Q&A with Coach Chris Ball

The ASU secondary definitely experienced some struggles in the last few games of the 2011 campaign, but their new position coach still believes in the talent this group possesses. Devils Digest sat down with Chris Ball to talk about the Sun Devil corners and safeties, his expectations for those positions heading into spring practice and other topics in this exclusive interview.

DevilsDigest: What brought you to Arizona State and what have been your impressions of the program in the two months you have been here?

Chris Ball: "It's been great. When I came here I hit the ground running and now that we are done with (2012) recruiting we are starting to put together our defensive package and things are going really well.

"When I was at Washington State I always looked at this job as one of the better ones in the league as far as the whole package is concerned. It's a great academic school. The football program has definitely been up and down a little bit over the years, but the potential of having great teams here year in and year out is big. This is place where you have an opportunity to win a national championship."

DevilsDigest: Is there one aspect of the program or the school that so far has made a strong impression on you?

Chris Ball: "Our academics and our academic staff are the first thing that stands out. You never realized how good of a school this is until you get down here. The school has great academic support. You can tell that fans here are passionate about Sun Devil football and in big cities you don't always find that."

DevilsDigest: As you look at the play of the secondary in 2011, what are your impressions?

Chris Ball: "I think we have a lot of talent and good character. I'm very excited to coach them and getting to know them. I know we have the talent to be pretty good. When I go out there in the spring and coach them I will get to see who not only has the talent but also the commitment to be really great and we will evaluate that day by day. I think we will have great competition for playing time, and we may move some corners to safety. That's just something we have to look at and evaluate when we get out there."

DevilsDigest: In terms of the scheme that the secondary will play this year, how similar or different will it be to what fans saw last season?

Chris Ball: "It won't be a whole lot different as far scheme, but the terminology the players will have to learn will be different. The coverage concepts will be the same. As far as the defense as a whole, we want to impact the quarterback, we want to be explosive and make big plays that result in turnovers or tackles for losses. We are going to run an attack style defense because we're not into sitting around and just let offense dictate to us. We want to dictate to offenses. It's going to be a very physical brand of football."

DevilsDigest: When the defense does switch to a 3-4 front how does that affect the secondary, if at all?

Chris Ball: "When you run multiple fronts your coverages have to carry over (from scheme to scheme). It's not realistic to have a different coverage for each front and it's important that you have the same concepts when you're running each front. You want to stay away from having different assignments in the secondary when you run either front."

DevilsDigest: I wanted to get your analysis of the defensive backs that were signed in the 2012 class. Cornerback Oliver Johnson was committed here for a while and stuck with his pledge despite the coaching change. What does he bring to the table?

Chris Ball: "He's a big physical corner that brings experience playing two years at a junior college at a pretty high level. I'm really expecting good things out of him."

DevilsDigest: Vilami Moeakiola comes from one of the best high school programs in Texas, Euless Trinity. How would you describe his skills?

Chris Ball: "A very talented player, who is physical and smart. I thought he was very special coming out of high school."

DevilsDigest: Chris Young had success at the junior college level, but even out of high school was heavily regarded and you were probably familiar with him when you coached at Washington State…

Chris Ball: "Like you said he was a great high school player in the state of Washington. We're looking at him playing SAM linebacker too. Another player that is very physical, and also very athletic. Plays the run very well, but can also be a good nickel back player."

DevilsDigest: In a conference that generally features a lot of gifted quarterbacks and wide receivers and potent passing attacks, playing cornerback can certainly be a thankless position. From your standpoint would you agree the life as a cornerback in the Pac-12 is much more difficult than other leagues but also presents challenges that can help a player improve in the long run?

Chris Ball: "I know that last season they were seven, eight offenses who were just under 400 yards of offense or higher per game and in the recruiting process I talk about that. I tell recruits that every team I this conference has a good quarterback and that allows you as a corner to showcase your talents. So yes, offensively this is a very strong conference and you have to be physical at the corner spot because it is a tough position to play in this league. But it's fun because if you are a big time cornerback why wouldn't you want to play here?"

DevilsDigest: Coaching both cornerbacks and safeties is fairly common around the nation, but hasn't been done here at ASU for a while. Can you about your challenges coaching in essence two positions compared to all the other assistants who only have one position to worry about?

Chris Ball: "The great thing about being a secondary coach coaching both positions is that there is a lot of communication between them on the field and being in the same meeting room is a positive and helps everyone to be on the same page. A lot of big plays are made, or given up, because of communication or lack of in the secondary. The more you can keep the two positions on the same page the better chance you have to eliminate mistakes."

DevilsDigest: As spring practice stars here in a few weeks what can fans expect to see from the secondary that would appear different than what they saw in 2011?

Chris Ball: "These players were coached well by Craig Bray – he did a great job with them and he is known in our profession as one of the better secondary coaches out there. Going into the spring we want to have the players comfortable in our base defense and get used to all out alignments and checks. We want to evaluate our players and find the guys that can play and go from there.

"If come out of the spring knowing we achieved that, then we will feel really good about spring practice."


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