Q&A with Coach Bill Miller

While the Linebackers were one of the best units on team, the Sun Devil Defense as a whole had a rough outing in 2005. In this exclusive Devils Digest interview, Coach Miller reviewed last season's performance, as well as discussed what the 2006 campaign holds for the team's linebackers as well as the entire defense which will feature several new faces.

Devils Digest: Coach, let's by reviewing the linebackers signed in the 2006 class. What can you tell us about the following players?

Bill Miller: Jeff Bereuter – "He comes from a great program in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. He has a big frame, runs very well and just makes a lot of plays every time you put on his film. I think he has a great upside coming in here and doing what we're looking for at linebacker."

Travis Goethel – "Another kid that runs extremely well – we have a lot of speed in this group. A very athletic player who plays with a great energy. He's a guy that can come in and help us right away."

Garrett Judah – "He's a junior college player we were hoping to have here in the spring time (will be here in the summer). He's an older, mature guy and a great looking linebacker that's very physical. Another guy that will be a factor this season – he has to be."

Gerald Munns – "We liked him on film and I really fell in love with him when I saw him play here for the state's championship – that's the first time I got to see him play live. He's a physical player that's also a big time athlete that can cover. He's a very intelligent player and football is very important to him. Comes from a great program in Hamilton, and it's always great to get good players from here in town."

Jamarr Robinson – "He might be the marquee guy out of this whole group. USC came on him late. He's a very physical and fast linebacker. A very good basketball player – didn't actually play football until he was a sophomore. He has a great frame…I know I sound like a broken record (smile) but all these linebackers are very similar physically and athletically. Jamarr is probably a little thicker than the rest of these linebackers."

DD: What linebacker positions you foresee these newcomers playing at?

BM: "That's the nice thing about all of them. They all can run and all have big frames. It will all work itself out as far as who's the best coverage linebacker or who will play over the tight end. We'll try them at all positions. That's our challenge as coaches – getting the players at the right spot. We're gonna work them out and see what they can do at Camp Tontozona and see where they all need to be."

DD: You talked about all the new linebackers having very similar frames and traits. When you were recruiting this position, were you're trying to stay away from the thinking of that you want to sign two ‘Mike' linebackers, three ‘Will' linebackers, etc.?

BM: "First of all you sign football players and then you sign athletes. Within those categories, you better sign players with speed and I think we've done that. What's wrong with a 6-3, 6-4 linebacker that can run like heck (smile)? We're real fortunate to sign this group. We signed one JC player, and we were gonna sign another one but didn't get him. But I think if these guys come through, we have done our homework and I know we did. We'll have those guys here for a few years and not be in the position that we are right now in where we don't have a lot of numbers at linebacker."

DD: When you do bring in five new linebackers, suffice to say that spring practice will look a whole lot different than fall practice…

BM: "We still have a lot of guys that have played. Beau Manutai has played a lot and did a lot of good things especially towards the end of the year. Robert James is a starter and in the first five ball games did some great things for us. And we have some other players that are also experienced and battle tested. We feel good about Chad LindseyAdam Vincent played for us most of the bowl game. We moved Derron Ware from safety because of our numbers. Antone Saulsberry is coming from running back and Wes Evans from the defensive line. So we're gonna find out who can play and if some of those guys can help us. The fact that we're moving all those guys into this position, tells you why we need those five newcomers."

DD: How would you rate the performance of the linebackers in 2005?

BM: "We were inconsistent at times. Dale Robinson and Jamar Williams were great. Robert James had some real bright moments…but we were overall inconsistent. In the first five games we overachieved, as did the defense as a whole. Then we lost our confidence and that can't happen. That's our responsibility as coaches to get those guys going, and I don't think I did a very good job in the second half of the season."

DD: Being that this was your first season at ASU, do you think the linebackers' and defense's performance was a result of the natural learning curve associated with a new scheme and new terminology?

BM: "Nobody wants to hear that, so I won't comment on that. We will be better next year because we'll obviously be in the system for a second year and be more familiar, know what's expected from them and have more repetitions at it. We need consistency in players and consistency in coaching and demand that these players do the things they need to do on the football field to win championships."

DD: There will be a lot of new faces on the field in 2006. Thus, does this pose a challenge for the defense or is it maybe a welcome sight as you wipe the slate clean from last season and start with fresh bodies and fresh attitudes?

BM: "I think that's how we look at it – having a new start. We might have between seven and eight starters that have never played for us but that can be a good thing too."

DD: Besides getting many new players, you will also have new faces on the defensive coaching staff…

BM: "We feel real good about our new coaches. Al Simmons is a great one and was Dennis Erickson's cornerbacks coach at Oregon State, so he knows the Pac-10. He's a west coast guy that was also the coach for the San Francisco 49ers. He's a great addition to the staff and he has already brought a lot of contributions and new ideas for the staff. Grady Stretz is our new defensive line coach and he's just what we need with all the new players we have at that position. This is another good hire. He's very demanding and just like Al is a great teacher and technician at his position, which we need."

DD: A lot has been said about the three defensive linemen that transferred to the team and will play for the first time for ASU in 2006. On paper, this should be a new looking defensive line that carries a lot of promise. What are your expectations from this group?

BM: "Expectations are very high. Two out of the three will be out there in the spring (Loren Howard is still healing from his injuries). You're right, a lot has been said and written about these guys and now it's time to play and come through. I think they will. They're working very hard in our off-season program with Joe Kenn (aka Coach House) who does a great job with our program. All three can really help us and be a key factor in what we're trying to do with this defense."

DD: When you look at the secondary, you have only one true starter coming back in safety Zach Catanese. Granted the defensive line will have a lot of new faces, but the secondary itself will have just as many new players…

BM: "Zach did play very well and he'll hopefully be a mainstay for us. Josh Barrett played a great deal, particularly at the end of the year and has really come on and done a complete turnaround in my eyes. He has a great attitude, he's showing some toughness and I'm really proud of him. He's a guy that will practice in the spring for the first time since he's been here. He knows the system and he can be a player for us."

"Another guy that's here and I'm really excited about is Troy Nolan, as well as Justin Tryon. They both already got our attention with the way they're working and are earning the respect of the other guys. Keno Walter-White is probably out for the spring - he had his surgery. Mike Nixon is out there and he'll be interesting to follow as he comes back from playing baseball. Ryan McFoy is a safety coming in the summer that I'm real excited about. Chris Baloney is a new name you'll see out there in corner…we do have our work cut out for us. We have some guys out there that this spring practice will be real important to and we have to make improvements and play like we did the first five ball games and get back that mindset if you will."

DD: You have been heavily involved in recruiting the state of Florida. We did have some prospects visit us but unfortunately no one signed with the team. Nevertheless, do you feel that you're making even deeper inroads with that part of the country when it comes to recruiting players to ASU?

BM: "I think so, but quite frankly I need to do a better job getting players from there but I think we can. I will continue to go back there and recruit and if we can get one or two really good players from there then it will be worth it. Bottom line is that we have to get them here. I still believe we can do that."

DD: Going into your second year at ASU, do you feel that the overall comfort zone with yourself and the defense is higher than it was this time last year?

BM: "Obviously it is. Being familiar with the kids, their abilities and them being familiar with me and the system…it can do nothing but help. We have a lot of things to do, we have to get better and we will."

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