CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -Clemson's affable defensive coordinator has apologized for saying that two of Alabama's most highly regarded football recruits each drove off from high school events in a Cadillac Escalade.
``I guess I made a mistake in cutting a joke,'' Koenning said.
The ninth-ranked Tigers open the season Saturday against No. 24 Alabama in Atlanta. In a week where antiseptic comments of mutual respect are the norm, Koenning most likely gave the underdog Tide something to rally around.
Koenning has led the Tigers' defense the past three seasons. He's rarely shy with his opinions and gained a reputation as one of the staff's most humorous coaches.
That style got Koenning in trouble Monday night after practice, when he talked about Alabama freshman receiver Julio Jones and B.J. Scott.
``Julio? You know what, I actually ran into Julio in the spring recruiting,'' Koenning said according to an account published in The (Columbia) State and a review of a tape recording of the interview. ``I said hello to him and said, I guess I'll be seeing you at the end of August. Then he got out and got in his Escalade and drove off. That's serious.
``And then I went over and watched (Alabama freshman) Burton Scott at Vigor High School at the track over there,'' Koenning continued, ``and Burton Scott was running around. He went and got in his Escalade out at track practice and drove off. So I'm familiar with those two guys.''
Koenning says he sought out the reporters involved to emphasize he was kidding.
Jones and Scott are two of several young Alabama players who figure to see action against Clemson.
Alabama spokesman Jeff Purinton did not know if head coach Nick Saban would have any response to Koenning's remarks. Purinton also didn't know if anyone in the school's athletic department had called counterparts at Clemson to complain.
Koenning says he had a text-message conversation with Alabama assistant Burton Burns, who worked at Clemson from 1999 to 2006, to make sure he understood Koenning was not serious.
Koenning also got a call from one of the Alabama players' high school coaches.
``He couldn't figure out why I would say something like that,'' Koenning said. ``I said, 'Well, I was joking around at the end of practice yesterday and it just got taken the wrong way.' So it was my mistake for even joking around in that environment.''
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden says Koenning's remarks don't reflect he and his staff's high regard for Alabama and its above-board recruiting tactics.
``A guy makes an off-the-cuff comment, and I know we're really looking for things to write about and talk about on the Internet and on talk shows,'' Bowden said. ``If we would've had some bad blood in the past, but here's a school that we've had zero bad blood.''
Bowden hasn't spoken to Koenning about it. ``We didn't even recruit him, Julio Jones,'' Clemson's head coach said. ``That shows you how insignificant I think the statement is.''
Koenning said he's never had a problem with Alabama's recruiting practices and doesn't know what vehicles, if any, Jones or Scott drive.
Now, the situation is ``100 percent a distraction,'' said Koenning as he develops a game plan for Clemson's opener.
``That's not me to cast stones or to have ill feelings toward that,'' he said. ``It was my misjudgement in saying something in a joking manner that got taken and run with.''

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