FightingIllini.com
 Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning will be in the chat room Wednesday, Feb. 4, starting at 1 p.m. CT.
Here's your opportunity to find out the latest on recruiting, or any aspect of Illinois' defensive attack from new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. He'll be in the chat room this Wednesday, Feb. 4, which is national signing day, starting at 1 p.m. CT. Send in your questions today.
Moderator: Coach Koenning has just joined us, so we're off and running!

mikewebster (champgain): What type of players are you recruiting, are they more of the athlete type or more of a football player? What type of players do we have coming in? Will they need to be taught new positions or did most play at positions in high school they project to play at U of Illinois?
Vic Koenning: Mike, you've got to have a mixture. You have to have guys who have a feel for the game and are football players, but they also have to have the athletic skills to do what you're going to ask them to do. You can take a few chances on athletes, but you can't have a team full of athletes who don't understand the game.

Mark (Elgin, IL): Coach, Welcome! I am sure you are well aware that you are inheriting a defense that was dead last in the Big Ten in interceptions and near last in the nation. I see you have had some success in forcing turnovers with your previous defenses. How do you go about making this defense force more turnovers?
Vic Koenning: First of all, I've been blessed to have good players in the past. And we have something new to prove in 2010 and I think we will. Getting takeaways is something that will be emphasized daily and it will be something that's built in to the scheme to bait the quarterback into throwing the ball to us.

Ralph (Chicago): What is your defensive scheme? Is 4-3, 3-4, 4-2-5? What is your belief on press coverage majority of the game? Are you the type of D-Coordinator to dictate on defense or do you sit back and play bend but don't break?
Vic Koenning: The answer to those different schemes are yes, yes and yes! We do facets of all those different packages. And press coverage is great when it's working, but when teams have an answer for it, you have to be able to do other things.

Dan (Chicago): Vic, welcome to the Illini! What should fans expect to see as the biggest area of improvement with the defense next season? We haven't seen the defense create many turnovers lately, how high is that on your priority list?
Vic Koenning: Dan, yes, that's high on the priority list. Not giving up big plays, creating takeaways and competing for every yard are all goals for this year. I don't want to compare to past teams because when you live in a glass house you shouldn't cast stones. I'm just going to focus on moving forward and improving.

Will (Chicago): Coach, if you could compare your scheme/style to another program, person, etc. who would it be?
Vic Koenning: Will, we're going to do some similar things that the Ravens, Steelers and Patriots do. Also, we'll be similar in some ways to the Colts' and Bears' schemes, too. We've put together a bunch of different things in a way that our players can hopefully learn. But we're going to play to our players' strengths and try to avoid any weaknesses.

Jared (shelbyville, IL): how many of this years recruits will have a chance to play immediately on defense and which ones?
Vic Koenning: Jared, that's a really tough question to answer right now, but hopefully we won't need any of them to be every-down players. But I think all of them will have the opportunity to come in and be factors. I've had experience with playing as many as seven, eight or nine freshman - not all at once, obviously, but at different times - but we're going to play the players that give us the best chance to win while also doing what is right for a young man as far as not wasting a year of his eligibility.

AJ (bloomington): How do we cut down on the missed tackles? Is it a technique issue or a mindset/motivation issue?
Vic Koenning: I think the missed tackles and missed assignments are two things that can get you beat very quickly. We will emphasize tackling more than anything else except possibly pursuit to the football. We'll spend a great deal of time on tackling, the angles you take to a tackle, finishing a tackle and all the different parts of it. We're going to concentrate very hard on that. We're also going to constantly try to coach angles and show our guys how to build a triangle around every ballcarrier - with one on the inside, one on the outside and one coming from the middle. Sometimes we'll have to be in one-on-one situations and we'll have to be confident and adept at getting them on the ground.

Gary, Naperville: Congtats coach. Welcome to the Illini. My wife not too happy, KSU grad! Does Martez have one year eligibily left or can he petition for an additional year?
Vic Koenning: Gary, he has two years of eligibility left and I'm looking forward to coaching him. I think anytime that you have experience at something, you're going to be better than somebody who doesn't. But the other side of it is that this is all going to be a lot of new terminology and schemes. But a great football player is a great football player, and he has those skills. He's been showing a lot of leadership in the off-season. Right now, we're concentrating on being the best students that we can be. We're trying to develop guys with the premise that winning is not a sometimes thing, it's an all-the-time thing. We're going to win in the classroom and the weight room, then it will come on the field.

