Q&A With Coach Grady Stretz

If any one group on the football team was in dire need for a fresh new start, it was certainly the defensive line. Not only will this unit get an infusion of talent in three transfers, but they will also have a fresh pair of eyes watching them, in Tempe native Grady Stretz. In this exclusive Devils Digest interview, we caught up with the team's new defensive line coach to talk about his expectations for the group in 2006.

DevilsDigest: Coach, coming back home you're probably going through less of an adjustment compared to the other first-year coaches on the football staff. Has being in familiar surroundings helped in the transition?

Grady Stretz: "It's nice to be in a town that you're very familiar with and recruit an area that you recruited before. Being home will always make things easier."

DD: Growing up a short drive from the Arizona State campus, were you a Sun Devil fan at an early age?

GS: "Growing up, college football for me was Arizona State football. I was a huge fan. I used to sell drinks at the stadium so I did get to see a lot of games. So I'm very familiar with the program and I always thought that Sun Devil stadium on Saturday was a great environment."

DD: Can you talk about the process of getting hired by ASU? Did you and Coach Koetter have some mutual acquaintances that made this career move possible?

GS: "That's one thing that's really though in our profession. If you don't have good contacts with head coaches or something to that nature, it makes it hard sometimes landing a job. When I heard about the position at ASU opening, I immediately typed up a cover letter and sent it along with my resume to Coach Koetter. I did also have some people that I have worked with me make some phone calls to him. I was very impressed when I came to the interview how professional everything was. The program and the direction it's going in is very intriguing to me. Coming here and interviewing just solidified everything I heard about the program."

DD: You talked about the positives about the program that were brought up in the interview. Surely, it didn't hurt to have a view of Sun Devil stadium in the background while the interview was taking place…

GS: "It sure did bring back a lot of memories. Working at ASU was one of those opportunities I was hoping that would come around one day. The timing and situation were right, being born and raised out here…everything was just a great fit for me and I did everything I could do to pursue this job."

DD: You're obviously coming into a great opportunity, having a defensive line that will perhaps be upgraded the most compared to other positions on the team. How do you view this position so far?

GS: "I told my guys that I would be very demanding and I told them what the standards are. I have been impressed with their work ethic up until now. They've been really eager to learn and improve. I'm gonna make sure we're on the same page. It will be a lot of fun coaching these guys. There will be a lot of challenging times but I think this group with its chemistry is ready for that."

DD: It seems that the heart and soul of the defensive line will be the three players who transferred into the program and sat out last year. Do you anticipate the transition for those individuals to be not that rough, just because they have been part of the program even though they were regulated to the scout team?

GS: "I think that's a good point. Those players know what the program is all about and are familiar with the system. They've done a very nice job academically and they are anxious to get out there on the field and wearing the Sun Devil uniform. Coach Miller has a great scheme here and I think the upside of this defense is very exciting."

DD: This group was heavily criticized last year for its performance. Are you a big believer in playing with a chip on your shoulder, and would you be preaching that attitude in your coaching?

GS: "I don't know what they received (in feedback) last year, and honestly I don't care. The past is the past and they have a chance to prove to me what they can do. We're gonna take the field with a certain mentality, and I'm gonna coach according to the standards I communicated to them. Sometimes change is good. They got their history, and now with a new coach they have a chance for a clean slate. They'll be exposed to some stuff they weren't exposed to in the past. We all know we have a lot of work ahead of us, but they're ready to take on the challenges and it will be a lot of fun. We're getting into spring practice here very soon, and it's gonna be a very competitive atmosphere."

DD: You touched on Coach Miller's scheme. How does it fit your coaching philosophy as it relates to the defensive line?

GS: "This is the same scheme that I played when I was in college. Every scheme is obviously unique, but there's a lot of carryover in the schemes I played and coached to the scheme here at ASU. The terminology is obviously very different, but when you talk about the techniques and the fundamentals of football they are all the same. We do have a great scheme here and I'm very excited to get it going. The players that were here last year have a decent understanding of what the scheme is and they have one year of experience with it. We still have some learning to do and that's what spring practice is for."

DD: Lastly, what are your specific goals for the defensive line in spring practice?

GS: "The number one goal right now is to make these players the best they can be at their position. Once again, I set my standards for them, I'm gonna challenge them to play up to those standards, and I hope to see them improving. I think we have a great group here that will help us win some games."

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