Scheer: I didn't think Arizona would be a bowl team this year and I feel a lot of Arizona fans felt the same way. Denker struggled in the early part of the season, which is why that thought came about, but the coaching staff was able to work with him to help make him effective enough to win. A bowl game with this team is likely a success and ending the season with a win over Oregon and ASU would definitely be one as well. Looking back on the season, I think the only real disappointing aspect is that Washington State is a team Arizona should have beaten and the UCLA game was there for the taking as well.
What were the keys to for beating Oregon last week and how do you feel about them being applicable for the ASU game?
Scheer: Honestly, it was everything. Arizona easily played its best game of the season. On defense, it tackled well, which has been a big problem. It ran the ball well and gave Carey holes. Denker made smart plays; the secondary took advantage of bad throws. the punting game worked, Arizona converted on third down. I can really go on. Those things are applicable in every game. Rodriguez said this week that if Arizona can have a clean game, which is no negative plays, then it is going to win 100 percent of the time and it came pretty close to that clean game against Oregon.
What's been the biggest growth on the defensive side of the ball this year and what are the biggest worries to contain ASU's offense?
Scheer: Really, the entire defense. However, I would say that the addition of Scooby Wright has been a big one. He might be the best linebacker on the team as a freshman and he continues to make plays. If we are talking about the defense as a whole, depth played a big part. Last season, a guy like Sir Thomas Jackson was playing significant snaps as a walk-on. This season, he is not playing much at all. The reason for this is because Arizona has decent depth at nearly every position on the defensive side of the ball.
Ka'Deem Carey's success is obviously no surprise because he had a great 2012 season as well. But what has he improved on to allow him the play at even a higher level this season? Any concern of his health after carrying the ball 48 times?
Scheer: He is definitely strong than last year and may be a little faster as well. He gained muscle weight and I think you can tell that it has made a difference. Carey was somewhat injured going into the ASU game last season, but there is no indication of that this season. I don't expect the 48 carries to play a role at all.
Can you talk about the growth of B.J. Denker this season? Is the rollout pass/run option game a late season adjustment, or has he been doing this all year?
Scheer: It was something Arizona did early in the season, but the UW game probably caused the staff to really get it going. Unlike most quarterbacks, Denker is significantly better at throwing on the run than he is standing in the pocket. The biggest difference with Denker is his confidence. Early in the season he was thinking way too much and it was affecting his play. Now, he is getting the snap and making quick decisions that he is confident in, which is paying off. He is never going to throw for 300 yards, but if he can throw for 200 and run for 75, that's a very good game from him.
Who have been the biggest surprises this year on both sides of the ball?
Scheer: On offense, it is probably the young receivers. Nate Phillips has at least one touchdown in 7 of his past eight games and Samajie Grant has been a nice receiver as well. On defense, Scooby Wright has been a bit of a surprise. I knew he was good coming out of high school, but he is probably one of the best freshmen in the conference. In addition, Arizona's pass defense has generally been solid, which is not something I would have seen coming last season.
Special teams have played a big part in ASU's last two wins over Arizona. How has this team aspect looked this year?
Scheer: Not great. Before the Oregon game, Rodriguez basically said that he was not going to kick a field goal. For some reason, Arizona's field goal game still has no consistency. Jake Smith is not awful, but he can make a 52-yarder and the next game miss one from 30 and it is frustrating to the coaching staff. Drew Riggleman started the season poorly, but has really come on as a punter and is now a player the staff has confidence in. The return game is basically not there, so the special teams as a whole is not great, but it is not a major weakness either.
Arizona's recruiting class is ranked no. 10 by Scout.com but it's average stars is one of the lowest in the Top 25 and doesn't look like they can anymore recruits to that group. How do you view this class and the overall recruiting philosophy of the staff?
Scheer: Arizona evaluates players it wants early and goes and gets them. You look at a guy like Phillips and Wright, who basically had no offers, and now they are major parts of the team. Now, the staff probably could wait on a few players, but it does not want to risk losing them. I realize the ranking is going to go down when other schools sign players, but Arizona was able to get numerous good players from within Arizona, fill needs on both sides of the ball, and sign a few JC kids to help the transition. I think it is a successful class as a whole.
At the PAC-12 Media Day Rodriguez said it didn't matter that Arizona lost to ASU last year. Do you feel that this is truly the mindset and even a loss on Saturday after the win against Oregon, would still have this season considered a success?
Scheer: No, it's not. He knows the importance of the game and how much it means for everybody involved. I think he is the type of guy that knows which games are important, so it wears on him a bit when reminded about it. As far as the season being a success, it really depends on who you ask.
What are your keys to the game for both team and final score prediction?
Scheer: Arizona needs a good game from Denker and for Carey to obviously be himself. On defense, it needs to make sure it tackles and watch out for the deep ball, which the Wildcats have given up a few of this season. For ASU, I think it needs to find a replacement for Grice, figuring he does not play, and to force Denker to be a pocket quarterback. I'm not sure on a final score prediction this early in the week, but Arizona State is easily the more talented, experienced team. There is a reason why the Sun Devils are two touchdown favorites, so it is difficult to pick Arizona in this scenario.