Q & A with Coach Brent Myers

The Sun Devils' offensive line was arguably the team's best unit during the 2003 campaign. Their new position coach Brent Myers likes what he sees so far in spring, but knows his group, just like any other on the team, could use some improvement. In this exclusive DevilsDigest interview, Coach Myers shares his observations from practice, leaving the University of Washington to come to ASU, and his goals for the maroon and gold ‘hogs.'

DevilsDigest: Coach, with two weeks in the books, what are your impressions thus far of spring practice?

Brent Myers: "Improvements are being made by a lot of guys. We have put a lot in, and with that you have mental breakdowns. But you can also have mental breakdowns even when you've been through a season for a while. The amount of insertion is dropping, so we're not putting in that many plays between now and the end of spring football. So now the kids can concentrate on what we thought so far, and continue to compete. I'm very happy with the competitive level that they've been working at."

DD: What positives and negatives have you witnessed up until now?

BM: "The positives with my guys are that they're very coachable. Jeff (Grimes, former ASU OL coach) and I are different, and they've taken to my style very comfortably. The other thing is that they're tough, they work very hard, and they're eager to get better so they can contribute to the team."

"I do like their overall attitudes, to what is a hard part of the year. Right now you grind in practice and that's all you have. It's tough to get going every day, when you know there's no goal or game at the end of the week. But the goal is a long ways away, so you do focus on ‘where am I now?' We talked in our leadership meeting about ‘law of the scoreboard.' It's a measurement where you are currently at that time, whether it be the second quarter, fourth quarter, middle of spring football, summer conditioning…whatever it may be. You use that measurement to continue and improve yourself. Improve what you're excellent at and what you're weak at. Because in the game of football, like golf, you're never good enough."

"That's what we're trying to emphasize to them. Take it one step at a time, don't bite off too many chunks, and continue to improve everyday. I think they really have latched on to this concept."

DD: The fact that this group is possibly the team's best unit coming off the 2003 season, has it made your job easier as you go through your first spring practice at ASU?

BM: "I'm very fortunate I have two kids who make it easier for me – Grayling Love and Drew Hodgdon. They're both very smart, very experienced…they want to know why you're doing what you're doing. They're proud being the ones making the calls and how to do everything right. They're detailed guys. I see them being very successful in whatever they'll be doing in life, because that's who they are. They take pride in what they do."

"They made it easier on me because my younger guys want to emulate them, and that has raised the whole level of the group. I've been very pleased with that. I don't know if we're the most talented group. They have done a great job – no question. When I walked in here I was really fired up about this group, and I still am (smile)."

DD: Has it been a tough transition off the field by moving your family to the Phoenix area?

BM: "I've been in the state for a long time. I coached in Northern Arizona for seven years. I've been recruiting the Phoenix area. I have family that lives here…that's one of the reasons I came here – because I like it as much as I do. I've been to a lot of practices when coach Snyder was here. I've been to the ASU-UA game probably three or four times. I'm a die-hard ASU baseball fan – I've been to a bunch of ASU baseball games"

"So this place is always one that I wanted to come to. From that stand point it has been an awesome transition. The house I bought here is half the price as the same house in Seattle. When things like that happen, you just pinch yourself because you think it's a dream (smile). I coached with these guys. My wife knows all the other coaches' wives, and my kids know all the other kids. It just makes it so much easier, and I couldn't be happier."

DD: Prior to coming here, you were working at the University of Washington for three and half weeks. Can you tell us about your decision process leaving Seattle to come to Tempe?

BM: "I went back to Washington because of a change in the coaching staff. Coach Gilbertson called me and wanted me to come back. I love the Pac-10 and that's a big reason why I went to Washington, and I also felt that I would have a lot more of a role in the offense than I did in the past."

"I heard about Jeff (Grimes) leaving, before Coach Koetter called me. Jeff had replaced me previously (at Boise State). I know Jeff very well, and we're friends. I think he's a very good coach, and I like everything about him. So, when Coach Koetter called me, I knew why he was calling. I was immediately torn…but in my heart I immediately knew what I wanted to do. He knew how hard it was going to be for me and he was very considerate. He told me ‘Don't give me an answer now. Take a few days to think about it. If you're not interested, I won't be mad because I understand what kind of situation you are in.' I told him how much his consideration meant to me."

