Q&A with Coach Dan Fidler

In 2005 the safety group was defined by a first-year player making an immediate impact, who received very little help from his teammates through out the season. How does ASU's safeties coach view his position's performance last season? This topic and others are discussed in this exclusive DevilsDigest interview.

DevilsDigest: Coach, let's start by discussing the safeties signed in the 2006 class. What can you tell us about each of the following players?

Dan Fidler: Ryan McFoy - "A very good all-around athlete. Has great size and is one of the best looking prospects we signed in a long time. I had the opportunity to watch him practice, besides watching game film…he has a great frame – he's 6-2 200 lbs. and we haven't recruited too many high school safeties that are already coming in with that size. He can do a lot of things both offensively and defensively. He will be given an opportunity early to show what he can do – he's that type of player."

Troy Nolan - "He's already here with us now and doing a great job with everything we're asking him to do in conditioning. Everyone around him says that he takes care of business and is always ahead of schedule in terms of what he has to do. Looks like he run very well…we recruited him thinking he can play right away and he's been doing a good job so far."

DD: When you look at the 2005 season from a safety perspective, how would you rate this group's performance?

DF: "Inconsistent. Zach Catanese was the most consistent of the group. He played pretty solid all year week in and week out and did a great job of tackling. He was a very physical player, that played through pain and never missed any time at all. He was prepared every week and had a very solid year especially for a newcomer that's adjusting to Pac-10 play."

"Maurice London started off really well. Early in the year he was probably overachieving, but didn't sustain it through out the course of the year and I would have liked him to do that for 11 games and not just the first half of the year. Josh Barrett finished strong, which was encouraging. He played very well from the Washington State game on and performed like we knew he could. We're real excited for him now – this will be the first spring practice he will go through since he's been here. He had back-to-back shoulder surgeries, but now he's way way ahead from where he has been. I think we're past those issues (injuries) now. He's the total package, and with Josh and Zach, you got two players that are 6-2 220 lbs. that both can run fairly well, especially Barrett, and are very strong."

"Jeremy Payton started off well and then like a lot of first-year players didn't sustain it. He's having a good off-season, just like Josh, and he's up to 208 lbs. He's matured quite a bit, and is more focused and determined to play like he did at the beginning of last year. Rodney Cox was injured pretty much all season and is applying for a medical redshirt. Derron Ware will move to linebacker. He was away from football for a year and it took him all this time to get back in shape. But he's looking real good right now – he's faster and it looks like his body has changed. We're excited about him moving to linebacker."

DD: There's always talk about how hard it is for a first-year player to succeed immediately out of high school/junior college. What do you think help separate Zach Catanese from your typical freshman or JC transfer?

DF: "His maturity. He took to coaching and he has a real strong desire and love for the game of football. He wasn't going to let any setbacks that could happen affect him. He worked through those issues and came out stronger because of that. He's a workout maniac and got himself in real good shape – that's his mental makeup and attitude."

DD: In light of what you mentioned, would it be fair to say that he's strongly entrenched at one starting safety and the only battle would be for the second starting spot?

DF: "They will all have to compete and push themselves every time they're out there. Zach will have to continue to be an overachieving guy to play well."

DD: Jeremy Payton seemed to be regulated as the nickel back. Do you foresee him becoming one day that every down safety or do you actually like him to stay in that nickel back role?

DF: "We do play a lot of nickel depending on the score and personnel groups we see every week. Our first goal has always been to have him become a starting safety. He needs to become a better safety. Basically, your third best safety becomes your nickel back."

DD: In 2004 When the defense changed from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3-4, you mentioned how the safeties' responsibilities became simpler in terms of schemes and consequently that group did play very well. This past season, did you feel that trend continuing or because of new defensive coordinator (Bill Miller), was there actually more complexities because of a new scheme?

DF: "Because we did change schemes they had to be on top of things from a learning standpoint. Even if you don't change your defense, you do change terminology so you do have new things to pick up. Now playing under this scheme for the second year and having a lot of returning players, it will help the learning a lot and I definitely expect more consistency."

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