"It's great to be on the field," said Koetter, "and it's fun to work with the guys. It's not real football yet, because we don't have pads on. As you can see they gave great effort, and they're excited to be out here. You have a lot of guys trying to make an impression." The ASU skipper added that all the newcomers were present; aside from Jonathan Lehman who underwent surgery this morning after a hernia was discovered during his physical exam on Friday. As it was last year, the first hour of practice was exclusive to the first year players on the squad. Koetter talked about the reasoning and the benefits behind that structure. "For that first hour those newcomers get every rep – you're one deep at every position," he explained. "They get their position coaches' full attention, they're forced to do it. You take it from the classroom, and they forced to do the reps. They do it, they get coached, and then they get to do it again with the rest of the team, and get to watch."
"Normally, when you say you'll watch it (on the field) first," Koetter continued, "all that time watching it gets wasted, because most guys can't focus that way. Right now in the acclimatization periods, the veteran guys don't need to be out here in shorts for three hours." The Sun Devil coach mentioned that he preferred the pre-NCAA regulation structure, when the newcomers were practicing alone for three days. "But the rules dictate otherwise."
The drills that will take place in the first few practices in Tempe are naturally different than the ones that will occur up at Camp T. However, it's not a matter of personal preference, but rather part of the usual evolution that occurs when fall practices commence. "It's normal progression," Koetter remarked. "But because we can now only be on the field three hours at one time, we want to maximize that time. Those first two days in pads they're certain drills we get out of the way, because they're low injury factor. Teaching the tackling, team walk through stuff, punt return…that was all instructional today. We believe that the instructional stuff should be in the classroom, because when we're on the field we want to do it. When you're not in pads it's hard to do some stuff."
Grayling Love and Julius Orieukwu were the two notable injured offensive linemen today, and consequently wore orange shirts. Koetter was unsure as to their timetable to resume full contact, but that could be determined in the next week or so. "They're in good shape," he commented. "They're just not clear for contact. The surgeon will look at those guys on Tuesday before they go up the hill, and evaluate them again at camp after we've been there for a week or so."
Due to the Matt Fawley suspension, Jamar Williams who was pegged at strong side linebacker will now switch to the Devil linebacker. Williams is currently replaced by junior college transfer Dale Robinson. Justin Burks will continue as the team's middle linebacker. "We're gonna try to figure out how to get the best 11 out there," said Koetter. "There's a lot of ways it can fit together combination wise. Jamar is versatile enough that he can go out there, and that gives you three guys in the 240 lbs. range."
Is Koetter convinced that Dale Robinson can successfully step in as a starter? "We like what we've seen," stated Koetter. "It makes us force the issue, instead of babying him along…He may not work. It might be De'Andre Johnson. When you bring in JC guys, you bring them in to play them. Out the top 11 that would play a game today, Dale is definitely the most unproven. If he can't be the guy, we'll have to move Jamar back inside." Koetter added that Lamar Baker, Robert James, and Antoine Saulsberry would be the top candidates for the Devil position if and when Williams switched back to his original role.
This season, the Devil backer position was projected to be occupied by a safety type player such as Fawley. However, the ASU coach clarified that this isn't necessarily the permanent direction for the position. "When we switched to the 4-3," said Koetter, "one of the reasons that we had all those defensive back bodies out there, is because you don't go from two to three linebackers depth wise overnight. We tried to recruit more linebackers, and we signed three. We would have signed five if we got the right body."
"(Safety) Lamar Baker has always wanted to go down and play linebacker," Koetter continued. "Robert James got so big, he weighed at 217 yesterday, and he's more suited to play (at linebacker). We still have five quality safeties not including the freshmen. Long term you do want all of them to look like Jamar Williams, but this is the first year moving to that (scheme), so it will be kind of a hybrid for a while."
Koetter Pleased With First Practice's Effort
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