Koetter Anxious to Kick Off Spring Practice

The Sun Devils coach realizes that some questions on his roster need to be answered, but that bit of uncertainty is not enough to temper his excitement about what should be the one of the more highly anticipated ASU spring practices in recent memory. Newly appointed center Drew Hodgdon offers his thoughts on the topic as well.

"We are anxious to get started." Said Koetter as he addressed the media before the first practice of the spring, "It's the first time in three years that we had this much returning experience, but yet we have a lot of redshirt freshmen and three JC transfers, and a lot of guys are excited to see where they fit in the puzzle." The team has exceeded all expectations finishing third in the Pac-10 last season, but nevertheless some of the goals for 2003 are similar to the ones specified last season. "We have team goals, and they still revolve around teamwork, tackling, and turnovers. But the goals within the goals as I call them, are different for every position and every player. We'd be foolish to say that we have the same set of goals for Andrew Walter as we do for Aaron Austin. Aaron Austin has to learn the offense and learn how to lineup correctly, and Andrew Walter is trying to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country."

While Koetter prides his practices on being high tempo with virtually no down time, the absence of the regular season pressure makes these 15 sessions productive in a unique way. "That's the nice thing about spring football. You get to teach without the pressure of a game on Saturday, and we don't have to be all exactly on the same page. You're not on a time clock where you can only teach so much or put in so much, because you have to game plan. With 15 practices, three without contact, it's great time to get all of our guys on the same page, advance some of our upper level guys to be the best they can be, and get our new guys ready to go…We just have to progress as far as we can, as fast as we can, and get ready for September 6th."

Undoubtley, one of those "upper level guys" is quarterback Andrew Walter. Some may raise the concern that he will come under severe pressure to duplicate his record-breaking numbers from 2002, which could ultimately hinder his performance. Koetter realizes that potential exists, but finds it hard to believe that this will happen with his signal caller. "Andrew has a pretty level head on his shoulders, and comes from a great family. I don't think it will be an issue with him. I think it could be a problem for other guys, but not for Andrew Walter."

When Koetter talks about finding out where new players fit into the puzzle, one of the most evident positions this occurrence will take place is in the running back position. While Hakim Hill will sit out all of spring due to medical reasons, and Mike Williams will experiment at wide receiver, the stage will be set for three young players to showcase their skills and stake their claim. "The tailback position will be an exciting one to watch. We have our returning starter coming back in Mike Williams, we have Cornell Canidate who was a starter at one point, and injuries slowed him down the later half of the season, and two young guys we're real excited about and had a great winter – Randy Hill and Loren Wade. It's gonna be a fun position to watch." Koetter explains the thought process behind moving Williams to receiver. "We feel that we know what Mike can do at tailback, and this spring ball is more about the young tailbacks. We're real comfortable with Mike Williams, and will try to make him more of a versatile player by teaching him how to play wide receiver."

Speaking of versatility, the fact that offensive lineman Drew Hodgdon (among other players) posses that attribute has allowed the ASU staff to reshuffle the offensive line where Hodgdon will replace Tony Aguliar at center, and Regis Crawford will occupy the right guard spot that the junior has vacated. "I'm feeling pretty happy about it." Hodgdon says about his position move. "My freshman year I played center, and that's the position I feel that I'm meant to play. So, whatever happens happens but hopefully that's the position I'll stay in."

The center acknowledged that the off-season zipped right by, which doesn't necessarily diminish from his own eagerness, as well as his unit, to resume practices. "Seems like I was home just yesterday for Christmas break. But now it's time to get back to work. We're feeling pretty really good. It's a chance to revamp and get a fresh start. We get to improve our running game and improve the play on the offensive line. It's exciting to get everything back on track, and everybody is full of energy and ready to get back to work."

Hodgdon started all 13 games he played in, and was one of the bright spots among the ASU hogs. The junior agrees that his 2002 campaign was a successful one. "I felt pretty good last year. Any competitor is always striving to do better than he did before, and that's how I'm feeling right now - I have a lot of room for improvement. But I think for my breakout year, I'm pretty happy about my performance overall."

It's no secret that the Sun Devil offensive line was much maligned for its performance, and unfairly or not, received much of the blame for the running game struggles, as well as numerous sacks given up. Thus, does Hodgdon feel like this season his teammates will have ‘us vs. the world attitude'? "I don't think we listen to critics. The chip on the shoulder is just a mentality that some players have depending on who you are. But we're working on that mentality. I think we're getting used to the new scheme, we expect to be better, and people we'll see that we're working with a chip on our shoulder."

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