A Spring in Their Step

Monday marked the first day of the football team's spring practice. This season is characterized by a sense of freshness and renewal, and according to coach Dirk Koetter the overall mood on the field correlated to this time of year.

"It's fun to get back to practice," said Koetter. "When your last memory is the bowl victory, it's good to be out here. Players were excited to be out here. If we can bounce around like this for 14 more practices…after Thursday when we put on the pads there may not be quite as much bounce in their step. It was a good first day. When you're practicing without your pads on, there's not much that can go wrong."

The Sun Devils skipper pointed out that the first practice session was characterized with a lot of work on fundamentals. Another staple was the intensive work on the defensive scheme, which newly appointed coordinator Bill Miller is implementing. "There's a lot more terminology," remarked Koetter. "It bases out of the same exact defense we played before, but there's a lot of stuff to build on, more coverage stuff…it's just gonna be more learning for our players. They'll have to get their nose in the playbook and study up."

The numerous injuries to key players, as well as a few position changes, have also been a main story line for spring practice. "We have so many players hurt, and it's a great opportunity for some other guys to step up and get coached," he said. "There are really not that many guys that are playing new positions. Tyrice Thompson moved from H-back to defensive end, Jeremy Payton is making the move from wide receiver to safety, Antone Saulsberry will stay at tailback and Rudy Burgess will rotate between tailback and wide receiver."

Running back Loren Wade, who was suspended nine games to an illegal benefits NCAA investigation, was back practicing with the team. "It was nice to have Loren back," Koetter stated. "We still don't know what the outcome of that situation will be. He will be a great addition to our team." The ASU coach added that Wade wouldn't be available to the media while his situation remains unresolved.

Some teams can take the cumulative snap shot that spring practice provides, and project it as a prelude to fall camp. However, due to the after mentioned ailments, can the Sun Devils take that same approach? "That's a hard question," replied Koetter. "I think we have to know that it will be somewhat of an open-ended book, because there are some really good football players that aren't out here right now. The improvement that we make during spring practice can only help us down the road, and maybe create some competition for some of those guys when they get back."

Wide reviver Derek Hagan was named as a preseason Playboy All-American on Monday, an honor which could be one of many he's about to receive prior to the 2005 season. "I'm real excited for Derek," said Koetter. "It wasn't that many years ago where that Playboy All-American team was one of the most prestigious ones out there. There are so many All-American teams now, I'm sure half the players don't know white Playboy All-American is (smile)."

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