Tuesdays with Vic

CLEMSON - The Tigers' defensive coordinator talks about this week's opponent- Maryland.

Do you feel like you know anything more about your defense in these last three games?
Koenning: It was nice to have Brandon [Thompson] and Stanley [Hunter] but Scotty didn't play [against S.C. State] so we were still shy from a thin group. I don't know. There are so many things off film ... you spend so much time putting out fires that it's hard to figure out what exactly you are good at. We are worried about Tuesday right now trying to get better on Tuesday.

What are your thoughts on their quarterback and wide receiver?
Koenning: Well their receiver has been the best receiver in the conference for a couple of years now, according to scouts and you guys. I think Turner is very similar to Cullen so I know he's a good player. Eerily similar. We know what they've done in the past. The new deal with Franklin and what he brings to the table and the five out passing game is something we'll have to deal with.

But the last two games haven't they just lined it up and run more effectively behind that veteran O-line more than anything else?
Koenning: I would say that be an assumption that would be sound based on the number of runs versus passes and stuff. But again, they do throw the ball around and they get you in mixed downs where you have to be thinking run at least and they get five guys out. If the QB catches the ball in the shotgun, counts 1,001 and 1,002 and throws it, unless you are blitzing one of the inside gaps and you come wide open, you aren't get going to get there, not even bringing 11. So it's a different dynamic that forces you have to cover. We have played teams like that over the last couple of years. It's kind of one of the going things in football right now. Whether you call it West Coast or East coast or north or south it's getting five out quickly and the quarterback has a couple of quick reads. It's very effective and hard to defend.

Are your linebackers ready to defend that big offensive line and fullback?
Koenning: I guess we'll find out Saturday. My biggest concern is getting through Tuesday's practice and getting better today. We have so much improvement to make. I had DBs turning down tackles. Guys not making tackles on slants. Not breaking on slants. That's the first thing we do in our drill work every single day. We just have a lot of work to do at every position.

What about missed assignments against S.C. State?
Koenning: After the first 15 plays, we were about 50-50. About seven out of 15. I'm not saying I quit keeping track, but it was ... but again it's our responsibility as coaches to coach. But we weren't doing anything on Saturday but our base alignment. A couple of kids said they were too geeked up to think. Okay. I thought we played hard but we just have got to get better. Get better at every facet. There is nothing we can really hang our hat on. There's not a player playing well enough right now to say, 'hey, we can build on this guy.' All that being said, I'm not being critical of any one guy. They all have to get better. They all have room to improve dramatically. There are things we have got to shore up to have a chance in any games.

Have you seen that sense of urgency from them?
Koenning: Well we've had one practice. We've had somewhat of a sense of urgency. I kind of think as coaches, we've had it since the first week of camp. The players' sense of urgency has probably steadily improved since the first game. It's just something ... we gotta ... it's not as easy. We are having to work extremely extremely hard. This has been one of the harder years because we don't seem to be making the plays.

Tommy said he got a sense of emptiness after watching the tape of the game Saturday and that he even sensed it from the seniors. Do you sense that?
Koenning: Well I think it's like having kids. And they are our kids. If you sit there and push them and push them and prod them and poke them and motivate them as hard as you can, after a while, we've got to quit beating them up from the Alabama deal and love them a little ibt so they believe in themselves a little bit. I think we can only do that to a point because we have to be the same guys to push them in a level of practice to prepare. It's a fine line. I think coach Bowden has been as demonstrative as he could be about improving. Yet we are still turning down making tackles or we look like we do during practice when we tag off. I think it's John 8:32 ... the truth will set you free. What we see on film is what we are right now. Those guys have to take it upon themselves that's not who we want to be. We can't coach tackling any harder as coaches. That's all we are doing. Somewhere along the lines, they have to say, 'hey, we gotta start doing this.' We gotta keep chopping keep chopping and hopefully we'll get through and get where we want to get with. Don't give up and keep pressing. That's all we know how to do.

