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Vic Koenning: The worst thing that happens to a fighter...

Vic Koenning wants more toughness out of the Illinois linebackers.

In his second year as defensive coordinator / inside linebackers coach, Koenning says, "We're little cocker spaniels right now.”

His goal?  Make them like Pitbulls.

Koenning told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, “Like Mickey told Rocky, 'The worst thing that can happen to a fighter is to get civilized. You've got to get back to old school.' In my opinion, we've got to get back to a little bit of old school.”

He didn’t stop there.

Koenning offered up, "It’s like one of those country dances. You take one step forward and two steps back or two steps forward and one step back, however that goes. I haven’t been able to crack the code with some of these guys to get them to absorb it. We’ve got a lot of questions to answer in the linebacker corps."

Following Saturday’s scrimmage, head coach Ron Zook said things looked a lot better than the first scrimmage from a year ago.  Zook was pleased with the tackling, but disappointed with a number of big plays the defense allowed.

You can watch the Illinois spring game on BigTenNetwork.com on April 23 at 2 pm EST.  The Big Ten Network will broadcast the replay at 7 pm EST.

Illinois practices this week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  Zook's squad will open with five consecutive home games in 2011 against Arkansas State, South Dakota State, Arizona State, Western Michigan, and Northwestern.  The schedule features 8 home games and just 4 road games.  

Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin all travel to Champaigne.  Gotta capitalize, Zooker.

Dana Holgorsen: It comes down to 3 things

Dana Holgorsen is implementing the diamond backfield set this spring at West Virginia.

It’s a set Holgorsen (39) first used at Oklahoma State, featuring three running backs in the backfield.

Holgorsen told Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail, “It's a little different. We can go inside and talk the rest of the day for, like, seven hours for me to explain the blocking stuff and schemes and all that, but what we do with one back or two backs, we can put a third one in there and do the same thing."

West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel admits, "It poses problems.  You have a chance to insert a tight end or a lead back to outnumber you at the point of attack. But there's a balance. It's a lot like our (3-3-5) defense. We have the three linebackers and you don't know where the overload is coming from. It's the same thing in the run game."

"When you've got three backs in the backfield and the two wideouts go out, you've got to go out and cover the wideouts and take your chances stopping the three backs, or you have to drop a safety in and go one-on-one with your corners," said Casteel.

Holgorsen admittedly doesn’t care about the size of the backs.  He explained, “It comes down to the three things.  It comes down to being able to be productive when you run, being able to be productive when you block and being able to be productive when you have the ball in your hands.”

“Regardless if the guy weighs 160 or 260, if it’s productive it’s productive. We’ve had guys that are 185 pounds that were our best pas protectors, so they got more reps.”

Here’s Holgorsen talking with the media after Saturday’s practice:

Jim Grobe holding firm with his philosophy

Jim Grobe enters his eleventh season as Wake Forest head coach determined to get the Demon Deacons back to sucess.

In 2006, Grobe led Wake Forest to 11-3 record and Orange Bowl bid.  Since then, the team has finished 9-4, 8-5, 5-7, and 3-9.

Much of the success was built on teams stockpiled with redshirt juniors and redshirt seniors.

So after consecutive losing seasons, has there been a massive overhaul?  What about a change in philosophy?

Not so, according to Grobe, who spoke with the News Observer recently.  Grobe said, “We haven't really changed. If we end up with 16 or 18 juniors and seniors out on the field starting for us and playing their very best football, then we're going to be a good football team."

The spring has been productive.

"Much more energy than we've had the last two years," Grobe said. "The last couple of years there was some complacency going on. Our players just kind of assumed that because we've done it three years in row that it would just happen."

In the off-season, former West Virginia assistant Lonnie Galloway joined the staff as wide receivers coach / passing game co-coordinator.  Quarterbacks coach Tom Elrod added the title of passing game co-coordinator.

Brian Knorr shifted from wide receivers coach to co-defensive coordinator / linebackers.  Defensive ends coach Tim Billing was promoted to co-defensive coordinator.  He will now coach the outside linebackers.  Keith Henry, who coached the corners last season, will now serve as the special teams coordinator.

Wake Forest opens at Syracuse.  The home schedule includes Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame. 

Pete Carroll on Gary Patterson: He gets it from A to Z

Pete Carroll took his “Win Forever” camp to TCU over the weekend.

Win Forever is a proven system of success for those who compete to maximize their potential in sports, entertainment, philanthropy, business, and life.  It’s the "New Generation of Coaching for the Next Generation of Athlete."

In Fort Worth, Carroll offered a free 4-hour workshop to high school and college coaches.

He also complimented TCU head coach Gary Patterson by saying, "He gets it from a to z, how to deliver the message of a philosophy and something that is absolutely representative of who he is. In doing so, he's been consistently… at the top of his game and has brought TCU to a point where they are absolutely one of the top [teams] of the college football world."

The “Win Forever” camps continue in Palo Alto (May 15th) and Seattle (June 17th).

Listen closely on how it came together for Pete Carroll.

 

Looking to motivate a player to contribute to special teams?

UCONN head coach Paul Pasqualoni is using a story of David Tyree to motivate his best players to contribute to special teams.

Tyree, who is most known for making the leaping catch of Eli Manning’s floater in Super Bowl XLII, once started out as a disgruntled strong safety at Syracuse when Pasqualoni served as the head coach.

Pasqualoni explained to the TheDay.com , "We talk about this for an hour or so, so I finally say to him, 'Here's the deal. Here's what I'll do right now. I'll make a deal with you ... a handshake deal. I'll let you be a wide receiver if you play all four units of special teams. And you may never, ever walk into my office and say, 'Coach, I'm tired of special teams.' He said, 'All right, I'll do it.'”

"What happens? He becomes a special teams freaking highlight film. So now it's time for the draft. The Giants certainly are not going to take him as a wide receiver, so they take him as a special teams guy. Now he's playing core special teams … he's playing all units, so now he's at The Game (Super Bowl) and playing wide receiver because by now his craft is wide receiver."

"But he's at The Game because of special teams. He's not at The Game because of wide receiver. He dresses, and now they've got an extra wide receiver and he's able to go into the game. They need an extra guy, throw him into the game, and what happens in the Super Bowl? He makes the catch with the ball pinned against his head, and it just turns out to be the biggest play of the game."

"And how did he get there? He got there from special teams. That's the truth."

Despite never catching more than 19 passes in 7 seasons in the NFL, Tyree had a terrific career.  Not only did he win a Super Bowl, but Tyree also earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2005...as a special teams player.  

Pasqualoni will coach his first game for UCONN when the Huskies open the 2011 season against Fordham.  The next three games are at Vanderbilt, Iowa State, and at Buffalo.

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