WVU’s Vic Koenning: “I’m Not Married To Any Defensive Scheme”
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — New West Virginia defensive coordinator Vic Koenning isn’t married — to any defensive scheme.
That’s as far as his unattached matrimonial status extends, though. The Owasso, Okla., native and his wife, Tracey, have four children: Kimberly, Brady, Camden and Jackson. There, his dedication is absolute. But when it comes to a particular set on the football field, an odd or an even front, he has no ties.
“Nooooo!” Koenning said when asked ‘The Question’. “You do what your players do best. You can’t put them in a position where they can’t be successful.”
Koenning has learned that lesson through a lengthy career, which has included stops at North Carolina (DC/2012-14), Illinois (DC/2010-11), Kansas State (Co-DC/2009), Clemson (DC/2005-08), Troy (DC/2003-04), Wyoming (Head Coach/2000-02, DC/1997-99) and Memphis (DB/1991-96, GA/1986-90). He illustrates his thoughts with some homespun examples.
“Back at Troy we have a donkey — a legitimate donkey,” he said, immediately drawing his listeners in. “I wouldn’t expect that donkey to go run the Kentucky Derby. You don’t ask guys to do things they can’t do. But the things they can do well, you put them in the position to do those things well.”
Koenning sees that adaptability as a key in the process to what West Virginia’s defense looks like in 2019, and beyond. Make no mistake, it could look very different as the seasons pass.
“We’re part 3-4, part 4-2-4, there’s some 4-3 stuff we do,” he said of the varied approach that has served him well at various stops, including at Troy over the past four seasons. “If our guys do better (at one) we’ll do that. We are going to see what our guys can do, and it will be an on-going process. It’s never going to stop changing. There’s a lot of different ways to skin a cat, as many different ways as there are ants in Africa.”
Behind that, though, lies a player-centric approach which mirrors that of head coach Neal Brown. Developing that communication is the foundation through which changes and improvements can be made.
“It’s about the players — the players first. When you start thinking it’s about you, you are going the wrong way,” he explained. “It’s about the players believing we have their best interests at heart. We’re going to have to ask some guys to change positions. That is going to happen. But if you have their best interests at heart, I think they are going to be willing.”
“Vic has coached in many different conferences including the Big 12, Big Ten, ACC and Sun Belt,” Brown said in the statement announcing his hiring as defensive coordinator. “He has been a head coach at the collegiate level, and I am excited to bring his coaching experience to West Virginia. Throughout his career, Vic’s defenses are nationally known for their tenacity and ability to force turnovers, making them very opportunistic units. He is no stranger to Big 12 football and will be a great leader for our unit.”
As Brown and Koenning fill out the defensive staff, the structure could change from what was employed at West Virginia in the past. Again, flexibility is the key, and Koenning doesn’t have a set list of positions just yet.
“There are lots of different ways. It depends on who we end up getting on the staff,” he said, perhaps thinking of counting ants again. “The special teams coach will probably come from the defensive side. We do so much stuff on special teams — it truly is a third of the deal. It’s kind of unfair for that guy to coach too much on the defensive side. But there are going to be a lot of moving parts.
“Last year (at Troy) is the first year that we (coached) it like a 3-4, but there’s times where guys go work with other position coaches. There’s times I’ve coached five guys, and the linebackers coach had one guy.”
Rather than scheme, Koenning plans to work outward from winning match-ups. In describing that plan, he again showed that he’s not even engaged, let alone married, to formations.
“We’re going to have to play match-ups. That is what college football has gotten to be, like the NFL,” he detailed. “I got told by a guy one time that he didn’t want a 4-2-5 defense because they don’t play the 4-2-5 in the NFL. I was so flabbergasted that he was so naive about it, I said, ‘You know they call that nickel defense.’ We’re going to see what our guys do, and go from there.”