Q&A with Coach Mike Norvell

Granted, the QB battle has been the main headline in ASU's fall camp, yet other areas on the offense needed to be sorted out as well during fall camp. Devils Digest caught up with ASU's Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell to discuss the progress of the various units on this side of the ball as they prepare for the first scrimmage of fall camp.

Devils Digest: In your opinion, how has the team progressed, offensively, from the beginning of spring camp through the first ten practices of the fall?

Mike Norvell: "They've progressed really well. I was telling one of the guys tonight, that we're ten practices in and you can see the growth at really just about every position. The players have gotten a lot better at understanding what our expectations are of them, offensively, and we've been able to get out there and have some really, really good practices. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow night's scrimmage."

Devils Digest: The running back position is clearly one of great depth and strength on this team. How do you intend to spread the carries and get the most out of this group?

Mike Norvell: "Well, the big thing is that we want to be dynamic and be creative in the ways that we get our guys the ball. The biggest thing, obviously, is to be able to push our tempo and get as many opportunities as possible. I'm not too worried about the touches though. As long as we're doing what we're supposed to be doing offensively, there will be enough carries to go around. It's all about executing and competition."

Devils Digest: Talk about the benefit of having a guy like Cameron Marshall on your roster - someone who is soft-spoken yet is a true warrior who can handle an excessive workload on the field - and describe his potential within this offense.

Mike Norvell: "Cam has really been a guy that has come along. We didn't have him much in the spring - only something like three practices - so it's good now having these ten sessions and seeing him working and the way that he runs with the football.

"Something that I really challenged him with over the summer was his leadership ability and he has really stepped up to the plate and has become a lot more vocal and these guys are going to follow him. He's a great young man to have as a leader on our offense and I'm looking forward to him having a great year."

Devils Digest: Two newcomers who seem to be making a name for themselves through the first couple of weeks of fall camp are junior college transfer Marion Grice and freshman D.J. Foster. What sort of impressions have they each made on you so far?

Mike Norvell: "Both of those guys have the potential to be game-breakers. They're touchdown threats whenever they get the ball in their hands. With them coming and learning the types of things we're going to be doing and the tempo we're going to be playing at has been fun to watch and just watching those guys through these first few practices has been really impressive."

Devils Digest: Deantre Lewis appears to be still working his way back to full health, rehabbing from the off the field injury he suffered after his freshman year. How has he looked to you in camp and how does he fit in this new high octane offense?

Mike Norvell: "I'll tell you, he hasn't been forgotten or not talked about by the coaches through these first weeks of practice. You can tell he has really gotten that step back and watching him out there running around has been a lot of fun. He's got a couple things, some nags and bruises, but I'm looking forward to him getting back out there because he has really shown a great flash and burst."

Devils Digest: Give us your assessment on the QB competition through the first ten practices. Has anyone been able to assert themselves as the starter so far?

Mike Norvell: "We've got three guys who are extremely talented at quarterback. The biggest thing that we've been going through is finding a guy who is going to be able to operate this offense, manage the game, not turn over the football and put us in positions to win football games. They've each had opportunities to showcase that now.

"I'm really looking forward to tomorrow night's scrimmage to see how they handle it when I'm not out there with them. It's going to be a great evaluation opportunity for the coaches and we'll see what these guys really have."

Devils Digest: How much stock are you putting into tomorrow night's scrimmage at Sun Devil Stadium into naming a front runner for the starting QB position?

Mike Norvell: "Quite a bit. And there's a lot of stock put into each and every practice. But tomorrow night's a scrimmage so there will definitely be a different mindset and I want to see how each of these guys performs when the lights are turned on."

Devils Digest: The Sun Devils experienced quite a bit of turnover at the wide receiver position from last season. How has this group looked so far to you?

Mike Norvell: "They're young but I can tell you we've got a newcomer in Alonzo Agwuenu who has come in and been a great addition to the core. He has made a lot of great plays for us and is someone I expect to help us a lot this year. And then J.J. Holliday has really stepped up. He has been very consistent throughout camp, making a lot of plays and doing a lot of different things. And then Jamal Miles is continuing to grow each day as an all-around receiver. And then Richard Smith, oh my gosh. He's a true freshman who has come in and will most definitely help us this year. We're also bringing along a couple other guys to build our depth but I think it will be a very solid group."

Devils Digest: The offensive line, while talented, is still light on experience and lacking in depth. How has this group developed since the conclusion of last season?

Mike Norvell: "They're really starting to gel and that's something that is very important to me. From going through spring ball and getting out here in practice I've seen those guys come together. I feel really good about that group. We're a little thin and having to bring along some young guys, guys who maybe don't have much experience, but they're doing a really good job. That first unit in particular has really done a good job at picking things up. It's a group that has that workman-like mentality and those are the kind of guys we like."

Devils Digest: With less than three weeks until the season opener against Northern Arizona, what are some areas on offensive you think still need the most work?

Mike Norvell: "A lot of situational type stuff. That's something that Coach Graham is very big on. And just getting our guys prepared for anything that might come up in that first game and continuing to focus on our discipline. Early games in the season are won and lost off of turnovers, penalties and special teams and those are things we keep telling our guys and keep focusing on. They've been buying into it and we've just got to keep executing and get this thing down."

Devils Digest: What are your thoughts about getting to go up to Payson, AZ and experience Camp Tontozona next week?

Mike Norvell: "I'm really excited about it. From all the stories and tradition I've heard about Camp T, it sounds incredible. And really it'll be a nice opportunity for our guys just to get away and be with nothing but our football team. I think that's something that's so important when it comes to building a team or a family and strengthening relationships. I mean, these guys are going to be friends forever and to have that experience and be able to share those stories like I hear of the alumni who come back and their stories of Camp T, that's something I'm very excited to be a part of and I definitely don't take that lightly."


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