Q&A with Coach Ted Monachino

When the NFL comes calling very few college coaches will turn a blind eye to that opportunity. Therefore, when presented with this option ASU's defensive line coach Ted Monachino accepted a position with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Prior to him leaving town, he talked to Devils Digest about the difficult 2005 campaign his unit had, as well as the prospects of the three transfers and the new recruiting class additions this coming season.

DevilsDigest: Coach, congratulations on landing the assistant defensive line coach position with the Jacksonville Jaguars. How did this move all come about?

Ted Monachino: "I've known Jack (Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio) for several years. He came to our clinic and spoke when he was a member of the Ravens staff. I also knew him at the end of his career when I was doing stuff with NFL teams around the country. We do have a mutual friend in Devin Bonik, who's the assistant head coach there. Him and I worked together in the early 90's in some football camps. So, on Friday the 3rd I got the call from Del Rio and it happened."

DD: Your group was addressed in a big way in the 2006 recruiting class. What can you tell us about the players who signed?

TM: Alex Fa'agai – "Alex is an unbelievable ‘motor' guy, who plays very hard every snap. Very athletic player – big, strong and fast, which is a pre-requisite for a good defensive end. He is coming off an injury, but I think he's way ahead of schedule on his rehab. I think there's a good chance that he can attempt to compete in the fall. If not, he does have a redshirt year available. With the senior ends we have in Kyle Caldwell and Loren Howard, it may not be a bad idea to look to the future and redshirt him."

Jon Hargis – "I'm very excited about Jon. He's a very versatile defensive lineman. We've had plenty of chances to evaluate him from an athletic standpoint. A very good character kid, who understands football. Midway through the season, I was talking to his head coach who said that Jon made all the defensive calls based on personnel groups and formations. That's encouraging when you have a player that football makes a great sense to. He's a guy that in my opinion was born to be a Sun Devil, and I think those guys tend to perform better than guys who are just learning now about the program."

Zach Niusulu – "Zach is the prototype high school defensive tackle that you want to take. He's big enough, fast enough and physical enough. It's just going to be all up to the learning curve with Zach and making an adjustment to the game speed at this level. I think that with time he'll be a very fine player here."

Martin Tevaseu – "If you looked up ‘defensive tackle' in the dictionary, Martin's picture will be right next to it. He's very athletic. Was very productive at Junior College. He's great story, being in a very small environment in his high school career, and he didn't know he was a very good player until he got to Junior College. He never understood the recruiting process out of high school and didn't even know he was a qualifier. He was a unanimous first-team all-conference defensive tackle. When you go to Boonville, California and see a 6-4 340 pounds 18-year-old coming out of the woods, you start thinking about Sasquatch right away - he looks the part. He's very smart, a great addition to the program and he should contribute right away."

Jermaine Williams – "Jermaine's awards speaks for themselves. His reputation as a pass rusher and a big athlete made it an obvious choice for us to go after him. The comparisons to Terrell Suggs are inevitable. It's hard to compare anyone to Terrell, but their high school pedigree is very similar. He's Levi Jones' nephew and Levi did a great job telling him about the program."

DD: When you look at the defensive line in 2005, a lot has already been said about it being a down year for the group. As someone who coached those players everyday, how would you evaluate the unit's performance?

TM: "It was a down year. Our production and effectiveness were down. We didn't meet expectations as a group. But the thing is that we have to remember that those guys were recruited to play a different style of defense than we played this year, and that isn't their fault. We went out and recruited as many 6-3 285 pound players we could find who could get up the field, and that's what those guys are. You can't blame players like Jordan Hill for not being able to put their arms on an offensive guard and being able to whoop their butt and play a gap. They did a great job trying to do what we asked them to do, but in reality that's not what those guys were built for. They were built for penetrating the line and whenever they had a chance to do that, they were good at it."

DD: So it sounds like the learning curve of the new scheme was affecting them…

TM: "Well, I don't think it was necessarily the learning curve as it was the physical demands of the position. Those demands changed. I think Coach Miller's system and what we're doing now is exactly what this program needs to be in. But I will tell you that, and I already mentioned that, that's not what those guys were recruited here to do."

DD: It was tough year for Jordan Hill who had a good 2004 campaign. Do you think his performance was more of a factor of not having someone like a Jimmy Verdon anymore in his supporting cast?

