Q&A with Mike Norvell

In year one under Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell, Arizona State ranked 14th in the nation in scoring, averaging 38.4 points per game. Led by junior quarterback Taylor Kelly, an experienced offensive line, and a number of explosive playmakers, the Sun Devils look to reach new heights in 2013.

DevilsDigest caught up with Mike Norvell to discuss the state of the offense as the Sun Devils prepare for their season opener on Thursday against Sacramento State.

DevilsDigest: Last season, the Arizona State offense ranked as one of the better units in the nation but was still not quite at the speed Head Coach Todd Graham and yourself would like to see them at. How has the offense performed in its second full offseason with the 2013 quickly approaching?

Mike Norvell: "Today was the last physical work that we're going to have so guys are preparing and ready to go. We're ready for a game. We've got a lot of guys who will be seeing their first action here in Sun Devil Stadium on Thursday so we're excited to see how they're going to come out and react. But the experience that we have coming back - those guys have a really sharp look in their eyes and have been working to execute extremely well. We're ready to play a game and have a chance to see where we're at."

DevilsDigest: It's been a long offseason for the Sun Devils, which also included a first week bye for the team while the rest of the nation began play last weekend. Has it been a challenge keeping the players focused each day at practice as the weeks have dragged on leading up to the season opener?

Mike Norvell: "Our guys love playing football. Obviously, they're ready for gameday and ready to get out and play that first game but it's part of the process. It's every practice, every rep, and we've got to maximize that to get to where we want to get to and I think they've done a good job of keeping that focus and they're anxious to get on the field."

DevilsDigest: The Sun Devil offense returns many players who saw significant action in 2012 but will also feature a number of newcomers, especially at the wide receiver position. How have the newcomers performed at learning both the style and tempo of the team's offensive schemes?

Mike Norvell: "They've done well. It's a big acclimation period. The thing that's different about our offense is it's not just about learning the plays; it's about learning the plays and being able to execute them at the tempo that we want to play at. That's really the biggest challenge. But I'm really proud of guys like Jaelen Strong and De'Marieya Nelson, and guys like that, that have come in and have definitely done a great job of understanding what they're doing. We're just ready to see them out there in action."

DevilsDigest: Following his breakout performance in 2012, Taylor Kelly is back for his second season at signal caller for the Sun Devils. How has he progressed since the end of last season and what are your expectations for the junior QB?

Mike Norvell: "He's done great. He's really established himself as a leader on this football team. He's getting better each and every week. And then his attention to detail, every rep, whether it's individual or skill or a team situation, he's approaching it as if it's the Pac-12 championship game. I'm really proud of how he has prepared and I'm expecting big things from him."

DevilsDigest: Sophomore Mike Bercovici redshirted in 2012 but has had arguably the strongest offseason of the three quarterbacks. Can you talk about his development and how he fits in 2013?

Mike Norvell: "He's done well. He's done well. I think he worked really hard in the offseason and has improved his speed and quickness. He's been able to have a great fall camp, has done a lot of great things and has hurt people with his arm and is making them respect his legs. He's an extremely sharp young man and is doing a really good job for us."

DevilsDigest: Michael Eubank was the back-up to Taylor Kelly in 2012 and has once again found himself in a tightly contested battle with Mike Bercovici for that back-up role this offseason. What have you seen from Michael throughout the fall and how does he figure into the offensive scheme in 2013?

Mike Norvell: "He's done well. The biggest thing is just consistency; making sure we're going through our progressions, getting the ball out on time, and executing the system. He continues to grow. You see him getting better with every day that goes by. He's going to do some great things for us and I think we have a tremendous group."

DevilsDigest: Head Coach Todd Graham has pointed out the offensive line's development and consistency on a number of occasions throughout the offseason. Each member of the starting five has seen significant action in past seasons. Describe how having an experienced offensive line benefits the offense in year two.

Mike Norvell: "They've been great. The biggest question mark coming into camp was how Tyler Sulka was going to respond and he came in and has just changed his entire mentality with the consistency of coming to work every day and that's a guy I'm extremely proud of. Then the other four are guys who have been in those spots before. Vi (Teofilo) started three or four games for us last year. Obviously the left side of the line is still intact. We have a lot of veteran leadership and those guys have really gelled and become a very cohesive group."

DevilsDigest: Senior Tight End Chris Coyle led the Sun Devils in receptions last season but has had a quiet fall camp while the many of the new WR's have established themselves as viable targets for Taylor Kelly and the Sun Devil quarterbacks. Do you expect the addition of talent at the Wide Receiver position to affect Coyle's performance on the field in 2013?

Mike Norvell: "I don't think it will affect it any way. The biggest thing for us is going through our progressions and taking what the defense is giving us. I don't think that'll do anything but help Chris. Now we've got weapons on the outside so he might not see the double coverage and get bracketed there inside. I think that's definitely going to open things up for the tight ends and continue to allow them to get their touches."

DevilsDigest: Three year starter Cameron Marshall is no longer with the team but the Sun Devils still figure to have one of the more dynamic backfields in the Pac-12 with senior Marion Grice and sophomore D.J. Foster. How have the two running backs looked throughout camp as they prepare to take on larger roles within the offense in 2013?

Mike Norvell: "They've looked great. They've both improved. They've both changed their bodies and are in great physical shape. I think they're guys who can get the ball in the end zone anytime they get the ball in their hands. I'm looking forward to big things and seeing them out there, doing what they do."

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