Q&A With Coach Dan Fidler

It would hardly be far fetched to say the safeties group is the most talented unit on the ASU team, if not the strongest among the Pac-10 schools. In this exclusive DevilsDigest interview, the Sun Devil safeties coach reviews the performance of his group in the 2002 season, talks about the incoming recruits, and offers his thoughts on spring practice.

DevilsDigest: Let's start by reviewing the safeties in the 2003 class. What can you tell us about them?

Dan Fidler: Josh Barrett - "He fits a lot of things that we look for in a recruit. He has a good frame, he's a good all-around athlete, a three-sport guy that runs track and plays basketball. He's versatile playing on offense and defense. He's a guy that can throw the ball and catch the ball, and that's good because a lot of defensive backs don't have good ball skills. His potential is very good. We project him at outside (strong) safety just because he played that position in high school, but we may move him around once he gets here and we get a closer look at him."

Darnell Henderson - "He's another guy in the same mold. He's a three-sport guy that played both offense and defense. He was a good running back, and played both corner and safety. He's not as tall as Josh, but Riccardo Stewart is short too. He has a great personality and is very energetic. He's a tough kid that is put together real well, and he likes to lift weights. We project him as an outside safety."

Daniel Varvel - "He's also similar to Josh being a tall player, and being a three sport guy. Because him and Josh are three sport guys, they're not as weight trained as Darnell. They both played a lot of basketball in the summer, so they didn't have a chance to really lift weights. But they have the frame to really fill out. We need a free safety bad, and we project him at that position."

DD: Can you recap the 2002 season from the safeties standpoint?

DF: "We didn't have much depth. We needed more guys to create competition in practice. This is a position, which needs to make a lot of plays, and we had a lot of guys banged up. In a perfect world all the safeties play on all the kicking teams, and they're making high impact plays all the time. The only guy who stayed health all season was Jason (Shivers). But all these guys worked hard and they're very coachable. We just needed more depth to create more consistency. We're gonna have a lot more competition this year."

"We made big improvements playing the run from the year before. The outside safeties did a better job getting leverage to the ball, so we can prevent the cutbacks. We still had games where we gave up big gains because we loose the leverage. So we have to be more consistent in reading blocking schemes better. We did a good job being aggressive in attacking the run. In the pass game we needed to create more turnovers when the ball is the air, in terms of guys getting after the ball and making picks."

DD: How do you view the competition in the safety position? It seems that there is a lot of talented players in the depth chart.

DF: Well, Brett Hudson is moving back to safety and at least we're thinking that he's going to stay there full time. Lamar (Baker) will also move to safety. So, we're getting more athletic and faster. We have six guys coming back that started games at one point of their career in the secondary. I'm really excited about spring practice, because we do have a lot of experienced and athletic players coming back."

DD: Do you expect this unit to be playing better this year just because experience breeds familiarity and ultimately brings success?

DF: "With all this experience the kids are going to play more confident. They understand the system and the scheming. A lot of them were forced to play early, and maybe before they were really ready to play full-time. So even though we're relatively young, having one senior in the whole group, we do have a lot of experience. As a coach I'm really looking forward to coaching this group and seeing what they can do on the field."

DD: Brett Hudson was shuttled back and forth between the safety and cornerback position last season. Now he will play more at safety. Do you think the fact that he wasn't playing safety full-time last year hurts him as he fights for a starting position in your unit?

DF: "I think in the long run it's gonna be a good thing. I feel that the biggest deficiency we had is our man-to-man skills. Playing corner in our scheme, you always play man-to-man. So, he will obviously feel comfortable doing that because of all the experience he had. He has had a great off-season. He's 6-2, 220 pounds and he has a ton of confidence. Last year he was the best athlete that I had, in terms of running, jumping, catching the ball, judging the ball…You can just see how confident he is right now when you talk to him. He's not learning anymore."

DD: When you look at the safety unit, even tough we have one more person playing that position than the rest of the conference, would say that this is the best unit in the Pac-10?

DF: "I don't know about that because I don't watch the other teams' safeties that often. We do have a lot of experience coming back compared to other teams. Whether that makes us better or not, I'm not sure. I'm trying to instill in them that they have to be dominant, and I think they have a chance to do so. We have six talented guys, and that means that everybody has to bring their "A" game to practice every day. We're in a lot better shape than we were the previous two years."

DD: Going into spring practice, what are your thoughts and expectations for the safety group?

DF: "I feel real good where we are going into spring ball. All of the players had very good off-seasons. More then anything I want them to become dominant. As much as all of them have played, and as much competition that we have, they do have a chance to do that. They just need to get in their mind that it's not enough just to be good. You have to make a difference out there. When you have all this competition, there's a lot more anticipation that they have to perform more. But when you have six guys in a three-safety scheme, that's not a ton of guys. We travel with 7-8 players, so we need some other guys to step up. Maybe some of the incoming freshmen will be those players. I'm excited for spring practice, and think the guys are too."

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