Vic Koenning Q&A

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina's associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning spoke with reporters about his approach to defense.

Vic Koenning
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What do the current players need to show you to prove that they can fit in your system?
"Well, they don't – nobody needs to show me anything. We may have a ways to go with this, but the only person they have to show anything to is Jesus Christ himself. We answer to the Lord. Now, as far as football-wise, there are some things that we're going to have to work on. As far as some of the academic stuff, that's going to be something that's really important. That's something that we've always done at every one of my stops is really get in-depth and in tune with what they're doing academically. I think if a young man understands that we have his best interests at heart, then they'll eventually go through a brick wall for you. I was very blessed to just be on a team and defense that was picked 12th in the conference in defense and may have ended up first after [Monday's] games. All of that is because the guys trusted and they were willing to do whatever we asked."

Is the 4-2-5 your preference for defensive scheme?
"Well, I know they've been a four-down front here. My roots are of an odd front, but I understand the issues that an odd front presents itself in today's college football. I think if you try to analyze what we do and the package that we run, and Coach [Dan] Disch ran an offshoot of it at Southern Miss, we're part 4-2-5, part odd stack, part 3-4, part 4-3. Kind of through the years, we've been able to build this package and mold it into what our players do best. That's the one thing that we will do – we will see what we've got as players and then we'll devise a package that best suits them."

You're also known for developing hybrid end-linebacker types –
"We call that guy the ‘Bandit'…. It's not Burt Reynolds, but it is Burt Reynolds. Doesn't drive a Trans-Am. But I've been very blessed to have some good players. And I know Coach Disch had a good player – they call it the ‘Bandit' down at Southern Miss, too. It's a weakside defensive end that's kind of like an outside linebacker in a 3-4. We'll do a lot of things with them that maybe isn't prototypical. And our Sam linebacker position is kind of a hybrid safety-linebacker person."

Do you have a name for him, too?
"No, we just call him Sam. We may come up with something cool. Our field-side safety we've always called our ‘Cat' safety. I don't know if we'll use that or not. We haven't gotten that far along yet. We've actually spent an enormous amount of time on the recruiting part of it, so we'll get down to the semantics of who's doing what next."

But the plan is to take a look at your players and find the best fit for what you would like to do?
"We're going to watch them work out and watch some film of last year and just try to make the best guesstimate we can. It'll be a work in progress. What's amazing this year is the same as it got to be at Clemson where the kids understood the package so well that we could do things even on the sidelines.

"The other day, late in the game, we put in a four-man rush that we haven't run since about Week 4, but the kids remembered it and knew how to run it, and then went out there and got two sacks in the first three snaps that we ran that. It's something that we need to teach them how to play football and we need to teach them not memorization, but teach them football and fundamentals. Here's how you play leverages and here's how you run angles and here's how you tackle. You can't practice half-speed or three-quarters speed even and play full speed. You have to practice full speed. We've had to teach that every stop I've ever been. I'm not saying anything about anything that's happened here in the past, I'm just saying that's been the norm for us having to teach that."

What can you tell the rest of the staff about the ACC considering the time you spent at Clemson?
"Well, I think it's changed somewhat because Coach [Ralph] Friedgen's not at Maryland [and] I think there's been some coaching changes. But it's a diverse conference where one week you'll be playing the spread and the next week you'll be playing two-back and the next week you'll be playing the flexbone. There are awfully talented players in this part of the country. We're going to go to some arenas where the fans and crowd are going to be big advantages for our opponents, but this is North Carolina and North Carolina ought to be the type of place that doesn't back down from anybody, that respects all and fears none, and we're going to go in there with high expectations to achieve.

"Again, it's amazing, I think this year at Illinois was a great example. We weren't picked to be ranked very high in defense, yet we ended up where we ended up. I think it's because the players trusted. That isn't an easy thing to do, now. You have to trust something that sometimes you don't see. So they will feel success and they will see success in the way they live their lives because we'll harp on that all of the time and they'll see success in the class room by doing things right. They'll see success in the weight room and they'll start seeing success on the field. And when they start having success, again, like Lombardi says, ‘Success breeds success.' And we're building on that from there."

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