Fine Conditioning Evident in First Practice

An unseasonably cool evening such as the one on Friday can make a football practice easier on the body. But more than anything else a player's physical training can smooth the transition from an off-season into the first football practice of the season. Following the first fall practice of 2006, Dirk Koetter was very pleased with the fitness of his players as they start preparing for the season.

Our conditioning is right where it should be," said Arizona State Head Coach Dirk Koetter. "The way these guys train year round, and to start off practice like this…we could have a regular practice today. This is sort of anti-climatic from the conditioning level that they're in, because they worked so hard this summer. The way our practice is structured, they're only so many things you can do and they're all hyped up for practice and they can practice in helmets only. You're holding them back more than anything else."

The first few practices can naturally help reduce the proverbial rust that accumulates during a player's down time. Nonetheless, Koetter would like to see his squad hit the ground running from day one, and believes that to some extent this is already taking place. "Because the guys work out and throw the ball in the summer, especially when you have returning quarterbacks…Rudy (Carpenter) and Sam (Keller) both can run the show so much, those guys are like coaches out there," commented Koetter. "They're very impressive. Sometimes you wonder ‘what the heck are we (the coaches) doing here?'

In a 180-degree turn from last year, the whole team started practice together, and later on most of the veterans were excused about 30 minutes from the end of the session, while the newcomers got extra reps and attention from the their respective coaches. "This is the first time we went in this format, where we put the extra work in the end and not in the beginning," explained Koetter. "You have 26 newcomers who didn't get very many turns, and did get some turns in the end. I don't know which way is better, but I thought for those two young quarterbacks anyway, getting to watch all that other stuff and go in the end…in 7-on-7 they completed a lot of passes, more so than they would have normally."

On the injury front, ASU is fairing pretty well. As reported a few days ago, offensive lineman Zach Krula will be out for at least half of the season with an ankle injury, and true freshman defensive lineman Zach Nisulu will redshirt as he rehabs his shoulder.

Linebacker Beau Manutai, is just a couple of days away from practicing, and is just waiting to get cleared. "He had that ankle scoped a couple of times and everything is good," stated Koetter. "Because they had to scope in there twice, he's not quite ready yet." Wide receiver Kyle Williams has had mononucleosis (aka the ‘kissing disease') since the last week of summer school, and will be out two weeks. "We still brought him to camp, because it's important that he goes to the receivers' meetings and learns," said Koetter. "It would be foolish to leave him out and then he has so much to catch up." And how will Williams prevent himself from spreading his illness? "He can't kiss any guys," quipped Koetter. "He needs to keep his lips to himself." Koetter added running back Preston Jones is 100% running in a straight line, but due to an ankle injury, similar to Zach Krula, he has problems cutting.

The five linebackers were the highlight of the 2006 recruiting class, and consequently were all getting into the action early and often on Friday evening. "Everybody is telling us how bad we are – we better get some new guys in there," said Koetter. "We're just really excited about those five guys, and we have to find out what they can do. The other guys had spring football, so we have a pretty good line on what they can do. The wild card is Mike Nixon; he'll be the guy that moves wherever we need him. The other five new guys, we'll lock them into spots as soon as we can, so they don't have to double learn it. We gonna force those guys into action, until they prove that they can or cannot handle it."

The Sun Devil skipper mentioned how all of the scholarship running backs looked sharp on Friday, and that the helmets only practice makes it hard for linemen on both sides of the ball to stand out.

The reps at the quarterback position are equally divided between Keller and Carpenter, and if a discrepancy occurs, it would only happen if a period of practice comes to an end. "(Quarterbacks) Coach Wittke spends half is time on his calculator figuring out those reps," remarked Koetter. "They're dead-even, and they're split between the 1's and 2's." The ASU coach has his eyes on a position battle that doesn't get any mention, and yet is very intriguing. "It's gonna be a good battle for that three (third string quarterback)," he said. "I'm anxious to see it between Brett Boone, Danny Sullivan and Dax Crum. That's gonna be a good battle for three."

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