Tuesdays with Vic

CLEMSON - Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning talks about where the Tigers need to improve the most.

What does S.C. State do offense that scares you?
Koenning: Well you take our offense's screen game. Then you take West Virginia's zone-read game. And a combination of us and Boston College's vertical passing game and put them all together add a 10.5 100-meter running back and a quarterback that can throw it through a wall and a veteran offensive line and the best tight end will play all year- you can throw up all the stuff you do on the board and try to punch holes in it and you are finding to many holes to feel good about stuff. And that's before our own limitations.

Third down defense has obviously been a concern, correct?
Koenning: Well if we can get the officials to quit throwing penalties and if we can tackle check downs and tackle the quarterback on two or three scrambles when we should have gotten a sack. We just aren't making plays. We go back and re-visit it why, there's been a couple of weeks in a row where we've had a bunch of third downs. The one- spearing we should have gotten off the field. I think everybody agreed with that after watching film. We had an emphasis on containing their QB then guys roll on check downs. We just have to make plays. We simply have to be better. We have to find a way to get three and outs so our offense can get the ball back in better field position.

How much pressure is on your linebackers as a result of so many injuries. Your thoughts?
Koenning: I think it puts pressure on the linebackers because the line hasn't had to effectively double team as much as they might. Dorell is commanding some. Jarvis is improving and he is commanding some. Actually Brandon Thompson is making some plays when he's not being double-teamed. What happens when you don't use up the blockers up front they go to the linebackers and the linebackers have to make plays. It's just one of those situations where we have to do that. We have to make plays when they climb up. Or like we didn't do against Alabama, the other guys need to make the play.

What is your assessment of Dorell Scott so far?
Koenning: I think he's been steady. He hasn't been flashy. I don't think there is anything he's done wrong or different. They've probably had to account for him some. Again, nothing jumps off as him just making dynamic plays. But there hasn't been anything poor either.

How do you assess your linebackers?
Koenning: I think there is a real good correlation between the experience and their level of play. When you have inexperienced guys, maybe they'll make a play and there will be some they should make don't make. Or they make a mistake you'd like to see them not make. When we played last week, Brandon Maye didn't play because he had been sick all week. That put a lot of pressure on our linebackers. When you take a guy out and you are only playing with five rotating there and two guys at SAM. That put pressure on their guys. Kavell [Conner] played a lot of snaps. 51 snaps. He's the one with the experience and he's making the plays.

Is it a case where the linebackers are doing the right thing in practice and not carrying it to the game?
Koenning: No. We didn't practice very well last week. The Thursday practice was in sharp contrast to the rest of the week. I talked to a few people around the players during the day at Vickery Hall and they were zombie-like in the afternoon. That's a function of the academic world we live in. ... Hopefully we can have a better week of practice this week.

Mike Hamlin said he could tell Coach Bowden is paying more attention to the defense and is pushing and hammering on toughness because the coaches are now taking that out on the players. Is that accurate?
Koenning: Anybody that could ever think that Coach Bowden doesn't coach his coaches, would not be making an accurate statement. I don't think that's why, I think they are hearing us, we're not anywhere close as we need to be right now. There are so many fires to put out right now and so many places to improve and they are hearing us having to coach things and Coach Bowden is emphasizing that. We are coaching as hard as we can to get hte most out of them. We have to be careful not to just keep beating them up because that's not all what you need to do either. We just have to keep getting better in practice and we can't digress and I thought we did that in practice last week and I was really nervous about the game in that respect. We were very fortunate to be able to hold them to just a field goal.

Is it a slap of reality that you reach the conclusion that you guys collectively aren't as good as you thought you were during the preseason?
Koenning: I think we saw it coming. That's why we rounded them up as best as we could. I think part of the problem was the prognosticators saw too many stars before the names in recruiting or this or that or thought that a freshman, who was one of the top players in the country could replace a guy as a junior who moved on. Very few programs can do that. We aren't there obviously. That- then injuries to Rashaad Jackson, Ricky Sapp, Jamie Cumbie- that didn't help. That has hurt. It's a combination. Then the Alabama- game we are going to beat ourselves up until we have nothing left on that deal. That hurt any confidence we had. So we have to rebuild that somewhat. A great deal of athletics is the confidence you have. The coaches and the players, rightfully or wrongfully so, got beat up on that one. It takes players time to get confidence in themselves and the coaches. We just have to keep focusing on what's going on outside and focus on inside. It will all take care of itself. Somewhere down the line we will be where we all thought we would be.

Is Ricky Sapp going to play this week?
Koenning: I think he's better. He was better on Monday than he was last Monday. There was a play early in the game where the quarterback scrambled and the old Ricky Sapp that would have been a sack - over with. He gave us an infusion with his speed but we need him to have practice time. Again, it's going to be a few weeks since he's gone out there and done what it takes to be an effective football player. Kourtnei Brown made a few nice plays in the game and showed he can make some plays. I don't know though how Sapp will progress this week. Seems like it's taken forever.

What about Da'Quan?
Koenning: He was solid. About like what he's been in the other games. I'm very very proud that we have a true freshman in a different environment and proud of the way he's working and taking coaching. Jarvis has improved. He had some stats to be defensive MVP but had some missed assignments. The sack he had was on a missed assignment. All of those guys are improving and are working hard. Effort is not a problem.

What about Brandon Thompson?
Koenning: He is really really been a help. I mean really helped. Pending on the situation, him and Dorell can be too solid guys.

How much longer until you feel good about DeAndre McDaniel and Scotty Cooper at the SAM?
Koenning: I would love to tell you five days away. Four days away. We sure need it. We've got a guy who could break under and catches the ball and keeps running. When things become reoccurring it becomes an issue. We were cleaning up the office the other day with Ron West and there was a picture of Tramaine Billie sitting there and I said "Big Daddy, I never thought I would say this but we miss ole T.B." I guess there's a song where you don't miss them until they are gone. I think Coach Blackwell is missing Watkins and Coach West is missing Billie. I'm sure the people at Vickery are missing them too. Hopefully I won't get on the Jim Rome about that one.

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