Q&A with Coach Ron West

After its season opening win, ASU now shifts its focus to its next opponent, the University of Illinois. Not only will the game present a significantly tougher challenge for the Sun Devils, but it will also give linebackers coach Ron West the opportunity to coach against the same Fighting Illini team he coached for last season.

West shared his thoughts with Devils Digest after practice on Sunday about the upcoming match-up and his evaluation of the Sun Devils' performance against the NAU Lumberjacks last week.

On his assessment on how Illinois fared in their season opening win on Saturday against Western Michigan

"They look pretty good. They had a nice win and played really hard. Nathan Scheelhaase did a good job while he was in there. He basically, I guess, turned his ankle a little bit but I'm sure he'll be fine. I thought that Jonathan Davis ran the ball really good. I thought Josh Ferguson did a great job, the running back. He was hurt a little bit last year against us but he did a really good job. Their offensive line has really gelled and played pretty good. Number twelve, Ryan Lankford, caught that vertical route and made some big plays for them. I thought they executed pretty well as an offensive football team. They didn't turn the ball over and by not doing that they allowed their defense to play extremely well.

"Their defense played extremely hard and made some big plays. Ashante Williams intercepted a pass and ran it in for a touchdown to seal the victory. Michael Buchanan tipped a few balls and may have even intercepted a pass as well. I mean, they forced six fumbles and I think they wound up with like five turnovers for the day, including the one they took for a touchdown, so you're going to have a great chance of winning anytime you play that well. They didn't play bad in their kicking game either. They punted the ball away from the return man all day long and played the field position game well. Overall, I think they played real well."

On whether Illinois' success last season in holding the Sun Devils to a season low 14 points gives them advantage heading into this week's contest

"I think the biggest thing is that they have a good defensive football team. That defensive team last year finished seventh in the country in total defense. They played UCLA at the end in that bowl game and pretty much shut them down. They have a lot of confidence. A lot of those same kids are back. Their defensive front is pretty much back. They've got Akeem Spence back, number 94. They've got Buchanan back in the front. Their linebacker core is back, Jonathan Brown and Houston Bates. And then in the secondary, they've got those two safeties who are healthy that missed last week's game. So with those two guys back, they're going to be even better in the secondary. And then they've got Terry Hawthorne, Black Cat is his nickname, so they've got a pretty good team."

On Illinois' quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase

"He makes them go. He's been a two year starter. He's started and won two bowl games for them. He beat Baylor two years ago in the Texas Bowl and then the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl last year against UCLA. He's a winner and knows how to execute their offense. He can run. He's an adequate thrower. He hits his seam routes well. He can spread it out and get to that corner. We're just going to have to do what we can do and try to keep him contained."

On some of the other playmakers for Illinois that the Sun Devil defense will be gearing up for Saturday

"Well, Josh Ferguson, he's more of a scat, speed back. Then of course the wide receivers, Lankford and Darius Millines. They've got the tight ends that we've got to keep our eye on. They're pretty good athletes. So we've pretty much got our eyes on those guys."

On the significance of playing against the team he coached at just last season

"When Coach Zook got fired basically we all kind of scrambled. We had a good football team last year, it's just that we didn't get it done for what they wanted there, and so that's why I'm here. But I might have still come here, I don't know. The opportunity to come coach at Arizona State is a great opportunity, it's something that I've always wanted to do. So the point is, it's different, but not that different.

"I mean, I know a lot of the players and coached them and it's neat to see them play and I know they're going to play hard and it's obvious that they played hard last week. They good thing about it is it's going to be a great game. It was a great game a year ago. It could have gone either way. It was a one play game that could have gone either way, (depending on) either kick. We got a bunch of turnovers last year and that's how we won the game. And like I said, the way they beat Western Michigan was they got all them turnovers.

"That's what they have right now, is a really, really good defensive football team. I think they have a good offense too. I think the defense of the football team is smart. They want to play solid offensively and don't want to make mistakes. And that's one thing that Nathan has some experience at; he's not going to put the ball in jeopardy. He's a pretty smart kid and has been doing this for two years and has won a bunch of games.

On the play of senior linebacker Brandon Magee in the team's win against Northern Arizona

"I think Brandon played a really good game. He had a solid game but there were some mistakes that he made that he's aware of. But he was really focused and concentrated on getting better with his fundamentals and technique. I think he'll just continue to get better, but yeah, he's got some really good instincts.

"He read his keys and knew where his eyes were supposed to be, especially on that play where he picked the pass off. It was a great play that he made and a great run to make it to end zone. He's been fun to coach and he's very knowledgeable. He really understands things and has done a great job coming back from that injury. I think his future is going to be very bright and he's just going to get better with each week."

On the play of junior college transfer Steffon Martin

"He did some good things but he's got to continue to get better with his fundamentals and clearing his cleats and not crossing his feet and keeping his balance in his stance. But he's learning the schemes and the good thing about him is the more reps he gets, the better he'll get. That's the way it always is. He used to be worried about making mistakes because he didn't want to blow his assignment and hurt the football team. But I was really pleased with his play as far as trying hard and they all played really well."

On whether it would mean more to him to beat the Illini considering the close ties to the program

"It's always neat to beat the team you were formerly at. It's just like anything else. But it is just another game. Those guys over there are some good players. I've got a lot of respect for them. And I want to win just like they want to win. We're both after one thing and that's a win."

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