Mike Norvell Q&A

The ASU offense grew by leaps and bounds in 2012, behind first year QB starter Taylor Kelly and a new, high-octane system. As the Sun Devils prepare for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Devils Digest caught up with first year offensive coordinator Mike Norvell to discuss the offense's overall improvement this season, the play of a few key players and the upcoming bowl game, amongst other topics.

On the focus of the offense during the team's post-season practices leading up to Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on December 29th

"It's been good. Obviously, anytime you get these extra practices it's huge, especially for a young offense. We've been able to get those guys some extra work and keep up the speed and timing for everything that we're doing. We've got a great focus right now to go out and win this bowl game, and that's something special; to do it for these seniors and get our eighth win and obviously represent this football team and this university and get it done the right way."

On the major points of emphasis the offense has concentrated on with the 15 additional practices

"Really, it's been all about fundamentals. That's something that we really stress. Obviously, we do it during the season but now we sort of have a chance to slow things down and go back over some things with a few of the guys who maybe didn't get as many reps during the year and get them out there and see just how much they've grown throughout the season. And then, of course, keeping the timing of what we're doing. Getting better at some of the little things while continuing to execute the base offense and then as we've gotten closer to this bowl game, just putting together our game plan."

His overall assessment of how the offense performed in 2012

"I think you've seen some flashes of guys going out there and executing some of the things we're trying to do. I think there were definitely a couple games there where we didn't play as well as we could have but the whole key is you just look at the turnovers. Games that we were successful in we did a good job of protecting the football and games where we were not as successful, we certainly didn't do that. It's been a great learning experience for a lot of these guys. These guys battle each and every day, so I've been real proud of them and how they've played."

On the one area or unit that improved the most throughout the season

"I think when you look at everything, the guys up front really gelled as a unit. That's one group that we put a lot on, especially considering our style of play and just the things we were asking them to do; it was a big transition from last year to this year. They've done a really good job and we've seen a lot of growth there. I'm also really proud of our tight end play. I thought Chris Coyle played extremely well this year. And then of course the running backs. Obviously Cameron Marshall was a returner but the new guys, just seeing them step up every week and continue to grow was really, really special."

On running D.J. Foster being selected to the Freshman All-American team

"I'm really proud of DJ. When we got here we talked about a very specific plan that we had for him and how to utilize him in this offense. He was able to come in and do some things and I was really proud of the toughness he displayed this season. Everybody talks about the catches and the runs but the way that he played the game each and every snap, he's just got a great, great toughness and the mentality that he brings to this football team; he's going to be a great leader for us and being able to watch him grow is going to be fun."

On the challenges that Navy poses defensively to the Sun Devils as the two teams get set to square off next Saturday in San Francisco

"Well, they're a very disciplined football team. They're very well coached with different looks and a lot of movement. They will attack and bring guys from a lot of different places. They're a very quality opponent and one that we're going to have to go out there and play well against and it's going to be a great match-up."

On the possible effect Navy's slow-paced offense may have on the Sun Devil offensive play-calling

"Well, we may not necessarily have fewer opportunities if we're just more efficient with the ones that we have and that's something that we've really talked about. We can't lose possessions. We can't have turnovers. We must be able to sustain drives and convert on third down and that's something that we carry into each week but they're especially magnified when we face a team that can run the ball and looks to chew up chunks of the clock on their end, like Navy does."

On exploiting the weaknesses of the Navy defense, especially their run defense which ranks 77th nationally, yielding 178 rushing yards per game

"No matter who we're playing, each game we go into we feel it's important to be able to establish the run. That's not ever going to change. It's something that we've got to be able to do and we've got to have multiple threats and stretch the field vertically as well. But they're a very solid defense, one that we've got to go out there and play well against and execute."

On the importance of finishing 8-5 and on a three game win streak

"It's very important. It shows the growth. Obviously, the momentum of finishing the season with straight wins and getting that eighth win shows where this program is moving. It's something that's very important to this staff and this group of guys and it sends this group of seniors out the right way. It's something that we've been talking about for the last three weeks. This has been a real special group so for me to come in here in my first year, I've really enjoyed them and the opportunity to coach them so I want them to experience that bowl success and finish as a bowl champion. It's a very big deal for everyone on this football team and everyone involved with this program."


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