After a wild night of rumors and negotiations, Illinois got the man it wanted to run its defense.
Illinois officially named Vic Koenning its new defensive coordinator at a news conference today in Champaign. Koenning, who previously served as Kansas State's co-defensive coordinator, replaces Dan Disch and Curt Mallory, who were demoted to position coaches.
"I’m ready to jump in there with coach [Ron] Zook, start to watch some recruiting tape, start to watch some games and get going," Koenning said Friday. "I couldn’t be more excited to be here. In so many things in life, timing is everything, and the timing has worked out fantastic."
Illinois' hiring of Koenning had been expected for several days, but things got interesting Thursday night as Georgia re-entered the mix for his services. Koenning recalled how Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder came into his office several days ago and asked where Koenning was headed.
Ultimately, Koenning settled on Illinois, calling it a "much-needed change."
"There was some dialogue [with Georgia]," Koenning said. "It made for an interesting last 16, 18 hours, but when push comes to shove, the character and the drive and the enthusiasm that coach Zook exhibited made sure there was no doubt in the outcome."
A week after dismissing four assistant coaches and demoting two others, Zook has filled all four positions and has his staff in place for a make-or-break 2010 season. We can certainly debate whether Zook should still be at Illinois and whether the fired assistants were scapegoats for a miserable season, but you've got to give the team credit for its bold approach to finding replacements.
Time will tell if these hires can turn things around, but the early returns are favorable.
New offensive coordinator Paul Petrino has been around great offenses for some time, and he seems excited about the chance to break away from his brother Bobby and call his own plays. Petrino and new offensive assistants Jeff Brohm (quarterbacks) and Greg Nord (tight ends) were all at Louisville when the Cardinals lit up the scoreboard from 2003-06.
Koenning spent only one year at Kansas State, which ranks 40th nationally in total defense and 16th against the run. He built his reputation as a strong defensive coordinator at Clemson, which finished in the top 25 nationally in scoring, total defense, and pass efficiency defense in each of his four seasons there (2005-08).
Koenning had never been to Champaign and arrived "in the dark of night" early Friday.
"There may be some dark circles under my eyes," he said. "But you have an adrenaline rush when you come into a place like this. We're ready to go."