"We want to both." Says Koetter, "There are still some certain players we want to see do things in certain situations, and we're gonna try to create those situations for those individuals this week, and play it out this Saturday." In reviewing last Saturday's scrimmage tape, the ASU coach was overall pleased with the results. "There was more good than bad. It's hard to get everyone on the same page this time of year, when you have two-year starters, and guys competing for positions. But I like the fact that different guys are making plays…Offensively those two young tailbacks continue to impress. I think our tight end position will be fine, and we're gonna have good depth. Same thing at linebacker. It's nice to get Matt Fawley and Joey Smith back in the secondary. We just haven't seen enough of them, but we know they'll be big contributors to our program." Koetter did mention that defensive end Jimmy Verdon's injury will keep him out the rest of spring, but he expects him to be completely healthy come fall.
Verdon's unit, the defensive line, is a group that has been watched closely the last few weeks, following the Lombardi Trophy winner Terrell Suggs. Koetter believes that the returning players on the defensive front, along with some newcomers will be able to sustain a high level of play. "We have three starters back – Jimmy, Brian Montesanto, and Shane Jones. You have Nick (Johnson) that played a lot of "Cobra." We brought in a good player in Gabe Reininger, and we have some good recruits on the way like Kyle Caldwell. We have some good depth guys like Connor Banks and Ishmael Thrower. We're not gonna have Terrell Suggs, but will be fine on the line."
Out of all the players in this group, Nick Johnson probably holds the greatest potential to become a star player in 2003. The ASU coach says that sky is the limit for this sophomore. "Nick can be really good. It's scary because the things that football is measured in: height, weight, speed, bench press – he's off the charts and better than Terrell. He's 270 pounds, Terrell played at 240, and Nick is faster and stronger. Now, Terrell had this great motor and was an awesome football player, and if Nick can capture a little of that to go along with his unbelievable natural talent, then he has chance to be off the charts."
Tight end is another position pleasing to Koetter, who isn't terribly worried about the struggles of heralded recruit Aaron Austin. "Lee Burghgraef has played very solid. Jamaal Lewis has probably improved the most at that position. Aaron has probably hit the wall a little bit, but that's very typical of a JC player in a skill position, because of the amount of stuff they have to learn. When he comes back in the fall it will make a whole lot more sense to him."
The format of last year's scrimmage, where the traditional offense vs. defense was scratched in favor of a draft, had its equal share of supporters and critics. Even though Koetter is a proponent of the draft format, he says that the goals it accomplished are not applicable to the 2003 version of the team. "We won't have a draft this year. Last year one of our goals was to be better as competitors, and that's not our issue right now. I want Andrew Walter to play in an Orange shirt, and it wouldn't be fair for any team to have an Orange shirt quarterback on their team. We're gonna play with two teams, and because of depth situations we'll have guys playing on both teams. We're gonna make it the best we can for the guys to work within their groups."
When talking about lack of depth, Koetter specifically points to the hogs up front. "We have 11 offensive lineman, and that's what you have to base your spring game on. That 11th guy is a guy that swings back and forth. That's one reason we can't do a draft – we don't want to end up with some of the mismatches we had last year. It made it for a competitive game, but it didn't do anything for us as far as our best players getting better." The ASU coach is leaning towards a scrimmage format that will have a running clock, rather than a set number of plays.
Wednesday the 16th will mark the hearing of ASU's appeal in the Chijoke Onyenegcha's Letter of Intent matter. Koetter said that it is likely that ASU won't be included in the conference call, which will be conducted by Greg Sanke from the NLI office and a select group of conference commissioners This committee will review a letter presented by ASU on this matter, and Athletic Director Gene Smith will be appraised of the decision that may or may not come down on Wednesday.
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