Koetter announced that the players recognized in the Oregon State game were Hakim Hill on offense, Ishmael Thrower on defense, and Jason Shivers on special teams. The ASU skipper was extremely pleased with Thrower. "I'd say Ishmael is doing a nice job at defensive end, he had two sacks in the game and had moved ahead of Nick Johnson at that spot." The captains for the USC, in addition to Andrew Walter and Riccardo Stewart, will be Ishmael Thrower and Drew Hodgdon.
Wide receiver Tyrice Thompson was both offense and special teams scout player of the week, and for the third time in a row, defensive back Rudy Sanchez was voted defensive scout player of the week.
The ASU coach says that the game against the Beavers offered a mixed bag of goods, but the defense continued its solid play. "During that Oregon State game we did some good things," exclaims Koetter. "The score didn't turn out the way we would have liked it to, but we did some good things. Our defense, for the second week in a row against a good team, continues to get off to a fast start and turn the ball over to us. That puts us in position to get the early lead, which we haven't done with the offense, but I'm happy with what our defense has done." Koetter also mentioned the fact that the defense had the fewest amount of missed tackles on the season, and also had the best big play to big play given up ratio – 20 to 7.
"Offensively, the overall play of the offensive line has gotten better every week," continues Koetter. "Those guys did a good job not only protection-wise but they are proving they can do a solid job in the run game with the addition of Hakim (Hill), getting him in there and going. He played an outstanding game not only running the ball, but also blocking and he also did a nice job in the screen game as well. Hakim has now established himself as the first-team tailback; he played his way in there. " The ASU third year coach claims turnovers, penalties and poor third down conversion rate is severely hampering the offense. "We aren't getting it done on third down on offense right now and we cant turn it over in the Pac-10 on our side of the field and expect to win on a week to week basis."
Looking forward to his next opponent USC, Koetter simply states that the strength of their offense is undoubtedly their two wideouts Mike Williams and Keary Colbert. "Williams gets a ton of press like he deserves," says Koetter. "But I've really liked Colbert all three years, I think he makes them go. The two offensive tackles in [Jacob] Rogers and [Winston] Justice are probably the two best tackles in the country. I know one of them is a little banged up." The ASU coach also complemented the USC backfield, which despite their numbers are: "Are explosive and they can go the distance."
As far as the Trojan defense is concerned, Koetter states that their forte is by far their front four. "They really put a lot of pressure on you. They are one of the only teams that can get to you in a four-man rush, they do a good job and they are a blitzing team." The ASU skipper added that his USC counterpart Pete Carroll shows his NFL experience in the type of defense his team runs. "They give you more zone blitz looks than we play all year," says Koetter. "They are the most complicated defense we will have played to date. They not only do a good job of getting after you, but they try to confuse you." Koetter also made a point to single out the Trojan punter, Tom Malone, who leads the nation in this category.
Despite the struggles that quarterback Andrew Walter is going through, Koetter is confident, based on past experience, that his mistakes are easily correctable. "When quarterbacks have a lot of expectations put on them," states Koetter. "Sometimes they may have a tendency to do more things than they have to do and some of the basics can get away. Confidence in the receivers might play some role in that as well"
Another sore spot in the Sun Devil offense has been the third down conversion rate. The ASU coach explains how the play calling on third-down takes place. "We break our third-downs into three categories and your percentage goes down the further out you get," says Koetter. "We were zero-for-eight in third-and-10+ yards. Those are hard to get, the teams that are doing the best get about two of those, but that's still two more times than we moved the chains the other night. We're studying ourselves over the first four games to make sure we're giving our guys the best chance to make plays on third-and-medium, third-and-long and third-and-extra long situations."
"We have to look at the scheme and try to get our guys in the best spots to make a play," continues Koetter. "We're sitting at something like 23% or 24% on third-downs and usually the team that leads the Pac-10 at the end of the year is going to be at about 43%. We have to get that number up."
When asked about the lack of production in the red zone, the ASU skipper replies: "Over the last ten years, we've averaged about 80% efficiency in the red zone and right now we're sitting at about 50%. That 30% we're missing out on is killing us. Until you get inside the three-yard line, between the four-yard line and the 12-yard line, defenses have a specific style of defense they play. There is a specific style from the 13 to the 25. The last two teams have been an excellent example of that. We've had problems with what we call our "touchdown plays", plays that we think will have a chance to score a touchdown."
"We haven't been able to get those things inside the end zone," continues Koetter. "Twice we've been inside the three and haven't been able to punch it in. Our red zone problems are hurting us for sure and that's indicative of what we're going through right now." Koetter did dismiss the notion that defenses are gearing up specifically for ASU's type of offense. After all, teams usually don't distance themselves from their base scheme. "Most defenses that we play are not going to change their defense to try and stop our offense," claims Koetter. "They stick with their defense because it is their bread-and-butter, just like we're not going to change our defense, we're going to play how we're going to play. The last two weeks we've seen opposite extremes and we've seen the same result so I think it's more what we're doing than what our opponent is doing."
With an anemic passing game, the inevitable question comes up as to who can the team turn to rectify the situation. Koetter suggests three young players as possibly having the solution. "Right now I think that we have three young players who are going to be a key to how we end things up," exclaims the ASU coach. "Derek Hagan, Terry Richardson and Matt Miller, we're still searching for how their role fits within our offense, we haven't been able to put that together yet. Derek Hagan had a great week of practice last week and made a fantastic touchdown catch in the game. Terry Richardson made a great catch on the sideline and is getting better each week and Matt Miller had his best game against Iowa. We haven't been able to plug those guys in around Skyler Fulton and Daryl Lightfoot and fit them in with Andrew. Our rhythm is not there. It's not a personality issue. We're trying to get those guys in a position where they fit in best."
Coach Koetter's Press Conference Notes
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