Koenning: Freshman DB Making a Move

Vic Koenning

CLEMSON – In nearly every preseason publication, the biggest question cited with the Clemson defense revolves around the secondary, and in particular at both cornerbacks.

CORNERS IMPROVING: Senior Duane Coleman, who enters his first full season on defense, starts at one corner, while C.J. Gaddis, who struggled at safety last season, is at the other corner. And behind them, are a lot of unproven and untested players.

No wonder there are questions there.

However, Coleman may no longer be an unknown, as he appears to be settling in quite nicely into the position.

"I know what to look for now," he said. "Over the summer, I had a lot of work. I'm picking up my stuff. I know what to look for now. I'm excited, man. …

"I'm just excited because this year, I think we're going to be special and that it's going to be a special year and I just want to be part of something special. First team or second team, I just want to be a part of something special."

Defensive coordinator and secondary coach Vic Koenning said he's noticed a difference in Coleman, even after only one practice.

"At every position, I think there comes a time when everything just opens up for them and they say, ‘Oh, now I understand,' " Koenning said. "Duane's doing a great job."

Along with Gaddis, the two new starting corners are bigger than those of last year and Koenning said that's going to make a lot of difference in guarding receivers.

"I think we'll be more physical at corner," he said. "We're already miles ahead in our physicality. We're light years ahead in understanding packages. We've just got to continue to get guys to understand how to go about doing some of things. We're better at understanding."

BUTLER IMPRESSIVE EARLY: Behind Coleman and Gaddis, one freshman is already making a positive impression.

Crezdon Butler, who was highly touted coming out of high school, has already caught the eye of Koenning.

"Based on one practice, I think Crezdon's got a chance (to play)," Koenning said. "Darius (Gaither) and Byron (Maxwell) are still trying to get a grasp things at this point.
"Based on one practice, I think Crezdon's got a chance (to play)," Koenning said. "Darius (Gaither) and Byron (Maxwell) are still trying to get a grasp things at this point.

"Just watching practice, Crezdon Butler really has got a chance to really come in and push. I'm probably going to elevate him on the depth chart after one practice. He's going to move up and get more reps. Sergio Gilliam isn't practicing, and that's opening up opportunities (for the rest of the cornerbacks). They know they've got to get it down and that they're no more excuses. We have high expectations and we've got to do better than last year, so I'm holding them more accountable than last year. We have more guys that can play. "

Coleman said he's taken notice of the freshmen as well.

"They're making plays," he said. "They're doing pretty well. They're learning and they're picking it up pretty fast. They're hungry. They're trying to compete for a starting job right away. That's the type of guys we want to bring into Clemson. "Normally the freshmen come in and they don't know the tempo, but the seniors are doing a good job of picking them up and showing by example instead of by voice. I think we're going to be a team to watch this year."

SPILLER'S FIRST DAY: Freshman tailback C.J. Spiller completed his first full day of practice and in the three hours work, he said he's already picked up several tips.

"I learned how to read defenses and when to make my cuts, because I don't want to make them too early in the backfield," he said. "Those are the main things I learned today, just getting my steps down and reading the defenses."

He added that learning the signals was the hardest part of practice.

Senior running back Reggie Merriweather said with the addition of Spiller, he believes the Tigers have the deepest backfield in the ACC. But he also added that the freshman still has a ways to go to catch up to he and James Davis.

"We're pretty far ahead because we've got game experience, but as far as learning the offense and stuff, we're all pretty equal," Merriweather said. "The finer points, he needs to get those, but other than that, he's got it down. He's learning pretty quick."

Spiller, who wore No. 28 in high school, will wear it at Clemson as well. The number has special meaning to him because Warrick Dunn wears it.

"That's my favorite player," he said. "He has great work ethic and that's what I want to do with my work ethic and keep it strong because that's what going to take you to the next level."

QUICK HITS: Merriweather said the offense ran three formations Saturday, including a split-back formation, and eight basic plays. He also said the offense put in some of the spread offense today, as well. ... The practice was so grueling that several of the players had to get intravenous therapy immediately after. Defensive end Gaines Adams was driven to the locker room, while James Davis couldn't even speak. ... Part of the problem for the defensive players was that Koenning made the defense do 10 minutes of up-downs just before the regular conditioning drills started.

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