MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Vic Koenning’s top priority as a defensive coordinator is stopping the run. That being the case, his first dress rehearsal at West Virginia was an unqualified success.
Going up against the No. 1 offensive line in the spring game, the first-string defense allowed 81 yards on 32 rushing attempts.
“If you can’t stop the run, you can’t stop anything,” Koenning said. “We’re going to be good at stopping the run. We’re going to do what it takes to have enough numbers to stop the run.”
Koenning made it clear that mentality is coming with him on the recruiting trail, as well.
“It’s going to be a super emphasis in recruiting for any defensive linemen out there who want to be fun and charge upfield and make a play,” he said. “This will be a good scheme for them.”
Koenning isn’t quite as pleased with where the Mountaineers are against the pass right now.
Austin Kendall and Trey Lowe were a combined 11-of-19 for 205 yards against the top defense. Kendall victimized the defense with the deep ball several times, hitting completions of 60, 40 and 39 yards. Lowe had a 28-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the scrimmage.
“We’re gonna have to get better on not giving up big plays,” Koenning said. “When it’s max-protect, throw the ball deep, you’ve got to win those one-on-one matchups.”
That said, Koenning is hopeful his secondary will be less exposed in the season than it was during the spring game because quarterbacks will have less time to throw.
“If you drop back and you know you’re not gonna get hit, you feel pretty good about it,” Koenning said.
He imagined the life of a spring game quarterback being pretty easy.
“’I’m gonna eat a sandwich, chill out, drink a glass of some iced tea and rock and fire,’” Koenning joked of a quarterback’s spring mindset. “In a real game situation, they tend not to throw hot as far as they can throw it three times. A lot of today was ‘I may have a lot of guys around me, but they’re not gonna hit me.’”
Koenning also needs more takeaways to be truly satisfied with the performance of his defense. His last two defenses at Troy ranked in the Top 20 nationally in takeaways. The lone turnover forced by the No. 1 defense in the spring game was a gift from Lowe, who forced a throw that was picked off by Keith Washington when he might have had a productive gain running the ball.
“We tackled OK today. We worked very hard at all the fundamental parts of tackling all spring,” Koenning said. “But we’ve got to create takeaways. We’ve got to get better at that.”
The regular-season defensive product should look better – or at least more complex. Koenning stuck to the basics and did not call any blitzes Saturday.
“What we’ve done in the spring is we’ve kept our blitz packages to a minimum. ‘Here’s what we’ll do in our base stuff, here’s who we’ll be,’” Koenning said. “We worked no sub-packages. We wanted to get what most of the Big 12 does. We’ll start game-planning in the summer.”
There are several specialized roles the Mountaineers have yet to determine. That part comes in August.
“Who is gonna be our edge pass-rusher? A fullback and tight end are in, who is our extra lineman? Do we play with JoVanni Stewart [at spear], or put [Kwantel] Raines in? Now we can narrow it down to who we want to be.”