Harsh Injury Puts Damper on Successful Practices

By all accounts the inaugural four practices of the 2003 season, severe temperatures and all, were a success in Coach Koetter's book. Nevertheless, his mood and everyone else's was dampened today by the likely season-ending injury to incoming freshman Brent Miller.

"It appears that Brent Miller has torn his ACL." Said the third year coach. "It won't be confirmed until later this afternoon. It's very unfortunate. It happened on a tackling drill. It's the first major injury of the year, and you never like to see that for anybody - especially for a guy that was off to such a great start like Brent was."

Nevertheless, the Sun Devil skipper is declaring the four session during the new NCAA acclimation period as rousing success. "We're so far ahead than where we've ever been. It's night and day. It will be good to get out of this heat, although I think this heat was good for us for the mental part getting through it on top of all the installation (of plays). There's a damper on today because of the Brent Miller thing…but we got done what we needed to get done, now we get up to Camp T and get cranking."

In regards to new practice format, where newcomers practiced the whole three hours, and most veterans only worked out half of that time, Koetter is pleased with his decision. However, he's not opposed to changing the format next year. "We talked about it a little. It's too early to tell about this. We don't have to make a decision until next year. I want to talk to some other coaches and see what they did. For the most part, I like the way we did it."

According to the ASU coach, they are two distinct advantages to making the trek east of Payson this time of year. "The heat – it's a 20-degree temperature difference. Just to be able work without fighting for survival…second, there's a certain amount of bonding going on – there's no cell phones, no pagers, no girlfriends, no distractions – it's just us for eight days. The way we structured, we try to do the fun stuff in between the hard stuff to keep it going…I really come to like Camp T, and I think everyone else does too. I don't want to spend two weeks there (smile), but eight days is about right."

Last year, the presence of Terrell Suggs forced opponents to pay extra attention to him. How does Koetter foresee this season's foes scheming on offense against his team? "Well, definitely teams last year always had their schemes set for Terrell, keeping an extra tight end or back. I'm sure we won't see that…that's the same way we attack people on offense too. You're gonna always have to chip a great pass rusher or keep an extra guy there. With that said, our sacks will have to come from other places. We have some great safeties coming off the edge. The more they want to get out, the more that plays into the hands of our blitz."

Much has been said about the advancement of Andrew Walter. What is somewhat remarkable is that this is happening despite a few obstacles. "When you're repping 105 guys, Andrew is there sometimes with freshmen receivers. It could make him look bad at times…Andrew is just mentally so much further ahead. He doesn't really have to think, he can just react. We can be talking talk about the next step – ‘what if this happens, what if that happens…' I can see at times that Andrew is really bored there, and other guys trying to keep their head above water with all the stuff we're putting in. He needs more challenge."

Koetter declined to be give specifics about who's the leader in the backup signal caller race, saying: "It will sort itself out." He did however sing again the praises of his two newcomers. "They have definitely raised the level of our quarterback position. Obviously, when you're top 15 in the nation in quarterback recruits, all of the sudden we're very deep at quarterback. Anybody watching practice – if they can't tell that these guys got it as far as throwing the ball, then they haven't seen good quarterbacks before. That certainly created competition, and we always tell our guys that we want to create competition at every position. It's gonna make it a hard fought spot."

Another race that Koetter predicts to be thrilling is the one for the conference championship. In his opinion, there are more than a handful of teams that can stake claim to the crown. "I think in all the years I've been associated with the Pac-10, I have never seen this many teams that I think have the talent to win it. There are probably seven teams that are talented enough, depending on how the injuries fall…I think a team that's very dangerous that people aren't giving much respect to is Washington State. They have great team speed, and they have good players. Oregon is another team that people are discounting, because they didn't finish like they have (in the past). Oregon State at some individual positions has the best players in the conference. SC and UCLA are always loaded. We don't play Washington but they have an excellent quarterback, and certainly are right in there too."

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