Q&A with Coach Larry Porter

Larry Porter was the last addition to Todd Graham's coaching staff, and with his résumé it is easy to understand why his hire has created a buzz among ASU fans. We talked to Porter about his previous coaching stops, his evaluation of the Sun Devil running backs and other topics in this exclusive Devils Digest interview.

DevilsDigest: What brought you to Arizona State and what have been your impressions of the program since you arrived here some two weeks ago?

Larry Porter: "(ASU Defensive Line) Coach Paul Randolph is a dear friend of mine and he was telling me about this job and how coach Graham wants to build something special here and build an elite program. When I started talking to him (Graham) I could tell that he was going to change things here and do a lot of positive things for the program.

"Coach Graham wanted me to join the staff earlier when he first got there and they were some factors that made me not take the job then. When this opportunity came around again I felt like it was meant to be and I took it."

DevilsDigest: Your five-year stint as running backs coach at LSU provided you the opportunity to coach several elite players who went on to be drafted to the NFL. Can you talk about that experience and how it has helped your development as a coach?

Larry Porter: "Coach Graham is a lot like Coach (Les) Miles, in that he believes that the run game should be the foundation of your offense. So because of that, a lot of running backs I coached were allowed to flourish. When your run game is such a big part of your offense, your running backs are very competitive in practice, as well as off the field, which in turn improves you as a group. So, what you saw on game day was just a byproduct of the running backs' hard work and also not being selfish wanting their fellow running backs they competed with all week to be successful."

DevilsDigest: Your two years as head coach at the University of Memphis didn't go as well as you planned. What did you take away from that experience?

Larry Porter: "A number of things. As a head coach, you are able to grow as an executive as well as in other areas. I was an ambassador of the university in every aspect and that was another area I was able to grow in."

DevilsDigest: Naturally, one of the first orders of business for you since you arrived in Tempe was evaluating the current talent at running back. As you watched game film of the 2011 season what you're your impressions of this unit?

Larry Porter: "I certainly think this group has some guys with potential to be productive in our offense. My thing is that I want all of them to grow not only as players but also as persons. What was done in the past is relevant to a point, but we have to focus on the future."

DevilsDigest: Cameron Marshall was clearly the leader of this group and had an outstanding season last year with 1,050 yards and 18 touchdowns. What is your evaluation of him?

Larry Porter: "Like I always say, as does coach Graham – everybody has room to grow. So Cameron is in that boat. He did have a great season last year but we are going to ask him to do much more this year. And I'm not talking just doing more as a player, but also as person and as a leader. I know is very capable of doing all that. He's very blessed that he is talented and understands what needs to be done to be successful and I expect him to grow even more."

DevilsDigest: Last year the perception, right or wrong, concerning the running backs was that the depth behind Marshall was suspect and therefore the other players at that position received very limited playing time. As you evaluate this group from last season, do you share that point of view?

Larry Porter: "I didn't look at game film from that perspective. I tried to watch as much film as I could to identify the skill set of these guys so I know how I can help them as players and persons. Again, what was done in the past is relevant to a point, but we have to focus on the future. I know that Cam had a very productive year but my job is how can I grow him and make him better and that's the same with the other players. It's about what all of them can do to grow in the future. That's my job as their position coach."

DevilsDigest: The recruiting class featured two solid additions to the team in D.J. Foster and Marion Grice. As you watch their game film how do you think they can add to your position group?

Larry Porter: "They will decide how much they will contribute. Their play in practice and their commitment to the program will dictate how much of an impact they will have on the program. We will put all of our running backs in a position to succeed and with all the running backs on our roster we will build the depth we need for this offense."

DevilsDigest: Speaking of scheme, as much as coach Graham's offense has the perception of being a high octane and explosive scheme, it's still a system that calls for a strong emphasis on running the ball, being as much as 60 percent of the snaps. How does this emphasis coincide with the rapid pace of the offense?

Larry Porter: "They are a number of ways to skin a cat, but being able to play good defense and run the ball is usually a recipe for winning over time. So I'm excited to have the opportunity to coach a run game that will be the foundation of our offense. Our running backs as a whole should be excited to have the opportunity to have an impact on our offense and our team.

"I've seen this in many offenses I have been involved in – you have to be able to run the ball to win. Coach Graham is all about discipline and toughness and those things usually take place when you have a good running game. Coach Graham has been able to run the ball effectively everywhere he coached and that excites me a lot and that should excite all of our running backs too."

DevilsDigest: Coach Graham's offense primarily features a two-back set. From your vantage point as a running backs coach, what does that alignment allow you to do compared to a more traditional I-formation or even a single back set?

Larry Porter: "The two-back set forces your opponent to defend the run but also keep them off-balance with the many ways we can run the ball from that formation. We are going to be very creative and sometimes for example, one of the running backs could be playing as a fullback as he blocks for the other running back.

"With the two-back set you really need to exhaust all of your possibilities and always be creative. But the foundation of game plan each and every week will be the run game."

DevilsDigest: As you go into spring practice as a first-year position coach at ASU, what are you trying to achieve from a running backs' perspective?

Larry Porter: "First and foremost, my goals will be tailored down to the running backs group from what coach Graham and (offensive coordinator) coach Norvell want for the whole team. I want my players to be the best in the country and that needs to be their goal as a running back. That mindset has to correspond to our team goals and our goals as an offense, and we have to make sure our running backs' goals match those goals as well."

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