Illini will face UCLA on Dec. 31 in San Francisco
Koenning to Move On Following Bowl Game; Gilmore to Remain on Staff
Illinois Headed to Bowls in Back-to-Back Years
Vic Koenning Named Interim Head Coach
Zook Press Conference
Photos from Day 1 of Illinois' trip to San Francisco for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (photos by Mark Jones & Derek Neal)
One of the nation's top defensive coaches, Koenning spent two seasons at Illinois as the defensive coordinator in 2010 and 2011. In his two seasons with the Illini, Koenning spearheaded an unprecedented defensive renaissance. He improved Illinois' defense from 91st to seventh in total defense, 100th to fifth in passing defense, 96th to 16th in scoring defense, 102nd to 32nd in pass efficiency defense and 76th to 25th in rushing defense over the last two seasons. In additiion to the defensive coordinator role, Koenning worked with the inside linebackers in 2011 after working with the secondary in 2010.
He also has led the Illini to a fourth-place national rank in tackles for loss and a seventh-place spot in sacks. Junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus blossomed in 2011, leading the nation in sacks (16.0), sacks per game (1.23) and forced fumbles (9) and earning consensus first-team All-America honors. In addition, sophomore linebacker Jonathan Brown ranked sixth nationally in tackles for loss per game (1.63).
Koenning served as interim head coach for Illinois' 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl win over UCLA after head coach Ron Zook was let go following the 2011 regular season.
In 2010, Koenning helped the UI defense improve 53 spots in total defense and 48 spots in scoring defense from the year before, while also helping to mentor three 2011 NFL Draft picks in DT Corey Liuget (1st round), LB Martez Wilson (3rd round) and LB Nate Bussey (7th round).
In 2009 at Kansas State, he helped the Wildcats' improve from 112th in the NCAA in rushing defense in 2008 to 16th in 2009, total defense from 117th to 40th and scoring defense from 110th to 48th. KSU allowed 140 yards fewer last season than in 2008 and 12 points per game less than the previous year.
During his career at Clemson, Koenning accomplished something no other Tiger defensive coordinator had accomplished in the school's history. Each of his four defenses from 2005-2008 finished in the top 25 in scoring, total, and pass efficiency defense each season.
In 2008, Clemson's defense led the ACC in scoring defense and ranked ninth in the nation by allowing just 16.6 points per game. The unit also was 12th in the nation in pass defense, 11th in pass efficiency defense, tied for eighth in interceptions and 16th in total defense.
The 2007 defensive performance might have been the best of his tenure at Clemson. The Tigers had just one player make first or second-team All-ACC despite leading the ACC in pass defense and turnover margin, and finishing second in total and scoring defense. Clemson was ninth in the nation in total defense (307 ypg), and 10th in scoring defense (18.7 ppg).
In 2006, Clemson finished 13th in the nation in total defense, 18th in rushing defense, 24th in pass defense (yards), 17th in pass efficiency defense, 20th in sacks and 16th in scoring defense. It marked the first time since 1990 that Clemson finished in the top 20 in the four major defensive categories in the same year. In that season, Clemson held Georgia Tech All-American and No. 2 overall draft pick Calvin Johnson without a reception for the only time in his collegiate career.
In Koenning's first season at Clemson, the defense allowed 11.5 points per game in the last seven games, going 6-1 in those contests. During that stretch, the defense held No. 16 Florida State and No. 19 South Carolina without an offensive touchdown. The 2005 season concluded with a 19-10 win over Colorado in the Champs Sports Bowl. The Tigers held the Buffaloes to 124 yards of total offense and just 17 rushing yards, the best bowl game defensive performance of the bowl season. Clemson allowed only one touchdown in its last 45 defensive possessions that season.
Koenning developed Clemson players to the NFL. In 2006, cornerback Tye Hill was a first-round draft pick, now with the St. Louis Rams, while defensive end Gaines Adams, who passed away in Jan. of 2010, was the No. 4 overall selection in 2007. Defensive end Phillip Merling was the No. 32 overall selection of the 2008 draft by Miami.
Koenning built a strong résumé in two seasons at Troy. He led its defense to a top-10 NCAA finish in scoring, rushing and pass efficiency defense and yards per play in 2004. Troy's defense led the nation in interceptions (25), tied for second in turnovers forced (32), was ninth in fewest yards allowed per play, and finished 16th in total defense (311.0).
Prior to his time at Troy, he was the head coach at Wyoming from 2000-02. He coached 10 Cowboy players who earned first-team all-conference honors in his six seasons in Laramie, including three years as defensive coordinator. In 1997, UW led the nation in interceptions and was second in sacks.
Koenning served as a full-time assistant coach working with the defensive backs at Memphis from 1991-96. In his first year, he helped the Tigers to a 24-10 upset at No. 14 USC. His second season there saw the defense finish third in the nation in total defense and 15th in scoring defense. The Tigers enjoyed another successful year on defense in 1993, as Koenning's unit was 16th in the nation in total defense. In 1994, the Tigers were third in the nation in total defense and eighth in scoring defense. His final year at Memphis was highlighted by a 21-17 upset of No. 6 Tennessee.
A three-year starter and team captain and 1983 graduate at Kansas State, Koenning was the recipient of the Paul Coffman Award, presented to the Wildcat who displays the most outstanding leadership. Koenning was third on the team with 93 total tackles as a senior.
Koenning, a native of Owasso, Okla., pursued a playing career with the Denver Broncos, Oklahoma Outlaws (USFL), and Green Bay Packers between 1983-86 before starting work on his master's degree at Memphis in 1986. He later received his master's in athletic administration from Memphis in 1989. Koenning and his wife, Tracey, have four children: Kimberly, Brady, Camden and Jackson.