Mike Norvell Q&A

CAMP TONTOZONA – As the Sun Devils conclude their five day retreat at Camp Tontozona, Devils Digest caught up with Arizona State Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell to discuss the progress of the offense, the emergence of Ric Smith, and the versatility of D.J. Foster, among other things.

His impressions of the offense through the first two weeks of Fall camp:

Norvell: I think we've had a good couple of weeks. Guys have come in and obviously we're trying to play faster, trying to execute. We've still got to improve our consistency. We've had a couple of days where we haven't done a good job taking care of the ball but I thought we did a good job here today and I think the guys are getting better every single practice.

On the development of D.J. Foster:

Norvell: I think D.J. is going to be one of the more dynamic players in the country. He's a guy who can do so many different things to hurt a defense. We're trying to line him up in a lot of different places and get the ball in his hands as many times as possible because he's definitely a very special player.

On the emergence of Deantre Lewis as the third running back:

Norvell: You know, we've challenged guys, really, since we first got here to play consistently and this is really the first time I've seen him play - practice in and practice out - where he's getting better, getting better, getting better and he's a guy who I think really gives us a dynamic trio at running back and that's what we need in this offense.

On whether the D.J. Foster's expanding role at wide receiver has benefitted Deantre Lewis as he re-adjusts to playing running back again:

Norvell: Well those guys are really playing the same position. We have three guys who are really going through it and it's going to take three guys to make the kind of plays we expect them to make. D.J.'s been doing a great job coming out of the backfield and as a wide receiver but we need multiple guys who can be versatile in our offense and Deantre has really shown that he's capable of doing that.

On the progress of the offensive line:

Norvell: Well we're really trying to establish an identity. Coming off the ball up front, we want to be dominant in the run game blocking. We're getting better with our pass protection, but we've got to do better and clean up our communication a little bit. But overall I think they're doing a great job so far.

On how the newcomers at wide receiver have performed through the first two weeks of camp:

Norvell: They look great and I'm really proud of our newcomers. They've all come out and are competing and joining in with our guys that we've had here. We've got a great group and I think that's really going to be one of the strengths of our football team this year. And once we get Cameron Smith back out there - he's been out some this week - but he's another guy that's definitely going to help us this year.

On the breakout play of sophomore Ric Smith:

Norvell: I think has the chance to be a really special player. He can do a lot of different things. He's not a real big guy but he has tremendous quickness and no doubt he's's been our most improved player on, not just offense, but the whole football team. I love seeing that growth and his competitiveness. He's made some big plays so far in camp and he's only going to continue to get better.

On how effectively the offense has been able to implement the pistol into its schemes:

Norvell: As you saw today, it's probably 50-50; maybe even more. We jump in and out of it. It just gives us a little flexibility. Our guys have adapted well and I think our running backs really fit in it with the downhill run game. It's just been a really good addition.

On the slow start of Taylor Kelly so far in Fall camp and the overall play of the QB trio:

Norvell: Taylor Kelly, he's having a really, really good camp. You watch him practice and he's throwing the deep ball better than he ever did last year and his completion percentage is still up there. He's done a tremendous job operating the offense. When we were without him for a couple of days, you saw the difference. So I think Taylor has had a tremendous camp. His leadership and command of this offense is growing, so I wouldn't say he's had a bad camp at all.

Norvell: And then you look at Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici - there are a couple of things we're doing package-wise with Eubank and he's done a good job running the football. And Bercovici, he had that one play today where the ball slipped out of his hand, which we can't have, but I thought he played really, really well. There's just great competition between them.

On some of the different things he's able to do differently with this year's personnel compared to last season:

Norvell: We've got a lot of guys who can line up in different places and that's only going to help us continue to go faster and get mismatches. Whether it's putting tow tight ends into the game, or three running backs, or four wide receivers, we've got the right players for whatever combination so that's a huge positive for us.

On the play of junior college tight end De'Marieya Nelson:

Norvell: I mean Chris Coyle is a tremendous player and there's some improvements that Darwin (Rogers) has made, and now we have De'Marieya Nelson, and that's something that you need to have. He brings the running back skills to our three-back spot and as you can see, he has great receiving skills around the perimeter as well. He's just another weapon that we're going to be able to have and it'll definitely help us.

On what things the offense still needs to work on over the reaming three weeks of camp:

Norvell: We definitely just have to continue to improve our execution. Today we had too many penalties and a touchdown called back and those are things that we cannot have. We've got to shoe up our discipline and our execution on the offense. And then we've really got to establish that depth. As we get ready to finish up camp we've really got to focus on sacramento State, so that's really what we're going to be building to; establishing depth and getting ready for kickoff against sac

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