Q&A with Coach Roy Wittke

Last month former Arkansas' quarterbacks coach Roy Wittke was hired by the Sun Devils to serve in the same capacity, as well as being named offensive coordinator. He inherits a Sun Devil team that was second in the nation in total offense, and features probably the best duo of signal callers in all of college football. Devils Digest sat down with Wittke and talked about his acclimation to Tempe, the quarterback competition and his thoughts on the maroon and gold offense.

Devils Digest: Coach, you've been here for just under a month. How has the transition been on and off the job?

Roy Wittke: "So far it has been great. The quality of people is one of the things that drew me here. Starting with the administration upstairs, Coach Koetter and his staff…just a tremendous group of people to work with and work for. Everything has been going real well, and haven't had any real hot weather so far (laughs)."

DD: How was the connection made between you and Coach Koetter, that ultimately help you land in Tempe?

RW: "We had mutual professional relationships with people, and I had met him back in the early 90's when he was at Missouri. I was at Eastern Illinois and went over to Missouri for clinics with the staff over there. We worked a couple of summer camps together, and when I was at Arkansas we visited here as a coaching staff in 2003."

DD: Arizona State, to the fans and media here, has the reputation of an explosive offense. As someone that came from the outside, do the offensive accomplishments of this team make the job you hold an attractive one and is that the reputation in the coaching circles across the country?

RW: "Absolutely. It all starts with Coach Koetter and he's one of the most respected offensive minds in the country. This place has a great reputation, as well as the reputation of the Pac-10 as a league itself. So, there's no question that all these things make this opportunity a very attractive one."

DD: Fans in this part of the country will argue that the Pac-10 is the best passing conference in the nation. However, the SEC conference from which you come is definitely a pass-happy conference compared to others in the country. Do you believe this eases your transition into the Pac-10?

RW: "I think so. The SEC is a little bit different type of league. There are similarities in that both leagues are blessed with a great deal of speed in their skilled athletes. I don't know if the SEC is quite as explosive offensively, but from top to bottom it has been traditionally stronger from a defensive side. Being exposed to teams of the SEC, there's no question that it would help (facing teams in the Pac-10)."

DD: This is probably not the last time you'll hear this question come up, how do you view the quarterback competition here between Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter?

RW: "Number one, it's a positive thing. People want to make out to be a negative and it is not. You look at it as a blessing having two quality kids at the position – conceivably the most important position on the field. They're both tremendous young men, great characters, great leaders, tough minded players who have gotten the job done in the heat of battle. We as a staff feel extremely fortunate to be in this situation that we are. It will play itself out and the most important thing is that we will be successful as a team."

DD: Do you think it helps matters that there's a new quarterbacks coach such as yourself viewing all this with a set of fresh eyes?

RW: "I really haven't thought about it that way. The bottom line is that we do well as an offensive unit and as a team. I've enjoyed the opportunity to know them a little bit and look forward to working with them in the spring."

DD: What qualities in general do you look for in a quarterback?

RW: "The two things that jump to mind are accuracy and toughness. A quarterback is a player that needs to handle adversity. It's the most visible position on the filed and he'll receive a lot of praise that he doesn't necessarily deserve and also unwarranted criticism. He has to handle execution in pressure situations."

DD: Which areas of the country do you usually recruit from?

RW: "I was born and raised in the Midwest. So besides Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, I also recruited Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Missouri. My responsibilities here haven't been finalized. Wherever they need me to go I'll be happy to recruit."

DD: There was one player in your position group that signed a Letter of Intent – quarterback Danny Sullivan. What can you tell us about this young player?

RW: "I'm really excited bringing him into the program. He's a good-looking physical player and has a great demeanor. He comes from a program that has a storied tradition at quarterback. His accuracy jumps at you – he completed more than 60% of his passes. Also, his high touchdown to interception ratio. He had only six interceptions on the year. His traits should make him successful in our program, and I think he'll fit right in."

DD: How would you describe your offensive philosophy?

RW: "It fits right in with what we're doing right here. Using multiple formations and personnel groupings to dictate what defenses are going to do to you and take advantage of it. I'm very impressed in how we use the tight ends, and I've been part of the same schemes that we run here. That tight end group is an impressive group of players."

DD: Is there, for a lack of better word, a fine line that a new coach needs to walk trying to instill his own philosophy on the one hand and going with the flow of an established system?

RW: "There's no question that I'm here to fit here in the system that's in place. The old adage ‘if it ain't broke don't fix it' certainly applies here. When you're third in the country in pass offense and second in total offense – those numbers don't lie. As we move along, study the system, go through quality control studies…wherever I can make a positive impact I'll try to. I'm just excited about the opportunity to learn and fit into this system."

DD: When you look at the ASU offense in 2005, what do you see from an offensive coordinator's point of view?

RW: "The success they had throwing the ball from a variety of different looks. This group does as good as a job as anyone in the country throwing the ball in play action situations. You have a couple of quarterbacks who play just outstanding football. The play of the offensive front is another thing that really jumps at you from a pass protection standpoint. The fact is that people slowed us down at times, but no one really stopped us, and that's impressive in a 12-game situation playing quality competition."

DD: Will you treat spring practice as an acclimation period?

RW: "No question. It started from the day I got here, watching quite a bit of film and we started today (Monday) as an offensive staff together and I look forward to continue that. The next six, seven months are very important to become as familiar as possible with the system and the players."

DD: What are your expectations for the quarterbacks and the offense as a whole going into spring practice?

RW: "Continue to improve – that's the most important thing. Even though they were great numbers put up, we want to win more football games and put ourselves in position to improve on where we play in the bowl season, whether it be the Rose or Fiesta Bowl. Those are the ultimate team goals and we have to make sure that we continue and make contributions towards that."

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