Camp T Recap: Quarterbacks Coach Mark Helfrich

The Sun Bowl was a sneak peak. The Temple game on September 1st is the official start of the Sam Keller era at ASU. In this exclusive Devils Digest interview, the Sun Devils quarterbacks coach discusses the development of the team's starting signal caller, as well as his backups Rudy Carpenter and Derek Shaw.

DevilsDigest: With the season opener just over a week away, how would you assess Sam Keller and his progression?

Mark Helfrich: "Pretty well. He had a good off-season in terms of being ‘the guy' so to speak. The team has taken to him, which is very important. He's gotten a lot better through fall camp, and improved in the areas that needed improvement. Now it's just a matter of doing it with the lights on and for more than one game."

DD: Being that this is his first year as a starter, did you find yourself working on the mental side of his game, just as much as the football aspect?

MH: "I think you always try to work on both. Sam is a pretty natural leader and has taken to that. But there will always be situations that come up in a game that he hasn't seen before, and that's the part where you have to adjust on the fly and work through it. I think he'll be fine."

DD: Speaking of adjustments, how different has it been for you to go from dealing with a pretty stoic Andrew Walter to a firecracker in Sam Keller?

MH: "(laughs) Both guys do have different personalities, and both are really fun to work with. It's great."

DD: Do you find yourself revamping the playbook with Sam now at the helm?

MH: "No. Like anything else you play to someone's strengths and avoid weaknesses as much as possible. It's based a lot on what you're doing and obviously what the defense does. We haven't necessarily thrown anything out and or anything in, other than the standard weekly tweaks."

DD: Rudy Carpenter has been getting a lot of accolades from Dirk Koetter all through out camp. What can you tell us about his progression and development?

MH: "We're really happy with what Rudy has done. He worked his tail off in the spring and summer, and put in a ton of extra time. He's a competitive guy, a perfectionist by nature, and those kind of guys are fun to be around and coach. The best part is that all this paid off for him on the field, He has made a ton of plays in fall camp and we're very excited about his progression."

DD: Confidence is key for a backup QB like Rudy. Are you content with that part of his game?

MH: "Definitely. I think more so than our confidence as a staff, he has confidence that he can make plays. If does get in a situation where he plays, I don't think he will hesitate."

DD: Derek Shaw went through the normal trials and tribulations of a true freshman quarterback. What can you say about his progression?

MH: "You put it perfectly – normal trials and tribulations. Being young and being in our offense, it's not the easiest thing to learn. He has a ton of potential and it's a matter of figuring out where he can use his tremendous physical talent."

DD: Being the passing game coordinator, you probably had a lot of fun with the two-tight end system and having a star like Zach Miller doesn't hurt either. Do you salivate at how much better this offense can be with all of the offensive stars coming back a year older and year wiser?

MH: "Sure. Across the board, aside from the trigger man, we didn't lose too much. We have to make sure that we're not trying to do too much. Those guys are very adept at changing things, and that's something with game experience Sam can catch up to those guys and get it rolling. I think that between Zach, Derek, Moey, Terry and the rest of the crew there are a lot of guys that can make plays."

DD: Lastly, going back to Keller, what would you like to see him improve between now and the Temple game?

MH: "I don't think there's any one thing that we say ‘boy, we really have to get better or else…' He just needs to keep progressing and prepare like he did going into the Sun Bowl. He's a guy that is very concise of what's going on and he wants to lead the team. He just needs to approach the game with that in mind."

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