserves are going to find their way onto the playing field because of the toll playing against quality competition takes on the starters. And that is a slight concern for Koenning.

"Our backup guys have got to step to the forefront and start playing," he said. "Our backup guys, with the exception of Haydrian, have not practiced well or played well in games and that's a reflection of coaching and I've got to do a better job of that."

* Because there have been so many missed assignments and players not following the plays called on defense, Koenning decided to find out just how much his players truly understand the concepts, reads and schemes they've been practicing since the spring and for the last three years.

"Our defensive guys last Friday, I gave them all a test and it made for a really sleepless night and not just from grading the test, but realizing how much some of these guys really don't know about what we're doing," he said. "I'm trying to get them to understand if you really want to be successful that you really got to know the package.

"My analogy is that it's got to be like your mama's house. We can all go back to mama's house that you grew up in and you can turn off the lights and you can make your way through the house because you know exactly where everything is. And it doesn't matter how long you've been away from the house, you can go back and do that.

"Well, our guys need to know our responsibilities and our packages like the inside of their mama's house where they can turn off the lights and they know what to do. Until we get closer to that … we're constantly going to have somebody mess up where it hurts the team."

* One play that the Tigers have been susceptible to early this season is the draw play on second-and-long and on third-and-long. Koenning said the root of the problems go back to the first game this season when the outside players weren't following instructions and instead of stunting toward the middle, they were "pinning their ears back and rushing to Seneca to try and get the sack."

"We kind of got ourselves in a little quandary here with this draw play where if we'd just done what we're supposed to do, then nobody would have seen it on film and would have said, ‘Oh, we can't run the draw.' Then we wouldn't have to worry about it. It's just like getting a punt blocked. Once you get a punt blocked, they're going to rush you. We're created that problem and now we're just going to have to hang in there and work and play hard and try to stop it."

* Nothing infuriates Koenning more than players who are lazy or don't seem to want to get better or think they don't need to get better. With the way practices are set up, players have to watch the previous game film on their own time to see what mistakes they made or things that went right. But there seems to be some genuine worries about players that aren't taking the initiative.

"I don't know how many guys have watched the tape," Koenning said. "I can't worry about that. If they can't come over on Sundays and football and those 12 weeks a year aren't important enough to them, then I can't help them.

"When these guys get to a point where they care enough about themselves, about their success, about their teammates, when they care enough about the details of their assignments and to execute the details, then we'll take the next step. They're plenty talented enough.

"I guess that goes back to coaching or it goes back to motivating. … When the leadership within this team does not allow (taking Sunday's off) then we'll take the next step. Until that time, we're going to have those (missed assignments) that continue to keep nagging on us."

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