Tuesdays with Vic

CLEMSON - Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning talks about the Virginia Cavaliers.

What are your impressions of Virginia?
Koenning: A lot of things you think of with Virginia as a coach comes from experiences. We played them when I was a Troy one time and they always had big tight ends, big linemen, prototypical pro-style. It's amazing what you see in some of their games, particularly home games. They play pretty well. I'm surprised their record is what it is. Like ours. I think they have good players and I don't see any guys to pick on or any obvious weaknesses.

They seem to do a good job of spreading the ball around.
Koenning: Well they do. Like a lot of passing attacks these days you just don't sit back and let a guy air it 40 yards down the field. It is a quick passing game. They do little short, five-yard out routes. I think they have given up 12 sacks this year and I think three or four of those were against Southern Cal. So, they are not a team that is going to take sacks. He'll throw it away instead of making a sack. The key is to get them behind schedule. We have to create takeaways. If you look at one stat with our football team we are minus eight in turnovers. That's it. We are doing a few things well enough to where this game would have meant something for a championship. We've got to get more turnovers than what we give up and that's going to be a huge part of this game.

You challenged your defense last week before the Duke game- were you happy with their response?
Koenning: Well I challenged them on Friday because they were in here half asleep. That's not acceptable. Having going back to Florida State and asking what would I have done different- it wasn't what we did but more of how we did it. I challenged them to play like they are capable of playing. Coach Swinney- to his credit says it like it is a lot of times. We got beat up front [against FSU]. I think our front took the challenge and played a lot better against Duke. Did we play as good as we can play, need to play want to play? No. But we played with more sense of purpose and it helped being a home game.

Virginia is last in the league in rushing but they've got a pretty good back in Peerman. What are your thoughts on him?
Koenning: Well and they still try and run the ball. It's not like they are throwing it every snap. They've got effective run plays. They will use their linemen's athleticism. They have a couple of linemen that are as good as we've seen. They are good at what they do. We are going to have to play our best football game to come out with a victory.

What does having Rashaad Jackson back and playing well mean to your defense?
Koenning: I think those things you said go together. We had him back a couple of weeks but he wasn't being productive and wasn't doing things right. Last week he was going the correct direction. He's got quickness and athleticism that our other inside guys don't have. He's quicker and more explosive. It was obvious that once he got loose or free that he could make a play in the backfield. We've had countless opportunities like that but haven't made the play. I'm hoping he takes another step this week because we need that against their line.

How do you assess your linebackers right now?
Koenning: I think last week as good as they've played the whole year. They kept their gap integrity. They read pullers. They spilled when they were supposed to spill and box when they were supposed to box. Our gap integrity was as good as it's been all year in that respect. So at this point in time it's much improved from the beginning of the year. Based on the youth of that crew- I think it's going to be a good linebacking corps eventually. Hopefully we'll keep getting better.

How do you feel Brandon Maye has played the last couple of weeks?
Koenning: I would say nobody felt like he played well against Florida State and he made progress against Duke. I can't hardly remember who we played before that so I wouldn't want to go back and pass judgment.

What about Da'Quan Bowers?
Koenning: He did make a couple of plays. One of them he made when he wasn't in the right spot. I've been proud of him the whole year the way he's taking coaching. We all tend to forget this is his first year of football. We are not as polished as we'd like to be. There are times when he's supposed to stay inside and he goes outside and vice-versa.

When is the last time you ran that much press man like you did against Duke?
Koenning: The week before. The time before that was probably The Citadel.

It just seemed against your style to do that.
Koenning: Well that's so much B.S. to be honest with you. The truth is the truth. We self scout ourselves. We are 45 percent pressure. 25 percent man pressure. You go back and look at last week's game- the first 12 or 15 plays we were over 50 percent. There have been years where I've been 60 percent man pressure. There are some perceptions out there that are so far gone that they just aren't true.

Perception that you don't like to pressure?
Koenning: I don't know. What everybody says when we play that much press-man. We played that much the week before. Four times as much. I brought a house blitz 12 times against Florida State and I called it three times.

What do prefer?
Koenning: What works. Against Duke for example, we called a house blitz against a speed option call. Had DeAndre McDaniel not run underneath, gone in the wrong gap and run it down it would have probably gone for 60 yards. They checked into the right play. A guy made a play. Brandon Maye somehow smelled a screen late in the game and somehow he felt him releasing and had he not made a play it would have gone for a touchdown. I think all of that stuff works if it works but if it doesn't, somebody's band is going to play and it ain't always yours. For most of my career, I've felt like if you always have somebody with their eyes back, then that gives you a chance to get them down.

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