Q&A with Coach Brent Guy

In this exclusive DevilsDigest interview, ASU's defensive coordinator and linebackers' coach talks candidly about these units' performance in 2003, describes the upcoming change in defensive scheme, and points out the areas of improvement to be emphasized during the upcoming spring practice.

DevilsDigest: Coach, let's start by reviewing the linebackers signed in the 2004 recruiting class.

Brent Guy: Dale Robinson – "We saw him play some games early, and he's very athletic. A good pressure guy that played off the edge - he never really played the middle. Fortunately, we know a little more about him because Chris McKenzie and him grew up in the same neighborhood, so Chris talked a lot to us about him. You never want to put a lot on a (new) guy, but he's a guy that as soon as he can learn it he'll be a good player for us."

Antone Saulsberry – "I saw him as a junior and really liked him. He has very good speed, and makes a lot of plays. As Coach Koetter alluded to, was actually a recruitable running back. Athletically this is the type of guy you want. He's built pretty well. He weighs 205, and he's running track right now. It will be interesting to see how he does this spring, because he has been timed at some pretty fast times before."

DD: When you look at the linebacker group as a whole, how would you assess their performance in 2003?

BG: "Obviously you're never happy with any part of your defense when you give up as many rush yards as we had. Especially in the linebacker group, we have to stop the run better than we have. You go all the way back to Camp T, that was one of my biggest concerns – two guys (starting at linebacker) that never played a lot of snaps. We have experience, and we have to learn from last year and become more aggressive at attacking the line of scrimmage. We're gonna simplify (the scheme) a little more for them so they can play a little more aggressive."

"When you get a chance in the open field to make plays, you have to make them. That's what we'll concentrate on this spring, having them being more aggressive with their play. Athletically we're in good shape, and we have good depth."

DD: Can you talk about Jamar Williams in specific? As the veteran of the group, what do you expect from him in 2004?

BG: "Jamar played sparingly as a freshman, and last year maybe played too many snaps before it was all said and done. But we just didn't enough depth at the time to rotate guys through. He loves football, and he's very competitive. The biggest thing you have to look for is leadership out of him, as far as setting the tempo in practices and playing more aggressive. The linebacker group from top to bottom needs to play more aggressive, and he'll have to lead in starting that. I don't think he's a guy that doesn't want that leadership challenge, and he will accept that role. I think that's the type of position he wants to be in."

DD: Can you elaborate on the change in the defensive scheme we can expect this year, going from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3-4 or a hybrid of that alignment?

BG: "Ever since I've been doing this I always had a 4-3 package and the eight-man front. But rule wise I never had the ability to combine them. I had to do one or the other. So what we're gonna do is combine those two, so structurally we can play both all the time, and not change the rules for the guys so they can play in the same position. We want both packages' alignments and assignments combine for repetitive techniques, and without a need to substitute players (depending on alignment)."

"The biggest thing (in this scheme change) for us is to keep as much in tact of our terminology. We have some guys that played, know, and understand the terminology. We're not re-inventing the wheel, just making it simpler."

DD: How would you evaluate the defense's performance in 2003?

BG: "We started off playing decent, and as the season unfolded we didn't play as aggressive and started guessing. With each loss we just started to decline both emotionally and physically. We went to Iowa and played well early, but overall we weren't near consistent enough to make a push for a championship. We gave up a lot of big plays, and that's part of the reason why we're gonna mold everything together (scheme wise) – we're gonna simplify the techniques, and by doing that your practice becomes more and more repetitive and hopefully well get a better performance."

DD: Would you say one of the biggest problems with the defense were players thinking more than playing instinctively?

BG: "I think it all ties in together. When things aren't going as well as expected, guys try to do more than their job, or not do their job and do somebody else's. We're gonna simplify it enough so it doesn't become an issue at all. We need to play faster by confidence and by assignment. As the season went on we played slower, and we have to correct that."

DD: Out of all the criticism the defense received this year, how much of it do you think was warranted?

BG: "It's always warranted. There's obviously no one more critical about the defense than me. More than anything we have to create more turnovers and negative yardage plays. When it was all said and done, that was a big difference in our season compared to the year before. In defending the running game. We didn't knock enough balls lose on the ground to get opportunities."

DD: When we interviewed Coach Koetter several weeks ago, he mentioned the cornerbacks as the most underachieving unit on the team. Now that you brought in a new coach in Mark Carrier, how do you see that position shaping up?

BG: "We're real excited about Mark. He brings a real sense of energy to that position, and he's very excited about it. Just looking at his background, we think that he will have a great impact. He has a lot of veterans at that position, and they'll be hungry to listen to a guy like him that was a star on all levels. He has a lot of football knowledge that's been fun to draw from, even for me talking to him about structurally how his teams did a lot of different things. That's what we've been doing every morning, meeting and talking through stuff, and watching film."

DD: Going into spring practice, what are your specific goals for the linebackers, as well as the entire defense?

BG: "We have to get a good grasp of the structure that we'll play, and get the guys in the right position to make the plays. We have to learn to play much tougher, more aggressive, and create turnovers. As always, we put emphasis on being a better tackling team. We always chart that, and analyze that."

"The unblocked player has to make the play. Offensively they will scheme you to get bodies on everybody, but there's always gonna be a guy that when he reads, reacts, and does his job can show up at the ball. We have to find the guys that when they get in that position can make the play the majority of the time."

"Again, we're gonna emphasize playing aggressive, playing fast, playing reckless – not outside the scheme, but reckless with our bodies. That works hand-in-hand with creating turnovers."

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