TM: "That had something to do with it, but I will tell you that he was still pretty effective as a pass rusher, even though he didn't have the statistics. He was up the field, he was on the edges, and he was forcing the quarterback to move around the pocket. But when you don't have the Jimmy Verdon next to you, who commands the double-team and commands the running back now and then, it sure makes it harder when offensive coaches around the league prepare to focus on one guy and that's what they were doing with Jordan."

DD: Would it be fair to say that the injuries to Kyle Caldwell severely affected the defensive's line pass rush?

TM: "I think that's fair to say that and Kyle would be the first one to say that. Kyle has all the ability he needs to have a great senior season, and of course the better year he has the better it is for our football team. Kyle has gone on an unbelievable run of bad luck the last 18 months, and it has been hard for him to ever come back totally healthy. He comes back and something else strikes him down…so obviously his injuries affected the four-man pass rush, but I will say that we prepared those other guys to take his place and as they did that there some things that they could do that Kyle couldn't, just like there were some things Kyle could do that they couldn't."

DD: Will Kofe is an intriguing player that showed some ability, and now is up to 290 pounds. What do you think about his play last year and what the future holds for him?

TM: "He's a guy that always tries to do the things the way he was coached. He executes every part of every call as it was drawn up. He's an awesome kid that has some leadership ability. Again, he was one of those guys that was recruited to run up the filed and penetrate the offensive line. It's gonna take him some time, because when we recruited him it wasn't his edge rushing ability that got him a scholarship here. As he continues to develop, I don't know what position will play. He'd be the first one to tell you that he's a little bit of a ‘tweener' – not really fast enough to be that edge pass-rusher and not really big enough to be a three-technique player. But what he does is go in there, works his tail off and battles every snap that he's in there. He's a guy that has a lot to be proud with what he accomplished and a year from now he may really come out and have a great year."

DD: Earlier in the season you were probably licking your chops, along with other Sun Devil fans, over the three transfers on the defensive line who will be eligible to play this season – Michael Marquardt, Tranell Morant and Loren Howard. What do you expect from this trio in 2006?

TM: "I would expect all three of them to make an impact. I know Coach Koetter will do a great job finding the guy to coach those guys, and that person will have great guys to work with. I know Tranell did some great things on the scout team, but the most consistent guy during this ineligible year was Michael. He practiced hard every day, leads by example, and he's a guy that can play both positions with equal effectiveness. He can power rush and get on edge on an offensive tackle. He can come and make a difference on the defense."

"I haven't seen Loren play in over a year now, but I know he has great ability and he'll get all his nagging injuries squared away and ready to compete in the fall. I project Loren and Tranell to be defensive ends, and Michael Marquardt is a defensive lineman that help in both spots."

DD: With those three transfers joining the new signees and the returning players, do you feel it's realistic to believe that this group will indeed be head and shoulders above over last year's unit?

TM: "There's reason to believe that and predict that, but until those guys actually go out there and compete…we have to take them through the learning process, see where they fit in before we make any predictions. They certainly have the ability to drive that group to be head and shoulders above. But all those things are unknown, until the pads are on and those guys are performing and being productive."

DD: Obviously you must be on cloud nine going to the NFL, but is there even a little part of you that's disappointed that you won't be able to coach all this talent in 2006?

TM: "Absolutely. This move had nothing to do with Arizona State, and had everything to do with Jack Del Rio and the Jacksonville Jaguars. We've really enjoyed our life here and it's a great place to play college football. At this time in my career, it's an opportunity that I would hate to look back five years from now and regret not taking. Those guys are gonna be good and there's a chance that this 2006 team will be a very special team. But I also know that as my career has gone, I have to make decisions of what's best for me and my family."

DD: Lastly, what's the best ASU memory you take away with you from these five years?

TM: "Oh man, there are so many and it would hard to pinpoint. Some of the best are the big wins we had like at Oregon, beating Iowa at home…but probably the best memories are the ones I had off the field like having the guys over to our home, Jimmy Verdon walking across the stage and getting his degree, Terrell Suggs contacting us saying that he wanted to become a full-time student in the spring and finish his degree…there are so many things that have nothing to do with wins and losses, but if we left them unmentioned would be a big slight to those guys and what they have done as men."

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