Aggies Present Unique Challenges

Whether it's an archaic defensive look or an imaginative offense, ASU's opponent this week will have Coach Koetter and his squad on their toes.

"Defensively, they're unique because they play a 3-4 defense," says the Sun Devil head coach. "We don't see anybody else who plays a true 3-4 defense. We see a couple of teams that sort of play an old school knock down 3-4…this is an old odd defense and they do a nice job with it." On the other side of the ball, things are hardly vanilla in nature. "They're a team that's real sharp in their shifts and motions. They try to get you out leveraged and making mistakes. They have every screen (pass) known to mankind."

All of ASU's five starting defensive backs were nicked up for one reason or another last week against NAU. With Utah State, a highflying offense much like ASU, coming into town, this group is likely to get tested early and often. Thus, Koetter exclaims that alterations will be needed. "We do have to change a couple of things based on what Utah State does to put ourselves in the best position possible," says Koetter. "That's one of the things they try to do to get you out of position. They use imbalance, motion, and covering guys up and shifting across…. From my standpoint it is fun to watch but we are going to be holding our breath a little bit that we stay in position." He also added that his team's depth in the secondary has been and continues to be "Put to the test right off the bat."

In light of the injuries at cornerback, Emmanuel Franklin and Josh Golden who were fighting for playing time at one corner, may both play because of the health of star corner R.J. Oliver. "R.J. is banged up a little and both of those guys may be the starters," says Koetter. "I think that Manny and Josh are very similar in that they are both excellent competitors. They are not the taller corners so they have to get by on technique and speed. They both have that and they are both pretty good tacklers. You can't have enough of those players."

Prior to Thursday's practice, Koetter was hoping for a good practice as the previous two this week. Nevertheless, he did point out some areas that will need improvement come Saturday. "We need to get pressure on the quarterback," states the ASU skipper. "We were in position, but we just didn't finish. Offensively, we were way too methodical in our attack. Part of it is on me and the way I called the game. We just have to get back to attack mode, and we will." The team's ‘start fast' motto didn't exactly materialize in their first game of the 2003 season. This is another area Koetter is anxious to witness a turnaround. "As a team we have to answer the bell and get a better start. We can't think because we're ranked teams are going to come out here and lay down for us."

The ASU coach mentioned that running back Mike Williams' knee is doing better, but he will still be a game time decision. Other than another undisclosed player, none of the others Sun Devils that were banged up against NAU are a certainty to miss this week's game. When asked about the anticipated rotation at tailback, Koetter replied: "You can't look at it that way. I want to win the game. I am hoping to use all of our guys every week. I hope they all get to play because they all work hard out here…we are going to play the first guy out there. We may use a little bit of run down/third down back in the game this week."

The ASU coach mentioned that offensive lineman Chad Rosson will have a second back surgery on Friday and as a result will miss the entire season. He already red-shirted for a shoulder surgery in the past, and cannot apply for another medical red-shirt until his five years at ASU come to an end. "It's a bad break for Chad," exclaims Koetter. "He did a great job at Spring Ball and I think he would be able to get into the rotation this year."

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