Koetter's Season Wrap Up Part II

In this second and last part of the 2003 season review, head coach Dirk Koetter discusses the team's conditioning situation in the pre-season, player attrition, and some new recruiting philosophies.

While Koetter doesn't pin the season's woes on one specific unit, he does feel that one group may have under preformed compared to the others. "I don't think our secondary in general preformed up to the expectation level they had and the rest of the coaches had," he said. "That's not the sole reason for our downfall. The confidence issues I mentioned (in the first part of the review), we weren't able to get great pressure with a four-man rush, obviously injuries factor into that – R.J. and Riccardo (Stewart)." He added that some players on the defensive side (not only in the secondary) that were counted on as far as the depth ended up having minimal contributions during the season.

In the first part of the review, the ASU head coach mentioned the adverse effect that the limited number of two-a-day practices in fall camp had on the season. Did he have a bad feeling at the time camp was in progress? "I was extremely happy that we came out with no injuries," exclaimed Koetter, "aside from Brent Miller of course. I was nervous if we had been hard enough, setting a toughness tone, but the tradeoff was that we were healthy."

The team's conditioning schedule is one area that the Sun Devil skipper is determined to change, in light of what transpired in the pre-season. "We have never been much of a conditioning team in the fall camp," claimed Koetter. "We do such a great job in the off-season. Because the (NCAA mandated) discretionary week that came before fall camp, and then fall camp (started), I think we may have lost a little bit of our edge from that standpoint. I was a little nervous about that, and it somewhat came to fruition."

"I talked with House (Strength Coach Joe Kenn) about that," Koetter continued. "He reviewed his notes, and we're gonna make some changes about that. We're gonna take 4th of July week as a discretionary week this year, and we're gonna condition a week later into the four day report (before camp), and condition more in fall camp than we did last year. That's already one of the changes that's done."

All season long, it was apparent that a lack of depth existed behind receivers Derek Hagan and Skyler Fulton. The ASU coach admitted that this fact and others did affect schemes and play calling. "We had to sort of change our style," he said, "from throwing a whole bunch of balls over the top down the sidelines or post type routes to more intermediate (routes). We didn't have a good running game early, so you're get more of those (long) plays when the safeties come up to stop the run."

Koetter pointed to the Stanford game, as an example where the team was able to run the ball because the score allowed it to, which in turn impacted the passing game. "Our percentage of getting the tailback on run plays to the unblocked guy (for example, a safety) was the highest it has ever been," claimed Koetter. "When you do a good job of that you can play action off of that, and get a chance to throw some deeper balls. But we didn't have a run game early, and we didn't have a deep threat wide receiver that we were completing to. It didn't change our play call initially, but it became clear that we weren't able to do it that way so we had to change it."

It's no secret that the Sun Devils covet junior college recruits to fill in their glaring needs at defensive line. Nevertheless, Koetter exclaimed that other positions on the team would benefit from such prospects just as much. "The only place our numbers are down is defensive line," he said. "It's more defensive tackle than defensive end. It has to be an emphasis (in recruiting). From a pure numbers stand point, we're fine everywhere else. So now it becomes about quality players."

"One of the places we have to add a player is punter," Koetter continued. "We don't have a scholarship punter right now. Everything else is about if a guy can come in here and make an impact on a position other than defensive line. I wouldn't count out any position of us taking a JC guy if we thought he could make our team better in one way or another."

The ASU coach mentioned that position changes on the team can be expected to take place in the weeks and months to come. However, one shouldn't expect any offensive linemen switching to the other side of the ball, and bolstering the defensive tackle core. "No offensive linemen can go to the other side," stated Koetter. "That's a common misnomer out there. There's not a lot of that going on in college football."

Along with players assuming different roles, another inevitable process that will take place is attrition. Koetter believed that the current number of 20 scholarships may eventually grow to 25 in the near future. "We can't kid ourselves," he said, "there are some scholarship guys that won't be back for their choosing or for ours. We're overloaded at a couple of positions."

Nonetheless, Koetter exclaims that he will not run guys out of the program. "We're not gonna have 13 guys say ‘Coach Koetter told me to leave.' I'm not gonna tell anybody to leave. I'm gonna be honest with guys tough. I'm not encouraging players to leave. I'm encouraging players that aren't happy. There's a difference there."

"If I encourage a player that isn't happy to leave," Koetter continued, "I'm probably doing both of us a favor. I can look at a guy's eyes and tell if he's struggling. We have some kids that are really good kids. The reason kids come here is because they want to play. Some kids are content being backups and wait their turn. Other guys, they've never had to do that, and don't want to that. If that unhappiness is bringing them down, and making us unhappy – let's try to work something out. It doesn't have to end up being a hate-hate relationship. In some cases this can be good for both sides. Every school has that, every year."

In regards to recruiting philosophies, Koetter shared some different approaches that he and his staff have taken this season. "We went a little more national this year," stated the Sun Devil skipper. "That's reflected in the guys who already visited. We used visits earlier this year, and by Christmas time we would have used the vast majority of our visits. We recruited by position a lot more this year, in trying to build relationships with the coaches versus by area. For example, Coach Osborne would handle the tight ends more as oppose to handling an area."

"I think from a philosophy stand point it's not that we changed," continued Koetter, "it's just that we have to continually re-state the fact that we have to recruit guys that want to come play college football for all the right reasons. It's important for them to get their degree. It's important for them to be good citizens. It's important for them to wear that ‘ASU' on their chest."

"It's become clearer than ever that if a guy doesn't want that combination of academics, football, and citizenship he shouldn't come here. It will be a struggle for him, and it will be a struggle for us. Maybe it's bad luck, but you take a certain number of guys every year that you know have a risk factor. Every team does that. It just seems like that most of the guys that we have taken a risk on – it hasn't panned out. We have to really focus on taking as little risks as possible in any of those areas: athletically, academically, socially."

To read the first part of the 2003 review by Koetter please click here

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