Koenning Named Defensive Coordinator
Dec. 18, 2009
University of Illinois head football coach Ron Zook announced Friday the hiring of former Kansas State defensive coordinator, Vic Koenning (pronounced CONE-ing) to serve in the same capacity on the Fighting Illini coaching staff.
"I am very excited about this hiring," Zook said. "Vic has had great success wherever he has been and has tremendous experience rebuilding defensive units. When you talk to him, you can't help but see his passion for the game and get excited about playing for him. He will be a great addition to this staff."
"I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to work with Coach Zook and improve the defense," Koenning said. "The talent is there so I am excited to see how far we can take this team. I am up for the challenge and excited about improving every day. "
One of the nation's top defensive coaches, Koenning comes to Illinois after one season at Kansas State. In 2009, 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. The squad 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 football 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.
Koenning, a 1983 Kansas State graduate, had productive defenses at Clemson that took advantage of the talents of players from different positions. His first defense in 2005 featured first-round draft pick Tye Hill, a cornerback now with the St. Louis Rams, while his 2006 defense featured defensive end Gaines Adams, the No. 4 overall selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His 2007 unit featured another defensive end in Phillip Merling, who was the No. 32 overall selection of the 2008 draft by Miami.
With nine underclassmen in the starting lineup for most of the season, the 2007 defensive performance might have been the best of his tenure at Clemson. Clemson had just one player make first or second-team All-ACC, yet the Tigers led the ACC in pass defense and turnover margin, and they finished second in total defense and scoring defense. Clemson was ninth in the nation in total defense, allowing just 307 yards per game, and 10th in scoring defense, giving up 18.7 points per outing.
In 2006, Clemson finished 13th in the nation in total defense, its highest mark since the 1991 team finished fourth. Clemson was 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.
A highlight in 2006 took place during Clemson's 31-7 win over No. 13 Georgia Tech as the Tiger secondary held Georgia Tech All-American and No. 2 overall draft pick Calvin Johnson without a reception for the only time in his collegiate career.
The Tigers showed great improvement over the course of the 2005 season, Koenning's first at Clemson. The defense allowed 11.5 points per game in the last seven games, a big reason the Tigers went 6-1 in those contests. During that stretch, the defense held No. 16 Florida State and No. 19 South Carolina without an offensive touchdown. He became the first defensive coordinator to keep those two noted offensive minds without a touchdown in the same season. 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 56 Division I-A teams in the postseason. Clemson allowed only one touchdown in its last 45 defensive possessions that season.
Koenning came to Clemson prior to the 2005 season with a strong résumé. He led Troy's defense to a top-10 national finish in scoring defense, rushing defense, yards per play, and pass efficiency defense 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). Only USC had more takeaways than Troy.
He spent two seasons at Troy as the defensive coordinator under head coach Larry Blakeney. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Wyoming from 2000-02. He coached 10 Cowboy players who earned first-team all-conference honors in his five seasons in Laramie, including three years as head coach and two years as defensive coordinator.
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 Southern California. 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. Koenning spent 10 years in all at Memphis. From 1988-90, he worked as a graduate assistant and strength training coach with the football program.
A three-year starter and team captain 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.
THE KOENNING FILE