Generally, coaches are given five years to put their mark on a football program before a critical eye is pointed at their progress. By the end of a coach's fifth season, just about every player in the program is the new coach's recruit and there has been ample time for a coach to move things in the right direction. Accordingly, here are Dirk Koetter's (and his staff's) five-year grades:
Recruiting – Offense: B+
Koetter and his staff have landed some highly touted QBs in their time in Tempe. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find a time in Sun Devil football history that the program has enjoyed three prospects as good as Sam Keller, Rudy Carpenter, and Derek Shaw taking snaps. Additionally, OL recruiting has generally been solid and the Devils have landed some studs that have contributed early in their playing careers (i.e. Carnahan, Talavou, Pollack, etc.). The WR corps has also done well, although only Terry Richardson was highly touted coming out of high school. However, despite not having immense "star power" (recruiting stars, that is), guys like Matt Miller and Derek Hagan have stepped up well and the younger guys waiting in the wings have shown much promise. The TE position speaks for itself. The talent here is the best on the team.
What's keeping this grade from being in the A range is the lack of star power. Koetter and staff have landed the "big time" QB and TE recruits, but have failed to do so at WR and, most noticeably, the RB position. If a Gerald Riggs type of RB had chosen ASU, this grade would be a solid A.
Recruiting – Defense: C
There have been a few big successes in recruiting on the defensive side of the ball, but not enough to warrant the grade here being anything but mediocre. Players like Jamar Williams, Justin Burks, Chris McKenzie, Dale Robinson, Kyle Caldwell, Zach Cantanese, Ishmael Thrower, and a host of others have done well in their time donning the maroon and gold. The fact that many of these players are JC transfers has a mixed effect on the grade in this area. On one hand, it means that Koetter and his staff have done a pretty good job at identifying JC talent that is ready to come in and help the team. On the other hand, it shows a lack of recruiting and developing enough depth from the high school ranks.
There are a multitude of issues that keep this grade from being higher. The first is the lack of depth across the DL and no true "stars" having been recruited there, either. This past season evidenced the lack of depth, talent, and size at this critical position. Another issue keeping this from being graded higher is the lack of landing players with the "star power" referenced above. Players such as Remi Ayodele, Alan Branch, Brigham Harwell, and others have given ASU a long, sincere look; however, in the end they have gone elsewhere. Only Chad Green and maybe Kyle Caldwell come to mind as guys ASU signed that were highly coveted and recruited by more established programs. Yet another issue is the lack of a true "shut down" corner being brought into the program. The above referenced Chad Green was supposed to be this guy but hasn't been able to stay healthy. The closest thing to this type of performer that ASU has had is Chris McKenzie, who was very good but not great.
Recruiting – Player Retention: A-
While recruiting may not be top 10 in the country, the players that come to Tempe to play football have, for the most part, remained in the program and graduated. Koetter and his staff have done a very good job emphasizing academics and graduating players. There have been some very notable players that have left the program for various reasons (i.e. Loren Wade, Ricky Parker, et al); however, retention as a whole is way up over the previous staff's marks and this bodes well for future depth. BR>
Coaching – Offense: A-
Offensively, the Sun Devils can score enough points to win the game against just about anyone. Koetter's passing game is the main driver behind the high octane Sun Devil attack; however, the running game and ability to succeed in short yardage situations are areas that still need to be addressed. The 2005 season showed improvement in the running game overall and the addition of Keegan Herring gives fans hope for the future. The short yardage issue is still there, though, and will need to be addressed if ASU wants to win the close games and be able to close teams out once a lead has been established.
Coaching – Defense: C-
The 4-2-5 was a disaster. There's no other way to put it. The scheme relies on big, space-eating DLs that were not in the program when the staff arrived and immediate help wasn't brought in to help the system work properly. Consequently, the defense was a sieve.
So what is keeping this grade from being lower (as I suspect many of you would prefer)? Basically, I give Koetter credit for realizing that the 4-2-5 wasn't going to work and then scrapping it. The first year of the 4-3 defensive alignment was a marked improvement. Additionally, I think the hire of Bill Miller is a solid upgrade on the defensive side of the ball and will pay strong dividends in the future. Those two decisions keep this grade out of the D or F range.
Coaching – Special Teams: B-
If the Devils never had to punt the ball, this grade would probably be in the A range; however, the punt protection and coverage teams have been so bad that they bring the grade down significantly. Also, past successes with fake punts and field goals seems to have influenced the coaching staff into getting too "cute" with some of the schemes. If this grade was for just this past season, it would be lower; however, as a five year grade it is slightly above mediocre.
Public/Media Relations: C
Koetter is not and will never be a dynamic public speaker and personality. He is a football guy that "calls ‘em as he sees ‘em," sometimes to his detriment. He comes across as aloof and somewhat arrogant in many of his dealings with the press and seems to have gotten on the wrong side of some of the local media. Furthermore, his comments about the rivalry and some coaching decisions (i.e. refusal to utilize the shotgun and/or blocking sleds, elimination of the fullback in the offense, etc.) have ruffled many fans' feathers. Koetter's personality is not the type that gives him the option to buddy up to the media and fans to change their opinions and his overall record isn't good enough to make them overlook his flaws.
The bad news is that the grade received in the "court of public opinion" is only mediocre. The good news is that this grade may be the easiest for Koetter to improve. He is improving in his comfort in dealing with the media and fans and is very much interested in "self improvement" and working on his flaws. It's up to him to improve this area on his own.
OVERALL GPA: 2.75
This GPA is not unexpected. There have been high marks during Koetter's first five years (i.e. finishing 3rd in the conference twice, winning two bowl games, etc.); however, they have been balanced out by the low points (i.e. losing to Arizona twice, falling apart in 2003, underachieving in 2005, etc.)
A 2.75 will keep you comfortably eligible, but your name won't appear on any Honor Rolls. Improvement is necessary if Koetter wants to make the ASU Coaching Honor Roll in the future. No improvement may cause him to be expelled for poor performance.
Five Year Report Card for Dirk Koetter
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