Devils Are Back to the Heat and Distractions

Camp Tontozona may be only 100 miles from campus, but head coach Dirk Koetter considers it be equivalent to another world. Therefore, it was natural for the Sun Devils' first practice back in the valley to be more lethargic in nature.

"It's obviously a big weather difference," commented Koetter on his team's Sunday practice. "I thought we were a bit sluggish today. When you leave here it's basically a ghost town, and you come back Friday night and this place is rocking. We were sluggish, but not horrible. It's only natural that it would take a day or so to get re-adjusted. We're in a total different planet than where we came from, plus there's lot more distractions." Koetter added that starting Tuesday when the team is back in one-a-day practices and an evening schedule routine, that the team would be sharper.

After viewing Friday's scrimmage tape, the Sun Devils skipper said that as with any tape viewing the conclusion is that you're never as good as you think, and never as bad as you think. "There were good things in all areas, they were some bad plays," he said. "The main thing that still sticks out to me is much like Sunday's scrimmage before that – when one side gets the other down, I'd like to see that one side fight back a little better. I thought Josh Barrett had his best day. Jimmy Verdon did some things. They're obviously not that may highlights on the defense. Offensively all the tailbacks ran extremely hard and broke tackles. We protected the passer better."

Koetter expressed his extreme pleasure with quarterback Andrew Walter and his progress, particularly in the audible department. "We're asking Andrew to make more checks then we ever have before," he said. "Right now we're throwing a whole lot of stuff at Andrew, and we sort out by game plan if we need it. Normally in a game you have a couple of things that you're looking for." The ASU coach mentioned that Moey Mutz's long yard catch down the middle during Friday's scrimmage was a check executed for the very first time, while the slant and go touchdown to Derek Hagan was a check that was called in by quarterbacks coach Mark Helfrich, and caught even Koetter by surprise.

Overall, Walter checked seven times during the scrimmage, and only one check was deemed incorrect. Koetter said his signal caller has been learning many checks these days, but this method isn't one he uses often. "Andrew has got too many options right now," he said. "He's still doing a great job; it will be easier for him to hone once we get into a game plan. I'm not a big check guy, but you should be able to check with a senior quarterback. Sam (Keller) has improved in that area too."

Special teams are an area that really shined thus far in the pre-season. Koetter likes the solid performance exhibited by kicker Jesse Ainsworth and punter Chris MacDonald, and also had very high praise for long snapper Jason Burke. "He's the best long snapper I've ever seen," remarked Koetter. "He has a lot of zip on it, he's accurate, he's dependable, he knows his job and he does it well. Those guys are worth their weight in gold. Ask any team that doesn't have them."

Sunday's practice marked the return of defensive lineman Connor Banks, who finished a 14-day jail term for an extreme DUI offense. "Connor has completed all the court assignments that he can," said Koetter. "He has to go through the five-day (NCAA mandated) acclimatization period. He won't be able to go this afternoon because he can only go once. We're having walk-on tryouts tomorrow, which count as practice, so he'll go tomorrow. He'll be able go shells on Tuesday and full pads on Thursday."

The ASU head coach said that on his request, Banks would address the team Sunday afternoon, which in part will serve him to get acquainted with all the newcomers he didn't get to meet due his absence from Camp Tontozona. "He's gonna tell the team what he has been through, and hopefully they'll all learn something from that. He's suspended for the UTEP game. He's been conditioning on his own, and taking some time to get in football shape. He lost some weight, so he'll play at (defensive) end."

"Anybody that knows Connor knows he's a good, humble kid," Koetter continued. "He made a very bad mistake. He paid for that mistake. He paid a steep price. He had 14 days in jail, $3,000 in fines; he has to go to 36 hours of counseling, various panels. He has to have a Breathalyzer put on his car for one year…he's part of our family. It's just like your kids do wrong things sometimes. He's lucky no one was hurt – him or someone else. But that doesn't mean that we don't still care for him. It's time to bring him back into the family and go from there." A media session with Banks is scheduled to take place later this week.

Several Sun Devils have been nicked up in the last few days, and Koetter offered updates on all of them:

Justin Burks: "Nothing in the CAT Scan – that's great news. It's just a sprained AC joint. He could have gone today, but he's in orange (jersey) and we'll hold him out until Tuesday."

Bradis McGriff: "Grade two ankle sprain. I don't have any timetable. It's a significant ankle sprain, but it sure beats the alternative, because it looked really bad when it happened."

R.J. Oliver (who was on crutches during practice): "They (the trainers) think it's a sprained foot. They are gonna take an X-Ray tomorrow, to try to confirm that it's nothing more than that. It's a lot better today. It was so sore yesterday they couldn't touch it."

Riccardo Stewart: "His shoulder is bothering him a little, so we'll hold him out today." Stewart will be furthered evaluated by the team doctors.

Gabe Reininger: "He's getting closer. He's moving around a little bit more. He needs to get a little stronger." In addition to all these players Loren Wade and Rodney Cox missed Sunday's practices due to illness.

On the bright side, offensive lineman Grayling Love has been participating in more practice sessions than he ever did before in this pre-season. "He's full go, although he's playing 30% of the reps right now," remarked Koetter. "They don't want him to get fatigued. The work he was doing with ‘House' (ASU's strength and conditioning coach)… he'll be able to catch up this week. They already said that if we were playing UTEP today he would play, but they would like him to play a 1/3 of the game. So we got 10 days to see how much that goes up. He will play against UTEP unless something unexpected happens. What percentage of the game he will play? I don't know that."

The Sun Devil freshmen may be untouched as far as hazing, but the Rookie talent show is one rite of passage they have to partake in. The ASU head coach offered his critique of the performance. "I tend to think that they get worse every year (smile)," quipped Koetter. "We have some guys with musical talent. Andrew Pettes and Wes Evans did a great job rapping. Nate Kimbrough stole the show with his signing and dancing, he was impressive. The rest of them were pretty salty..."

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