"I weighted everything in mind, and I called the mentors in my life. Coach Koetter is one of my mentors so it was hard not to call him (smile). I called my old O-line coach who's retired in Washington, Steve Axman who at the time was still at UCLA, and my dad. Each one of them kept on hammering me about my relationship with Coach Koetter, and where I felt he took me in my career in terms of my knowledge, and what he will do for me in terms of my training of possibly being a head coach one day. I also thought about my trust in him, as far as how he will treat me, my players, recruits, just who he is…that's what sold me on deciding to come back with him."

"I didn't need anybody to tell me these things, I knew them already. But it really helps when your mentors that you really trust, reaffirm what you already believe. That's always a process that you go through when you go have to make a decision of this nature. So, by the time I was done talking to those people I told Coach Koetter I'm coming. He was surprised that I would do it. I told him that it would be hard and it's a tough thing to do, and I hope I didn't burn a bridge with Coach Gilbertson. But I felt it was the right thing for me to do, and a right thing to do for my career getting me back with a guy I really like. I love Seattle and I grew up there, but I knew I was going to a place that I'm very intrigued with. I'm very fortunate that it has worked out for me as well as it did."

DD: When it comes to coaching the offensive line, what is your coaching philosophy?

BM: "My philosophy in everything we do, is to be absolutely physical as we can be. I'm one of those coaches that wants my guys to be aggressive all the time. So, the simpler I can be in my teaching allows them to be more aggressive in footwork, pass sets, double teams, whatever it may be…they're not gonna hesitate and they are going to attack people. That's what my style is."

"I also believe that offensively you can run the same play, from multiple different looks to make it hard on the defense, and we do that here. That's what I believe that Coach Koetter has thought me. Shift, motion, different formation groups…you run the same play so it doesn't change for my front guys, and they can be aggressive whether it's run blocking or pass protection. I don't want them to have to overanalyze. I want them to go out and play as physical as they're gonna play."

"That's one of the things that coach is really good at – making things offensive line and quarterback friendly. He taught me that a long time ago, and that stuck with me. It's almost been a mantra for me, and that's what I want it to be for me if I do become a head coach. I learned the same thing from Steve Axman when I was at Northern Arizona. I feel very comfortable that this is what you'll see on Saturdays. We made it as simple as this game can be, because you can make this game as complicated as you want to make it."

DD: Often coaches get slotted into one of two groups: vocal coaches and teachers. However, it seems that your coaching style does a good job of combining both approaches. Would you agree with that observation?

BM: "I totally believe that you have to be both, but it's hard to be both because that requires more work out of you. There's a time and a place in practice to teach. There's a time and a place in practice to motivate, either positively or correctively. Hopefully, I'm doing both. Kids are motivated in multiple different ways and learn in multiple different ways. For a visual learner, writing stuff on a board doesn't do much for him. Showing that person video and making him walk through it - that's how he learns."

"Today's athlete, and men in general, are extremely visual. What you remember, you take mental pictures of all the time. When an offensive line has a picture of what he did wrong, he has a vivid image of that and he'll never let that get him beat again. As a coach, you have to find out how your players learn. I already figured out that Grayling and Drew learn by teaching it to other guys. You see those two getting better by teaching it. They're like coaches on the field."

DD: When it comes to the offensive line, what are your goals for spring practice?

BM: "My goal going into spring was to get ten of the kids that I have to be ready to play in the fall. I don't know if I can do that or not, but that's my goal. I want player one through ten to be ready to step in and be ready to play in a game. I may only have eight and swing just a couple of guys, or I may get to ten. I'm not far off from that goal."

"I keep coming back to Grayling and Drew, but what those kids bring to the table – they both can play more than one position. Mike Pollak can too. So I do have some flexibility (in finding ten players) there. The ultimate goal is to have those guys prepared going into August so I feel good about playing them in a game. By the first game, I want to know that I have nine or ten guys I can play. We got to keep on improving. We're not as near as good as we should be, but I'm always gonna say it. That's how O-line coaches are…(smile)"

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