Devils Digest: Coach, going into the season opener, how would you evaluate the quarterbacks group?
Mark Helfrich: "Andrew (Walter) had a good camp, and improved on lots of things. He was kind of hit and miss on some execution of stuff that he can definitely do. That's in part to sometimes being lazy, sometimes being off-balance. But he is definitely improved and definitely excited about the season."
"Sam (Keller) has improved quite a bit in his knowledge of the whole system, being a second year player but still a young pup in terms of being a college football player. We do have high expectations for him just because of the things he has done and still will and do. At times he is just a little inconsistent, I think just from inexperience. He needs to concentrate on timing, knowledge, and hanging in the pocket a little bit longer than he does."
"Probably right now, Max (Hall) and Rudy (Carpenter) are the next in line of guys that really had great camps and I'm still making determinations on them as far as redshirting and stuff like that. Max has a mission that he is definitely going to go on…both of those guys are really good competitors and I am very excited about their prospects. They have very high expectations of themselves and are hard on themselves in a good way. Chad (Christensen) is still in the mix and doing things around the team as well."
DD: When you talk about Andrew's development, can you specifically talk about what aspects of his game you wanted him to improve from spring practice and has he accomplished those goals?
MH: "Take a greater leadership role, is one thing that he responded to. Over the summer, he basically organized a little ‘chalk-talk' program where all the skill guys participated, and he did a great job with that. It was definitely evident in the execution during Camp T. He needed to get healthy and in better shape and he did that. Technically, he improved on his balance and timing."
DD: Last year this time there was much talk about Andrew's Heisman Trophy campaign and the overall high expectations from him. With things being much different this year in that arena, do you feel that he has really put behind all that happened last year, and he's in the right frame of mind entering this season with lower expectations?
MH: "I think so. We talked about this fall, compared to last fall, compared to the previous fall before that, and he's like a stock market index being up and down. He is of the right frame of mind. He just needs to concentrate on his job and have fun."
DD: Coach Koetter made a comment during Camp T alluding to the fact that he did entertain, and eventually decide against, redshirting Sam. Did it ever come close to happening or was it just about having very high expectations from Sam?
MH: "We have to do what's the best for our team, and sometimes that has to come at the expense of individuals. Sam got into that situation last year. He was our second best quarterback, he didn't play a lot and he burned a redshirt year. That's what was best for our team last year, and that's the same case this year."
DD: As the passing game coordinator, are you pleased with the incorporation of the new two-tight end system and the role of that position in the receiving game?
MH: "Definitely. Lee Burghgraef is really solid. Zach Miller is unbelievable – players over the summer nicknamed him 'the truth.', and they're right. He's intelligent, natural…as billed. The other two guys that are practicing very well now are Brent Miller and Andrew Pettes. Those two are providing good competition to our starters and also Jamaal Lewis. That competition will give us the 4-5 solid guys that we need."
DD: Chemistry between the quarterbacks and the wide receivers was a troubled area last year. Is this aspect also one that will be significantly better this season?
MH: "Definitely. The work over the summer helped. Terry Richardson and Andrew are on the same page now much like Skyler Fulton and Andrew were the year before. We were joking the other day about a ball thrown from Andrew to Terry a full second before Terry did anything (i.e. break on the ball), and that's a strong sign of trust of knowing where he's going to be and when is he going to be there."
DD: Between now and the season opener, what goals are you trying to accomplish for your group?
MH: "This is the time where things are coming together. We have the skeleton of the game plan in place, and now we need to just refine roles of people that can move the ball and help you win the game. We're locking it down and are in full prep mode for UTEP."
Q&A with QB's Coach Mark Helfrich
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