Shells Practice Yields ‘Awesome' Session

It wasn't quite like going at each other wearing full football gear. However, the Sun Devils responded very well to the first 2006 fall practice where the shells were donned and the physical nature was kicked up a few notches. Consequently, head coach Dirk Koetter was extremely pleased with what he saw Sunday night and rewarded his squad for their efforts.

"We had an awesome practice," said Koetter. "Our enthusiasm and our tempo…if we practice that way everyday I'll be a happy camper. That was a good football practice right there. When you practice like that, you don't need to condition at the end. You don't condition a team for punishment, although we have done it at times to drive home a point. We have to be at a certain conditioning level to play. We came to camp in good condition and when you execute at a high level over a course of a two and half hour practice – you don't need to beat them down at the end."

The Sun Devil skipper stated that he doesn't know if there was a correlation between the solid practice and the shells coming on. He was on the other hand hopeful that what transpired in practice is an indication to what kind of team ASU will have this year. "We got a great talk from three former ASU Rose Bowl players – Jim Warren from the 1986 team, Juan Roque and Damien Richardson from the 1996 team," commented Koetter. "The things they talked about are the same things we have been preaching to these guys. You never know what sticks in a team's mind, but I like the way we practiced. Our enthusiasm, competitiveness and speed were outstanding." Koetter especially pointed out the wide receivers group who are off to a fast start and a much better one than the period of time during spring practice.

Due to a stiff back, safety Zach Catanese was held out of contact. "He would be fine if we would be playing today," stated Koetter. "We have a long way to go and we know what that guy can do." A more severe injury was suffered by defensive tackle Martin Tevaseu, who was on crutches by the end of practice. "It happened in a drill where someone fell on his knee,' explained Koetter. "They might have taken an X-Ray of that knee, but I don't know his situation."

In the first fall practice Derron Ware was seen at the linebacker spot, but on Sunday he was at safety. The ASU head coach said that it's too early to read anything into this move, and that the number of linebackers on the team is one reason for this position move, which could be a temporary one. "There are so many things that can change when we start hitting," claimed Koetter. "It will increase tomorrow and more after that. Let's not get ahead of ourselves with those new guys (at linebacker). A couple of them may not learn it, you have the whole redshirt thing…I will say this – Derron could go back to safety if we needed him to. I'm sure he would do that if we asked him to. We need him to help us at special teams at the least. He and Mike Nixon give us versatility."

Much like the wide receivers, Koetter has been greatly satisfied with the play of the team's tailbacks and their attitude. "I love Keegan's attitude," said Koetter. "Keegan is a talker by nature, but I'm proud of the way he is. He has encouraged those guys and is not scared someone will beat him. He talks and compliments them. (volunteer coach) Randy Hill is out there coaching to those guys constantly…I've been impressed with how fast they (the three newcomers) picked things up. You could tell that all three of them are gifted runners. Dimitri Nance…of course those (high school) stats are impressive, but when you see him live – wow! That guy has a great feel for a running back. Wow, can he cut. (Ryan) Torain is a downhill running guy. (Rodney) Glass, his speed and quickness jumps right at you, but I have been pleased how he isn't afraid to hit it in there. I still need to see them do more, see if they can learn their blocking, but I'm really happy with them."

One tailback that is off to a slow start is sophomore Shaun DeWitty, which seems to be more of a personality matter. "The thing about Shaun is that out of the five guys (at tailback) Shaun is the most calculated and reserved guy," explained Koetter. "I thought last year, even though we made the decision to play him, he was hesitant at times to cut it lose. In the spring, I thought you could see him get progressively better each day. I have to say he's off to a slow start. He's a great kid, but he's an analyzer and those other guys are downhill. We saw what he can do in the spring, and he has competition so we can't wait too long."

After a shaky first two practices, punter Jonathan Johnson performed well on Sunday night, and showcased the qualities the team is looking for at this position. "He's a natural two-step punter," stated Koetter. "We like to get the ball off in less than 2.1 seconds, and he was consistently under 2.0 today. The ball comes off his foot with great trajectory. We like to kick it with at least a 4.0 seconds hang time, and he kicked one with a 4.9 hang time. But when we went to 11-on-11 punting, Jesse (Ainsworth) did well and Johnathan shanked one over the fence." Thomas Webber, who intended to go to Michigan State, is a walk-on that is off to a good start and received praise from Koetter as well.

The injuries of Kyle Caldwell have well documented. The defensive end is healthier than ever these days, which is naturally a pleasing sight for Koetter. "He showed me that he could practice three days in a row, and it probably has been two years since that happened," said Koetter. "I'm pleasantly surprised. I'm happy for Kyle because he has had a rough go at it for him. He has unbelievable natural power. He can bend and lift people like nobody's business. He has had some nagging injuries, and he has been his own worst enemy. If there's wood, let's knock on it, because we would all love to have a healthy Kyle Caldwell."

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