Part II: A conversation with Mike Norvell

Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell spoke with us in the second part of our conversation about the overall offense and what excites him about the future of the program.

Karpman: When you think about all your other (non-quarterback) pieces that you have coming back and you're adding, and D.J. (Foster) maybe going to receiver, what are your thoughts on what you really need to accomplish (this off-season) and how does it look in your mind?

Norvell: I'm excited about the guys we've got coming back, but we graduated both our tackles and that's something that's going to be a big competition, big experience. You know, Vi's (Teofilo) not going to go through the spring (ACL surgery) so you'll see a guy like (redshirt freshman) Sam Jones get plugged in, and seeing (senior guard/tackle Christian) Westerman and how he develops because he was a tremendous player for us this year. (Senior center) Nick Kelly has that leadership that's going to be huge and then who's going to step up at left tackle? who's going to step up at right tackle? We're gonna look at a couple different combinations. But I'll tell you a guy I'm excited about, Steve Miller, he might be the most athletic freshman offensive lineman and I've seen quite a bit. It's unbelievable.

Karpman: He's my number one most underrated (offensive) guy in the class.

Norvell: I think he's gotta a chance to come in and compete, so we'll see [where he's at]. But all those guys up front it's going to be exciting to see. We've got some guys coming in the fall that are going to be guys that are going to push for that depth. Maybe being in a position where Sam was this year as possibly being that next guy up. I'm excited about that.

Looking at receiver, we lost Jaelen (Strong), but being able to move (senior) D.J. (Foster) because of the guys we've got in the backfield (is big). You saw the switch flip for (sophomore running back) Demario Richard mid-way through the year, and you look at (sophomore running back) Kalen Ballage. I'll tell you what, I knew Kalen Ballage was gonna do something dynamic in that bowl game because of the way he practiced in bowl practice. That's where his switch really flipped, the number of reps he was able to get in the bowl game and having some of the success there was big. So you know, having some of those guys, and obviously getting Gump (junior running back De'Chavon Hayes) ready to go, and the things he did last year, working scout team for us, that guy is a dynamic, dynamic player.

But putting all those pieces in play and seeing how it all fits together and what are the best combinations. D.J. we're looking at 2 (receiver) spot (field side), then there's gonna be some times he lines up at 9 (the boundary-side position), it'll be crazy. He's one of the most productive players in the country and you're gonna see him everywhere. What he's going to be able to do at the wideout position is really going to be able to help us.

Then (incoming true freshman) Terrell (Chatman), (junior incoming tight end) Raymond Epps, and (junior tight end) Kody Kohl showed [promise] last year. You know, Kody's never really had an offseason, he's had the shoulder injury last year. So last year he played as our starting 3-back, with De'Marieya (Nelson) going back and forth being banged up, Kody started the entire year, without an offseason and kind of banged up, now he has a full offseason under his belt. He's got all that game experience and then you bring him and a guy like Raymond, and you got (incoming freshman tight end) Tommy Hudson. You talk about underrated, that guy is just as high in my view (as Miller), he's got a chance to be a really really special player in my mind. We're excited to see that, we're excited to how all this fits. (Incoming freshman 3-back) Jay Jay Wilson? Come on. That's what I'm excited about, seeing how these guys are going to fit.

Now, obviously this spring, man I want to see fundamentally us get better. I want to see our execution, owning the football, taking things we've done as a strength and improving there. The growth I saw from Kalen Ballage in bowl practice, I need to see that same growth in spring practice, his physicality and what he's doing. Demario Richard, Kalen, and Gump, and how that backfield is going to work? You know, we're always gonna utilize our running backs and still being able to flex out Demario and flex out Gump, what are we doing with those guy? Fundamentally, technique, everything improved here this spring, start to form that team [vibe], continue that closeness with this group and how you an utilize guys, start defining roles, and seeing competition, physical toughness and seeing guys compete.

Karpman: That goes into my next question, obviously you guys have tried to make an effort to get bigger, longer, and stronger. Is it the goal of trying to continue to impose yourselves on opponents (in the run game)?

Norvell: No question, that's why we've done what we've done. Trying to improve with length and, we have to establish the run, we have to physically be the aggressor because that's what opens up the passing game. If teams can take away the running game? That's great, we've still got the weapons, I feel, to be able to stretch the field in the passing game. But for us if you can't establish the run you become so one dimensional and it makes it hard to throw the football, it makes it hard to do those things. That's gonna be the mentality, the toughness, physicality, man I'm ready to see some of those guys cut it loose and continue to establish themselves in the spring.

Karpman: The last question was just, you know I get to talk to all these kids through the process and you get a really good sense of them personally. I felt like the character quotient in this group is really high and I think that's been trending in that way since you guys got to ASU compared to the past and that's something that the average person isn't going to understand or know until they see more face time with these people. I know it's something you recruit to and go after and target, it seems like you guys are really happy in that regard.

Norvell: Oh there's no question. I think that's the things when you turn on the film there's a lot of talented players out there and there's guys that we offer early in the process when you get to know them... Like I was telling you about (freshman quarterback) Brady (White), as I got to know Brady it was a no brainer. You get to know Bryce Perkins, no brainer. Then you take their athletic ability and yeah they stack up with anybody in the country.

But there's guys in the country out there that as you get to know them... How are they going to fit in our locker room? We are holding guys to high standards and holding guys to be accountable to all their actions. Do our guys make mistakes? Of course, but guys are gonna make mistakes. But I want every kid we bring in to fit in, to the locker room, fit in to the culture and the atmosphere, something they can be proud to step into every day. You're not bringing in guys that have substandard character, or substandard values. Does that mean, that every guy we have is a choir boy? No, they're definitely not, we want that toughness and physicality. We still have to cross that white line of doing things right but I tell ya, that's what I'm proud of. We've got a great balance of that and we'll bring the right kids into this place. For as good as they are with all the accolades and the star value of who they are, I think they're just as good as people and that's what's important to us.


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