Q&A with Coach Bill Miller

His own linebackers may have performed below expectations in the spring, but the secondary showed a lot of promise in the 15-practice session. In this Exclusive Devils Digest interview, ASU's Defensive Coordinator and LB's Coach Bill Miller reviewed the performance of his position group, as well as the entire defense in the spring.

Devils Digest: Coach, now that spring practice is over, what are your impressions of the defense?

Bill Miller: "Now that it's over, we have to concentrate on getting some of those guys that weren't out there healthy and ready to go. I think we made some progress with some players, but the tough thing about this spring is that we had a lot of people that weren't out there, that hopefully will be playing and starting for us. In the linebackers, we had Beau Manutai out with a knee injury for most of the spring, and Robert James had some personal issues that kept him out. Loren Howard is another guy that we're all very anxious to see out there. But we were pleased with the progress some guys made this spring."

DD: You mentioned the injury to defensive lineman Loren Howard, and there were some others at that position that sat out in the spring too. Do those injuries make it hard to truly gauge the defensive line because it will look much differently in August?

BM: "Yes, and that's the reality of it. We lost Will Kofe three weeks ago, and we don't have enough defensive ends to start with. So he's a guy that started for us and he's out, Tranell Morant was out some of the spring…we hope that the guys that did play there do get better, so when you have a situation that you need to use them, that they made some progress."

DD: The linebacking unit had some players miss time, that you eluded to earlier. How would you assess the returning players on that group such as Chad Lindsey and Adam Vincent?

BM: "They made some progress, but I'm still not satisfied at where we are at the linebacking position."

DD: Mike Nixon started out spring at safety and ended up at middle linebacker. Where do you see his role on defense?

BM: "Mike Nixon was really a pleasant addition to our defense. We asked him to do a lot of different things this spring, and with him being gone from football for four years that's a though thing to do. I'm really happy with what he did, and he will have a role on our defense. A lot will depend all those linebackers (coming in the fall), how fast they learn, which one of them will play and at what linebacker position. Nixon is such a bright and mature guy – they're a few different places he can go and help us at."

DD: If there's one position on defense that is very solid, it's safety. How would you rate that group?

BM: "That's one of the most positive things we have going right now on defense. The last three, four games, the way Josh Barrett prepared and practiced…he has picked off exactly where ended last year. I'm very happy for him. We have a long way to go with everything back there, but I thought Barrett and Zach Catanese were two very bright spots."

DD: A lot of folks weren't taking much about the cornerback position before the spring, but with so much inexperience there, you were probably very anxious to see how it would all turn out. What are your impressions of this group?

BM: "We're so fortunate to have such a great coach there in Al Simmons. With Keno Walter-White and Chad Green hurt, we were pleased with both Justin Tryon and Chris Baloney. Justin may have come out a little ahead, but we were happy with what Chris did, particularly towards the end of spring. We think both of them will be even better after a great summer."

DD: In terms of pass defense vs. run defense – which aspect are you more pleased with following spring?

BM: "I'm not pleased with either of them right now (smile). We have to get better with every aspect of the defense compared to where we finished last year."

DD: Before spring practice you set goals for the defense. How did this group of players do as far as achieving those goals?

BM: "We didn't do a good job achieving all those goals. With the guys we have coming back next year we did get better, but we have some deficient areas. That's where we hope some of the new guys coming in can help us quickly. We have a lot of work to do, and we'll know how good we are after the summer. How much we get done this summer will determine how good of a football team we'll have."

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