Pre-Season Recap - Coach Ted Monachino

DevilsDigest sat down with ASU's defensive line coach, who assessed his unit on the eve of the team's season opener.

DD: Coach, how would you evaluate the defensive line through out the pre-season?

TM: "I feel that we have gotten better in a lot of different areas. We're definitely better in the run game, and some of our guys that needed to improve the most in the passing game are a lot better."

DD: Are you and the players tired of fielding the questions about the ‘post-Terrell Suggs era'?

TM: "Nobody is ever gonna get tired of talking about him. Some guys may be tired of hearing about him. We would love to have Terrell back, but we're different and we're better because of the group that has developed so far. You'll never replace Terrell Suggs, unless another guy comes in here and does the things he did. But what you can do is improve as a unit, and we have done that."

DD: How did the team's main pass rushers, Nick Johnson and Jimmy Verdon, improve from last year?

TM: "Nick has really improved his flexibility through his trunk – that's what Terrell was so good at. Jimmy has really improved as a power rusher now. Those are two challenges they took personally in the pass rushing game, and they both responded the way I thought they would."

DD: Last year Ishmael Thrower redshirted due to injuries and Connor Banks was buried in the depth chart. This year they're both primary backups. Can you talk about their development in the off-season?

TM: "Those two guys completely understand their role, and that is to push the starters – they do that every day. Ishmael is our starter in our ‘cobra' unit, and we're pleased to have him because he's practicing his butt off."

DD: As far as defensive tackle goes, is this the deepest and most talented group since you came to ASU?

TM: "We have more guys that can play than we ever had here. We had good guys in every class since we've been here, but in terms of top to bottom, having six guys you're not afraid to put in a game, when the game is still in doubt – we never had that luxury before. Those guys are all tough, low pad level guys, and they'll all strong."

DD: One of those tackles, Gabe Reininger, seemed to make the transition from junior college fairly quickly…

TM: "It took Gabe a while. His biggest challenge when he came here was the speed of the learning, not the speed of the game. He plays with a motor that very few guys on our team do. The learning has to happen so much faster, and going through the spring made a 180-degree difference for him. He came in the fall and picked up everything in a hurry."

DD: You must still be thanking your lucky stars about getting such a talented freshman as Kyle Caldwell…

TM: "No question. That guy, like many others, has a chance to be very special. With him and Brett (Palmer) I see a great nucleus developing already."

DD: Lastly, what were your pre-season goals collectively for the defensive line and have those goals been achieved?

TM: "Our biggest goal was to have them play for each other, and I think they have done that. Our other goal was to improve in run game, and we have by far surpassed any expectations we had in that area."

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