Q&A with Coach Brent Guy

A new scheme with many old faces has been the main story line for the ASU defense in this off-season. Sun Devil defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Guy talks exclusively with DevilsDigest about the effects that 4-3-4 scheme has had on the defense as a whole, and the linebackers in specific.

DevilsDigest: Coach, with the season opener fast approaching, how would you evaluate the linebackers at this time?

Brent Guy: "We feel really good about the changes we made with the ‘Devil' backer. We're still trying to develop our depth, and you'll probably see guys move around in the rotation. Justin Burks and Deandre Johnson will be the guys that play ‘Mike' (i.e. middle linebacker). You'll see a lot of guys in the Devil backer position. We'll mix it up and give a lot of guys different looks, and get some game experience. We do have a lot of good talent, but there's not a lot talent that played in ball games. We have to force ourselves, no matter what the game situation is, to play those guys. "

DD: Any time a coach institutes a change in alignment, it's only natural that apprehension can set in. Having said that, you must be pleased with how the linebackers have adapted…

BG: "I am. Dale Robinson is a real playmaker right now. Doing game plan stuff has slowed him down a little, but once he grasps it in the next few days I expect him to have a great game. He's a great blitzer, and blitzing is really one of his natural instincts. He also finds the ball very well. The type of game we'll probably see against UTEP, and maybe against Northwestern, is a lot of open sets, quick passing game, and a lot of stuff that doesn't' really show you the 4-3 and what it does against the running game. But we're still excited about how it's developing. We still have guys that can make big plays for us, and that's what you'll see more than anything from that position. Those three linebackers will make a lot of plays."

DD: Judging by his performance in fall camp, it appears that Justin Burks at middle linebacker has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the 4-3 alignment…

BG: "That was his natural position in high school and junior college. It was easy to know that he's the guy that should play there."

DD: On paper, Jamar Williams doesn't seem to have the prototypical frame for the ‘Devil' backer, but he has fit in that position right away…

BG: "We you do the raw numbers on Jamar, he was as fast as any of the ‘Devil' backers, with the exception of Lamar Baker. When you look at the style of games we're going to play, it suits him being in the box and playing the run. The biggest problem we have, and we're still working with him on this, is playing the one-back runs and being removed out of the box. That stuff isn't natural for him. Now he has receivers blocking and crack-blocking, and he's used to playing off guards and tackles. "

DD: As far as the defense as a whole, how comfortable are you feeling before the season opener?

BG: "Obviously, I'm very disappointed that R.J. Oliver lost his senior year. He started for us for all three years, and you can't just replace that experience. Josh Golden has played a lot for us in the past. Chad Green, Mike Davis…we have to move guys around, keep them fresh, and find those who can help us during the game."

"We feel good about Jordan Hill and Jimmy Verdon inside. It would be very hard not to double-team those guys. Thrower and Caldwell are very good off the edge…it's just like any other position on the field - we're one and half deep, and we need to develop more depth."

"At safety we have Riccardo Stewart and Manny Franklin who we converted in the spring. Manny is a guy that 4-5 games down the road can play corner for us if needed. You just don't know. We're always adjusting, and looking for different things we can do. We do feel good about this group of guys on defense. We have talent, and now we just have to develop game experience."

DD: With having seven starting seniors on defense, have you witnessed the leadership and intangibles, you would expect from having so many key players who are upperclassmen?

BG: "They did take ownership, and the second teamers do catch a lot of flak from those guys, if they got out there and make the same mistakes. More than anything, I feel the best about having all these seniors starting. They're all talented and well respected. Senior leadership is always critical on any winning team. "

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