Asked the last time he was back in Kansas, Koenning, the former three-year starting linebacker and team captain at Kansas State, was stuck. “Probably for an alumni game, when Stan Parrish was coaching,” he said. Following his resignation from the defensive coordinator position at Clemson, Koenning might find himself back in the Little Apple. Koenning, 48, was packing up his family’s home in Clemson, S.C., when he took about 25 minutes to talk about a variety of topics, including the “secret” to attacking the prolific offenses currently populating the Big 12.
1. What happened at Clemson?
I didn’t feel, for what we accomplished… Nine weeks in a row of not allowing 200 yards of passing, four seasons in the top 20 in total defense and the top 16 in scoring defense? For them not to be able to make a commitment to me, I didn’t think that was right. But it’s the new coach’s call, 100 percent, to make his call, and I’m not spiteful. But I would have hoped the administration would have said something… It’s like when you have beautiful roses in the garden. If you have a few weeds, you don’t cut down the rose bushes along with the weeds, too.
2. Have you spoken with Bill Snyder?
I have had dialogue with Coach Snyder. But to the degree of anything I can comment on… Hey, we had dialogue in September. He’s an idol of mine. He’s an icon. I look to him for guidance. It’s not unusual for us to talk. But yes, we’ve spoken.
3. Ever look at the Big 12 and think, “I can handle these offenses?”
I’m not an arrogant person. To say someone can come in and slow these offenses down is arrogant. I’m very proud, too prideful to say that. I take a great deal of pride in that… The whole thing about stopping these offenses is to get better players than they have and win the one-on-one battles. Right now, their Jimmies are better than your Joes… A lot of great coaches are taking it to the next level. No one can stop it, but slowing it down is possible with better or comparable players. When Missouri came to Troy (J-MART NOTE: Koenning was the defensive coordinator at Troy from 2003-04), they had Brad Smith, and the first two drives, they drove right down the field like they stole something. But we settled down after that… But I don’t know if anyone has the answer.
4. Is the next job where you hope to “drop the anchor?”
It’s unrealistic to use the term “drop the anchor.” It’s an oxymoron in this profession. Being a coordinator, you’re going to take some bullets. The survival rate isn’t high.
5. Which brings us back to Clemson. Any regrets?
I stood my ground and believed in my accomplishments… Sure, I’ve had some calls. But I want to do what’s best for my family first. I want to go to a place where you can win – that’s what I spoke to my father about last night. He reminded me about Wyoming (J-MART NOTE: Koenning was the head coach at Wyoming from 2000-02), and how that was a tough situation.
(BONUS) 6. Just to be clear – you’ve been offered jobs?
I have to some things to consider, yes, sir.
(BONUS) 7. When do you want to start?
I’m ready to recruit now. I have a five-star recruit right here in South Carolina who is ready to go wherever I go… These are young men who you build a connection with, who want to stay with you. Wherever I go, I have to make recruiting a priority… The last six years, my areas have been the Southeast. The Florida Panhandle, South Alabama… I used to be good in Dallas, but it’s been a number of years… Recruiting now is the sophomores… I have lists here of freshmen and sophomores. You have to get to know kids from scratch.
(BONUS) 8. How and by how much do you expect to improve whichever defense you’ll be running next year?
At Wyoming, when I was the defensive coordinator under coach (Dana) Dimel, we went from 96th in the country in defense to 23rd… This year, we played five freshmen at times in our front seven… You just have to take it every day, get better, stay fundamentally sound and keep positive. That’s it.