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 home game against Virginia Tech:

* Clemson enters this week with the number one pass defense in the nation giving up just 135.2 yards per game. Some may suggest that the Tigers have yet to play a team that has any semblance of a passing game, while others point to Clemson's struggles to stop the run with any consistency, which would result in teams passing less.

"That's the first time I'd heard that (we're No. 1)," Koenning said. "I didn't know we were. That's sometimes not a good stat because that usually means teams are able to run the ball on you, but I don't think in our case that's 100 percent (accurate). At least I hope not. …

"If you try to stop the pass, then you should be able to stop the pass. What happens is, if you can't stop either one then you're in trouble. We've got to stop something."

* With the loss of Chris Russell, the safety position at Clemson is extremely, extremely thin. Other than the starters of Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemons, Koenning is having to rely on freshmen Darius Gaither and DeAndre McDaniel as the backups, even though they may not be ready.

"They do have a size 36 waist pants and shoulder pads for me in case I have to go in and play," he said. "Darius Gaither's bee practicing there and (former quarterback) Michael Wade's been practicing at both safety positions. …

"(Gaither) is coming along. I've been really hard on him, trying to get him to take a step. I've loved him and then I've pushed him and then I've loved him and I've pushed him since he's been here, because it's been somewhat of (a problem) trying to get him to engage and do something. I'm on the supportive side right now.

"I've got to be careful because his dreams are such that I need to do a better job of trying to support him and be a dream maker instead of a dream taker. And I've got to be careful not to take away his hope for what he's becoming. But you can't always pat them on the butt all the time. But right now, I've got to try to get him to be better than he's ever been in his life probably."

* With Clemson being on a two-game losing streak and the sky-is-falling mentality everywhere you turn, be it on the Internet, talk radio or publications, Koenning said it's basically like parent animals eating their young with the fans.

"I'm better at it by not listening to it," he said. "I don't know that it isn't self defeating a whole lot. I know in recruiting, there are a handful of guys that are sitting there ready to commit and jump in the boat that are great players that are hesitant because other schools show them things off the Internet or off newspapers.

"I'm being very candid as I tend to be sometimes. I think it eats itself up sometimes. People like to say the truth will set you free and all that other stuff, but there are certain truths in life. In college football, you've got to win regardless of anything else that you do really well. Winning is the only thing that people tend to care about and it's our job to win, regardless of if you've got freshmen playing defensive back or here or there. They're going to say, well you had opportunities to not have that. And there's some realism in that.

"But I think some of the negativity is like a fire. This weekend it cooled off and my boys are pyromaniacs – I think all boys are – so we get a bunch of wood and we have a little fire. Well, we've got a pretty good fire going and I'm going, why do you want to go and throw more gas on it? It's some of the same thing. Our guys are doing everything they can and the coaches are doing what they can.

"We're heading in the right direction if you really look at the big picture. Again, it hasn't been five years since they were recruiting with metal lockers down here and the cement floors and kids still eating in the same place where Danny Ford kept them. That's still some of the senior class. It's still not washed itself through all that."

* With the calling by some for the firing of head coach Tommy Bowden, Koenning said it can't help but to affect the way players play and think and that he tries his best to shield them from it as much as possible.

"I think the older players are a little bit desensitized to it somewhat, because it's been on going," he said. "I think it does affect the (younger players). It's really something that you've got to deal with everyday, everyday, everyday. You've got to worry about their confidence. … Confidence is an important factor and not just at Clemson. If you go look at a lot of places in the country, when the confidence is going their way, they're able to play at a higher level.

"I'm not going to say that it wouldn't be helpful to get some positive (feedback and stories), hey, you're first in the conference and nation in (pass defense) and you're doing well in this and that or that you're recruiting has been improved you're academic success rate is in the top 20 in the country. There's a lot of those that would be good to bring out some positives, but that's all part of it.

"For us, we can try to shelter ourselves from it, but you're working day to day with young men. They don't see past Thursday. It's Tuesday and they're worried about tonight, and that's the way society is, it's worried about stuff right now and they can't see two or three days down the road. So it's something that you've constantly got to work with. …

"I worry about the players and how it affects their performance and I worry about recruiting. You're out there recruiting and I went into a high school last week and (Bowden's future) was the first thing that came out of the high school coach's mouth. … We're trying to teach these kids about life issues and that it's not what life hands you, it's how you deal with it."

* Once again, it appears the officiating in the ACC is some of the worst in all of college football. And not that it would have made that much of a difference against Virginia Tech, but there were a few calls that were made or weren't made that went against Clemson. Apparently one of the no-calls was one of the first clips shown in the weekly ACC referees meeting. But Koenning doesn't think the administration sent any of the plays to the head office.

"I think the opinion around here is that it doesn't do any good right now," he said. "That's up to Coach Bowden. I don't think we sent any of them in, to be honest with you."

* With the special teams an ongoing catastrophe, people like to ask about hiring a special teams coordinator. Koenning said he's been at programs that had them and others that didn't. He said there is no major difference with the exception of one thing.

"(There's no difference) except that just one guy's butt's was tighter than before," he said.

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