Q&A with Coach Tom Nordquist

Rudy Burgess, Randy Hill, and Keegan Herring may be as formidable a trio as there is in the Pac-10 when it comes to running backs. ASU's running backs coach discusses those players and other topics in this exclusive Devils Digest interview.

DevilsDigest: Going into the season opener, how do you feel about the running backs as a group?

Tom Nordquist: "We'll see on Thursday night I guess (smile). They've been good so far, but it's time to play a game and see what they can do."

DD: Looking at last season, there's no question that Rudy Burgess could get the job done, but they were questions about his durability. Now with his added weight and strength how do you feel about his prospects this year?

TN: "I'm happy about the weight and the strength that he added – it has helped his durability, especially in the passing game as a protector. He still has a long season. Depending on how many hits he takes, we'll see how long he can stay in there. So far so good."

DD: Being that Keegan Herring was a local player, you were very familiar with him and his abilities before he even signed with ASU. The way he's playing right now – has he surprised you or is he exactly what you expected?

TN: "As a player in terms of speed and ability with the ball in his hand – probably expected as much because that's what I saw on his high school tape. I think the biggest surprise is one his toughness, and two his ability to pass protect as a freshman and that basically goes along with his toughness. He's not afraid to stick his face in there and do it. That has been the biggest surprise and it makes me happy to see him do it."

DD: Coach Koetter talked earlier this month about how great it was to have Randy Hill and Cornell Canidate back with the experience they bring to the running back unit. Can you talk about their contributions?

TN: "Randy has just picked up where he left off. I don't see any really negative side effects of his knee. He's a tough kid and very smart. Cornell has been hurt all camp and had very limited reps, so he's a question mark there."

DD: Do you feel that players such as Antone Saulsberry, Price Wilks, and Preston Jones can get into the mix later on this year?

TN: "They will. At one point I don't know, but they can."

DD: There are obviously many more facets to being a running back besides carrying the ball. When it comes to catching from the backfield, pass protecting – how do you feel the group is performing in those areas?

TN: "Running the ball and understanding their reads – they have done a good job of that. The pass protection, that's one thing I try to hit hard with those guys – understanding your reads, your assignments and physically doing it. So far, I've been pleased because the guys are willing to stick their nose in there and doing the techniques that are being taught."

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