Caldwell Feels the Pressure, Sees Opportunity

The ASU defensive line has been at the brunt of criticism during the 2003 season, and sophomore Kyle Caldwell understands why. However, the Sun Devils' defensive end told DevilsDigest that last year's misfortunes not only bring the obvious sense of urgency, but also a golden chance at redemption.

"There is a lot of pressure on the defensive line especially after last year giving up so many yards in so many different areas," said Kyle Caldwell. "We definitely have something to prove on defense as a whole, with all the bad publicity and talk of lack of intensity. Next year will be our chance to prove ourselves - having a lot of starters coming back and having more veterans. Next year we will definitely see a rise on the defense for sure."

While Caldwell's defensive end position seems to be in fairly good shape, the defensive tackle position is one aching for quality depth. The sophomore commented that he liked what he has seen so far, but knows that the cavalry is on its way. "Gabe Reininger has definitely stepped up," remarked Caldwell." He added 20 pounds and is strong as an ox. Connor Banks is going to step up, Brett Palmer is young but learning more and more everyday. I definitely think that with some of the junior college guys we have coming in the fall, that we will be able to get better at that position."

The defensive end acknowledged that there are many hobbled bodies on his unit, but that fact has hardly dampened anybody's spirits." Everyone is stepping up and playing as hard as they can," he stated. "It's fun being out there in practice. The weather is perfect, and everyone has a great opportunity to come out here after the season ended on a bad note." Another byproduct of the depleted numbers is the extra set of reps Caldwell has to endure. He jokingly says that it's wearing him down, but the overall picture carries a bigger benefit. "Every rep is a learning experience. As a player you want a chance to be on the field all of the time. It's all good (smile)."

Today's practice was another spirited one, full of team and individual competitions. The sophomore said he enjoyed the new pace employed in practice, since it will pay hefty dividends in the future. "The tempo is completely different," exclaimed Caldwell. "On the same note, with the few guys we have out here because of the injuries, the tempo would probably be better once we have everybody healthy. With the mentality we have right now and having more bodies, the practices at camp should be awesome. If at the end of spring we could have that feistiness in each and every play then we will be fine. But right now everything is going in the right direction."

"Practice is obviously how you play," he continued. "I definitely learned that from experience. When I first got here, I practiced so-so and it showed on the field. But at the same time I was coming off of a knee injury. During the season I stepped up my practices and my intensity and that is why I played better on the field. Part of practice is also off the field watching films and talking to the coach, and I also used that to get better."

The former Scottsdale Saguaro high school standout played many reps at long snapper for the Sabercats. During the Devils' spring practice, he has resumed that role, and is now pegged as the team's second-string long snapper. Does he have any aspirations of assuming that additional duty? "If I play it all depends on how the first string snapper does," said Caldwell." He (Jason Burke) was the starter last year and he is good at what he does. That is the position that can take you a lot of places in the future and it is a good position to have under your belt."

Just like any true freshman, Caldwell's learning curve started out very steep. And just like any other first year player, his game time experience helped him eventually settle into his own. "As the season moved on it was like a textbook and with each chapter I was getting more into it," recalled Caldwell. " Being the young guy coach Monachino and the rest of the defensive linemen have helped me out a lot. As the season went on, the game slowed down for me, but the first game was a big eye-opener. I was going against these 6-9 tackles from Utah State. I didn't really know what I was doing (smile). Later on I just had more confidence, I wasn't afraid to make mistakes and I played to the best of my ability. It was a great experience for me."

Undoubtedly, the expectation level for the defensive end will significantly increase in 2004. Caldwell said that the begining point to achieving his feats this spring is his well-being. "My goal is to stay healthy for one," he said, "make sure that each practice I am taking in to its fullest. Make sure I am learning the whole entire time, staying on top of everything and not making mistakes. I just hope to cap everything off with a huge spring game."

Pressure for Kyle Caldwell not only comes from himself or his coaches, but also from the watchful eyes of his father, ex-Sun Devil defensive end, Bryan Caldwell, and his grandfather John Caldwell, who are regular spring practice spectators. So, between the ASU great and the ex-Navy fighter pilot, who does Kyle feel is more critical of his performance? "Grandpa has the experience under his belt," he said with a wide smile. "Anyone who has gone through two wars…yeah he's tougher on me for sure (smile)…"

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