Koetter Seeking Consistency Following Scrimmages

Saturday's scrimmages were full of big plays on both sides of the ball. Nevertheless, the ASU head coach did not care for their unsteady nature. While Coach Koetter was pleased with Andrew Walter's performance, the signal caller himself did not share those feelings.

"We had a little mid-spring ball score card in our meeting today," said Koetter. "I think we still need to be better finishers. I say we're OK, but spotty. As the days wear on, we can't lose concentration. The answer for our guys isn't trying hard. Our guys are trying hard. The hitting out here was good for the first day of (being} live. We only scrimmaged with about 68 guys today. So, you're basically only two-deep across the board when you take into account specialists, etc." The Sun Devil skipper added that the second half of the spring session will be lighter on the teaching side, and focused on the execution and finishing aspect.

Emmanuel Franklin and Matt Miller turned in impressive performances on Saturday, but Koetter's enthusiasm was tempered by their overall inconsistency. "Both of those guys are the epitome of spotty," he remarked. "Both those guys are making plays, but they're also missing plays they should make. I love Matt Miller's effort. But he makes the tough catches, and drops the easy ones."

"Manny Franklin's move to safety has been a positive one," continued Koetter. "In a meeting before practice I told the team that Manny has been the most surprising player on defense. But there's not much in between. He's either really good or he gets beat. I love his energy out there, but he's never been able to sustain anything long-term. If he can, he has a chance to help our team."

The defense, at least from a pass rush perspective was somewhat hard to evaluate today. "Some those segments they were allowed to blitz and some they weren't because we only had two tailbacks," Koetter said. "Defense competed for the ball, but they still have a tendency to be good in a spurt and then maybe come out in a lull. I told them (to) be good all the time, not in select spaces." Koetter praised tailbacks Loren Wade and Randy Hill who with the depleted depth were "warriors" during the scrimmages.

Former tight end Aaron Austin has been practicing all of this week at defensive end. While his first few practices didn't stand out, Saturday was easily his best effort. "It was encouraging for Aaron to have back-to-back sacks on Chaz White," stated Koetter. "Tuesday we didn't too much, and Thursday he hurt his wrist, but he had best day today." The ASU coach added that he wouldn't know until Monday if Austin would continue to practice at his newly assigned position.

Speaking of tight end, Koetter offered his observations on this position, which once again have an irregularity theme to them. "That position needs to step it up'" he said. "We're looking for somebody to step up and improve themselves. Jamaal Lewis made a couple of big plays today, but he had the worst practice I've seen in my life on Thursday. Lee Burghgraef is steady. Tyrice Thompson is surprising. Kellen Mills is doing some good things, but making some mistakes…the hardest thing about that position is Brent Miler is improving a lot, but can't have contact. And there's the ever imposing presence of Zach Miller roaming the sidelines (smile)."

Koetter commented that Andrew Walter's technique needed to be refined coming into spring practice, but today's performance showed none of those deficiencies. "I think Andrew Walter has really improved the last four practices," stated Koetter. "We can't be around those guys in the off-season for the football part. Those guys are throwing on their own, and get lazy with their mechanics. Andrew was down too low, brought in his back foot too much…."

"But if you looked today," continued Koetter, "most of those balls were right on the money. His balls had some pop and accuracy on them. We didn't always make the play; sometimes the defense did some things. Even on that interception by Manny, the ball should have been caught – it went right through Lee's (Burghgraef) hands."

On the other hand, following the scrimmages Andrew Walter (pictured) was unhappy with himself and his teammates. "It was sloppy," he said. "Our first team offense played bad. Practices have been going well, but we have to carry it over (to the scrimmage). It's on me and it's on everybody. Hopefully we'll clean it up after we watch the tape." He echoed Koetter's comments on his faulty technique, but did exclaim that "Fundamentally for me, it has been light years from when it has been."

Derek Hagan and Matt Miller made several plays on Saturday, and that fact is especially pleasing for the person tossing the pigskin to them. "Derek has been really great in the spring," remarked Walter. "He'll be a playmaker for us. It's nice to know that I have him in my hip pocket when I need him. We have a nice chemistry going on."

In regards to Matt Miller, Walter commented: "Hopefully with his speed he can get down the field and make some plays. We would like to exploit that. We need somebody out of the group to step up and be that guy at the other receiver spot."

The new two tight end formation has probably been the biggest change on offense, and the Sun Devil signal caller has fully embraced it despite the growing pains. "I like it because it will make us more versatile," stated Walter. "It's just hard right now, because everything is new to these guys. So in a scrimmage situation, it makes it hard when some guys don't know their assignments. But it's just a matter of time until we're all on the same page and executing like we should."

The urgency to for a successful 2004 season is a notion that Walter and his teammates are all too aware of. "Our backs are against the wall," he said. "We have no expectations on us outside of the team. It doesn't matter to me what guys outside the program say - my expectations are always high. It will be like two years ago when we're we coming off a losing season and nobody expected much of us. But it's also different this year because our backs are against the wall. We have to come out fighting and scratching with everything we got. Both our old and new guys have to be on the same page."

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