Jared (Shelbyville): what do you think is the strong point of the defense gonna be this year?
Vic Koenning: Jared, that's kind of like asking me the winning lottery numbers for tonight! There's no way of knowing that. But from being around our players, we have good size at a lot of positions and we have to continue to put them in the right spots. We're just trying to communicate with the players and get to know them, then get them in the right spot and let 'em go play.

Mike, WI: What can we expect to see from the defense next year? What are the so called "staples" to your scheme or coaching style?
Vic Koenning: Mike, I'm demanding of and expect players to give good effort. There's an old saying that if you strive for perfection, you'll reach excellence. So we're going to try to be perfect, knowing that isn't possible, but that excellence will be pretty good. I tend to get pretty energetic and I'm going to be coaching them pretty hard. As long as guys are trying, then it's all positive. There is a good bit of demanding their best effort in me and I think my dad is probably to blame or to credit, however you want to call it, for that. There are going to be tremendously high expectations and not giving it your best effort to reach them will not go unnoticed.

Brad (Monticello, IL): Welcome to the IlliniNation. I would describe our defense the past couple seasons as "vanilla." Any plans to spice things up a bit in terms of blitzing and being more aggressive on the corners?
Vic Koenning: Brad, we'll blitz every snap if it's the prudent thing to do. I know there are a lot of Clemson fans who didn't think I blitzed enough, but we brought somebody 40 percent of the time. Once teams figure out what you're doing and hurt you, you can't be hard-headed and know when to back off, too.

Louie (Indianapolis): Welcome to the Illini. Will Terry Hawthorne stay on the defensive side of the ball or be moved back to offense?
Vic Koenning: Louie, that's a head coach question, but I'm lobbying as strong as I can to keep him on the defensive side. The fact that we didn't sign a corner today may give some indication of that.

Will (Chicago): Coach, based on our athletes currently on the defensive side of the ball what do you feel is the best way to attack offenses?
Vic Koenning: Will, we're going to build our approach based on the skills of our players. And we'll attack offenses on a week-to-week basis. Every week is a season in some respect, so we're going to try to do what we do best. And if we do best better than what they do best, we'll be successful.

Buck (Chicago): Welcome Coach, What's the plan on getting some of these Chicago area high school stars staying in state and playing for the Illini?
Vic Koenning: Buck, I think you obviously have to build a program inside-out because those players from this area are going to have great loyalty. I think if we do our best job and evaluate players, I think we can get a good base of players from the state. We do need to make sure that the state of Illinois is our primary area, and I know Coach Zook has made no bones about that. And I know from being in recruiting meetings that there's a heavy emphasis on Chicago and the surrounding areas.

Jared (Shelbyville): Coach, what do you like most about the defensive players you are inheriting, and the ones you just recruited?
Vic Koenning: Jared, I think we've got a lot of size and strength, a lot of guys who have showed good physical prowess. I'm very impressed with the look of them and in some of the meetings they've seemed very enthusiastic and hungry to be good. And that's a great starting point. As far as the players coming in, we filled our needs and we're going to continue to work to do that. The thing that strikes me about the class coming in is the character and perceived toughness about the guys. We have some guys who are fantastic kids both athletically and intrinsically. When you're trying to build a team, you can't just have bricks - you've got to have the mortar.

Mike, Elk Grove Village, IL: Vic, welcome to Illinois. We're all glad to have you here. Third and long conversions really hampered the team last year. How do you attack a third and long situation?
Vic Koenning: Mike, like any situation, you play off what the other team does best. We want to try to attack what the other team does best and be prepared for something that's different and new, and adapt and adjust to that.
Moderator: Coach Koenning has to run, so that's going to be all for today's chat. Keep an eye on Signing Day headquarters for a few more videos and Coach Zook's press conference at 3:30. In fact, we're getting ready to post the "Look Inside Recruiting Headquarters" video here in the next few minutes.