Coach Koetter didn't seem to be surprised at the improvement that the offense showed compared to last week: "If you go to any spring practice, every coach will tell you that's it's always the same. Whoever loses the first scrimmage, comes back strong to win the next one. We got off to a great start on offense with that touchdown by Shaun (McDonald). We still made a lot of mistakes on both sides. The offense was just more ready to play; it wasn't just another practice for them. They were just determined to go after it today."
On the play of Chad Christensen, Koetter had these comments: "Actually if look at last week, and that was just luck of the draw, Chad had the fewest attempts. After coach Helfrich sets the rotation at quarterback, we're just playing. How many situations come up, that just depends on down and distance. I don't consciously think how many times each guy is throwing. Chad got more reps because he deservers more reps, and he had an excellent week of practice. He's come a long way of learning the scheme, but in a way he's still behind Andrew. Chad has great intangibles, and the thing that he has the best is escape ability. The other two guys aren't that slow, but Chad's is faster. With the way defenses are played these days, it's goes to have a quarterback throw on the run."
The most surprising performance in the scrimmage was delivered by running back Jermaine McKinney. The ASU coach was full of praise on this player: "Jermaine McKinney is one of the most improved players on our team. Unfortunately, he's playing in a position, which is very deep and talented. There's a kid that's increasing his strength and speed, he's there every day, and knows what he's doing. He's never injured. He doesn't have the burst of speed like the other running backs, but he's a solid guy. He would never hurt us if he was in a game."
It's always a struggle for an offensive coordinator on how to distribute the running and passing plays in practice and scrimmages. It's no different for coach Koetter. "In the second half I told the offense that we won't throw the ball, until we made a first down running. The offensive line loves it, because they say we never run the ball enough. From my standpoint, I want to get the quarterbacks better. So, it's a ctach-22 when you decide to run the ball or pass it. But everybody needs to get better."
The most noticeable improvement in ASU's offense was its pass protection. Koetter speaks of the adjustments: "We consciously had an extra back or tight end double team Terrell almost every time. We have two new tackles in Crawford and Niko who will be fine, but let's not kid ourselves; Terrell is one of the best pass rushers in the country. It's good practice for us, because we'll face very good pass ushers during the season. The times we didn't double-team him, he made some dynamic plays. On an edge rush, he's amazing. He's so fast."
Between the Daryl Lightfoot – O.J. Hackett fight and Terrell Suggs' personal foul penalty, tempers were flaring on Saturday. The ASU coach sees both sides of the coin: "Two things about that: Number one, when the players show fire and competitiveness that's not all that bad. But number two, when Terrell committed his personal foul he was taken out. When Daryl and O.J. (Hackett) went at it, they were ejected. What I talked about to the players at the end is that's one of the areas we have to improve as a team – we had way too many personal fouls, which just beats ourselves. As a head coach it's a double edges sword. I'm happy we're showing fire, but we were so bad at personal fouls last year. If we don't understand the consequences, we'll get beat again. On Terrell's personal foul, it gave the offense a first down and the nest play they scored. How many times did that happen to us"?
Dirk Koetter explained the distribution in snaps between the various scrimmages: "We ended up in the low 80's today, and we had about 64 last week. We wanted to be today at about half of the snaps of a regular game. Since we were able to stay healthy, in the last scrimmage we'll go as close as we can in our number of snaps to a true game. We're gonna have four 12-minute running quarters, and the clock will stop at the two-minute mark. If I need to speed it up at halftime I will."
The spring ending scrimmage will have a unique format. Koetter explains: "We're gonna have a player draft on Wednesday, but the downfall of the draft is that we can't work on special teams. But we'll be on separate sidelines. I'll be out of it; the offensive and defensive coaches will be calling the plays. Seniors will be split in half, and they're gonna hold draft. It will be evenly matched as possible so we can compete. It's a god idea, because in every other spring game the whole offense of the while defense goes home sad. Now only half of them will (smile). Adrian Thomas wrote me a three-page proposal detailing on how to do this (smile). The honorary captains of both teams are Al Williams and Mason Unck, and they will sit with me in a room and we will draft just the seniors. Then all the seniors on their respective teams will draft the rest of the players. Regardless of who gets drafted in the name of competitiveness we'll have certain plays where our first team defensive ends line up against our first team tackles."
The star of the scrimmage, along with Shaun McDonald was quarterback Chad Christensen. The redshirt freshman and his offense have been licking their chops ever since their dismal performance last week: "As an offense we were looking forward to this day since last week. We didn't play the way we wanted to play, and today not only did we want to come out and score touchdowns, but also make up some touchdowns from last week. The defense was giving us grieve all week and talking smack (smile), so we told them that they better get ready for today. I'm happy we delivered."
Christensen's take on the improved pass protection was: "As quarterbacks we save a lot of sacks by getting rid of the ball early, and the line is picking up all the blitzers. They really gave us a nice pocket to throw from today." The ever so humble quarterback downgraded his apparent #1 status on the depth chart: "Right now we're just all out here battling. We're just trying to get better individually and as a team. Today definitely gives me a lot of confidence. Each rep I get just builds it more. Last year I really didn't get all these chances, so this is my first time. It feels good to be out there competing."
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