DevilsDigest: Coach, can you give us a rundown of the defensive line recruits?
Ted Monachino: Nick Johnson – "He's extremely talented as an athlete, and pretty much untapped as a Football player. He has a lot of the skills that we're looking for when we try and project guys as being Pac-10 quality players: he has size, speed, strength, and flexibility. He will be a good player in this league a lot faster than people think."
Shane Jones – "Has been a great surprise in the winter. He's from my recruiting area in Sacramento, and the first day I saw him in practice I knew that I wanted to coach him. He is the kind of guy that will provide immediate help inside the defensive line."
Ali Likio – "He's a kid that had a lot of places that showed interest in him early, and he committed to SMU in November. When he committed to SMU, even more people showed interest in him. He looks like he weighs 250 pounds, but he's 297. He's gonna be exactly what we're looking for in a future at defensive tackle. We expect him to come in and push some guys over in drills right away."
Matt Mason – "He was good enough to come here out of high school – he was recruited as a deep snapper. He didn't make it academically, and went to junior college. He comes from championship programs both in high school and junior college. He's extremely well decorated. I don't know if he'll play tackle or end, but the fastest place he can help us is the place where he takes reps."
Ricky Parker – "He's perhaps the closet to being the complete package. Not only in terms of great ability, but also great instinct. He played with a great amount of technique – the most I have seen from a high school player in a long long time. Ricky's attitude will set the world on a fire. He's an infectious kid that will lead a lot sooner than some may think. Something like a Terrell Suggs."
Ishmael Thrower – "Like Matt Mason, we recruited him as a Football player, and we'll have to find what's the best place for him to be successful in our package. He was an All-American defensive end in junior college, and just like Shane when I saw him first in practice I knew that with his focus and ability he will fit in well. Thrower could play at linebacker or end, but I know that when we're in a pass rush situation he'll be out there on the field. We're gonna sort it out in the spring, and give him a chance to be a contributor at linebacker."
DD: It's no secret that there was a pressing need for defensive linemen this recruiting season, especially at tackle. Did you personally feel more pressure than ever to make sure that you recruited the right players for the right positions?
TM: "I think our whole staff felt that pressure. You don't mind the pressure, but you just hate to have it the way we had it. It's a shame that we had four defensive tackles leave us at the same time. It put us in a bind, and we knew it was an emphasis and a focus in our recruiting class. We did exactly what we wanted to do in the recruiting season – we got guys that not only have the ability, but also the size and potential to play at tackle in the future. We would never just recruit a body. We would only recruit guys that have the ability to contribute to a championship program. I never feared that this would happen. I knew that no coach on our staff would ask me to pass player like that, and I was never under pressure to pass a player like that. We only recruit a certain type of player, and we did get them during our recruiting class. I don't think it could have worked out any better"
DD: When I talked to Thrower and Jones, they mentioned the instant bond that they formed with you. Would you say that the recruiting style of yourself and of the other coaches is not only to sell ASU but also yourselves as coaches?
TM: No question about it. Everybody has the same things at this level: a great stadium, a great weight room, and great academic support. So after you present what the university has to offer, you present yourself as a coach. This staff brings a lot to the table, more than any other staff I have been on."
DD: It has been said that a player makes his biggest improvement between his freshman and sophomore year. Personally for you as a coach, do you think the same would apply to you and the whole coaching staff that was for the most part new to the Pac-10?
TM: "Just like offensive and defensive packages evolve over time, so do coaches. I know it's real nice to go into spring practice not starting from zero, and working our way to five or six. This year, we're starting at the five or six level. It's a huge advantage going into that your second year. The Pac-10 presents a lot of challenges, and we'll have to get better for our potential to show up in the win column. I know we'll get better individually, but we have to get to the point where all the players and staff members are on the same page which is the direction we're going into now."
DD: Looking forward to spring practice, what's your outlook for the defensive line, which will look quite different than last year?
TM: "With the type of kids I coach, I'm not worried about all the new kids meshing with their teammates. They play for each other, with great enthusiasm, and confidence. We don't worry about the overhaul in the front. They'll be no long learning curve for the new players coming in. All these kids will be coached with a lot of confidence."
Q&A With Coach Ted Monachino
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