I guess the flipside right now is that the kids could end up trying to play like machines with that kind of mentality?
Koenning: I don't know the right answer to that. Right now football is not fun for us coaches too. We don't see your kids until Thursday night. Even then you are getting home at 7:30. I think the way things are setup, with study hall hours, we have more study hall hours than anybody. The guys have a hard academic issues. This isn't the place where you have the programs to hide kids and what not. These kids have to work their tails off in school. Then they come in here and they work their tails off. That's just the way it is. It's not your job sometimes ... it's not real fun. That's the way it is. Such is life. They'll be better people because of it. But I don't think we are really concerned about them having fun or not having fun. This is a sport and it's a game, but it really isn't. I think we all kind of know that.

Talk about Brandon Thompson and his progression.
Koenning: Well, there's a bright spot for sure right there. Brandon is really playing well. Even when he doesn't do exactly right, he tends to have an impact on the opponents. He's a guy, where we are trying to get our best players on the field at every position and we still don't yet who those guys are because nobody has jumped out. And he's a guy that can arguably be put in there in combination as one of the two best front guys we have right now as far as production. [The other is Dorell Scott].

Talk about Dorell Scott and what he's done so far.
Koenning: He's changed more as a person than a player. He's just grown up as a person and taken on a role. He's a classic example of what we are going to face this week with four of five offensive linemen being seniors. They've been through the wars. Especially on the line, you just can't imagine how important that is. To have young players like Brandon [Thompson], Jarvis Jenkins and Da'Quan [Bowers]. To have these guys be impact players is the exception rather than the rule.

Hamlin and Crezdon and Clemens said they proved something last week that they are a top [unit] ....
Koenning: I think I'm the coach and they are the players. When you watch the film ... we didn't tackle. We caught. We were not what we expect. We are not living up to expectations that we have ... as far as being physical tackles ... forces to be reckoned with ... punishing. You know, we are just not.

Is it fatigue? There were so many missed tackles on Saturday against S.C. State.
Koenning: Some of that was some of the backup guys. In fairness. When we got a bigger lead, some guys ... even I expect more out of those guys. I talked to Coach Bowden about moving Marcus Gilchrist inside to safety or taking a redshirt off a couple of the young safeties if it's the best thing for the football team. We have to have some guys who will be, 'don't throw the football in the middle' because 'where's 22 or 25?' That hasn't been the case yet. We have to get rid of the ball 'because No. 7 or No. 93 are getting off the edge so fast and we can't protect.' They were 1-on-1 with their tackles. There wasn't any sliding or chipping. Where's it at? We just have to keep pushing, keep pushing to get there.

How do you feel about Crezdon Butler or Chris Chancellor at cornerback?
Koenning: They've been playing solid in a lot of respects. Crezdon, did not tackle well in the second half. He's caused some issues in the past. The four corners right now, they are doing both the N.C. State and the S.C. State game the other day, they were 1-on-1 most of the time with the outside receivers and they did a good job staying over the top and competing on the short throws. Right now we are putting an awful lot of stress right now on those guys in certain situations. Until we can help them a little bit that's what we have to do. I don't think I'm telling Maryland anything they haven't seen.

Have you seen strides from Jarvis Jenkins?
Koenning: I think he's been A-typical of a young guy. At times he does well and at times he doesn't. I don't think we have created championship habbits yet. He's got all the potential in the world and he shows it. Not just Jarvis but all of those guys.
Who is the toughest player on your defense right now?
Koenning: [pauses] That's too bad I'm having to think. I would say, the one that I see, and he's not vocal at all right now but the one that's been pretty consistent has been Kavell Conner. Behind Kavell has been Crezdon [Butler] and Chris Chancellor. Then I'd say Dorell Scott after that. Then ... I wish I could remember the days growing up doing Oklahoma drills you'd be in there 16, 18 20 times until you got it right. That's just threw way it is. I wish some of these guys ... a light bulb would go on. Kourtnei Brown is so much better than he was three weeks ago. It's good having Sapp back. He has presence. We have to have Scotty Cooper coming on. DeAndre has showed signs. Brandon Maye ... could be ... when he's right could be thought of in the mix. We just have got to these guys ... we have not even come close to a game where we say, 'that looks pretty good.'


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