Leadership Group Indicative of Team Unity

They weren't the deciding factor in Coach Koetter's decision to rename his starting signal caller, yet the overall input of the 16 or so upperclassmen impressed the ASU head coach immensely.

There were many sources of information that Koetter had sought out, before his decision to promote Rudy Carpenter over Sam Keller as the number one quarterback. Aside from the senior leadership player group, the coaching staff and select other individuals had their say. "The leadership group in itself didn't make the decision, I ultimately made the decision," said Koetter. "I'm the one that made the switch. They (leadership group) were mature, thoughtful and thorough in their discussion of the situation. They gave good input as to what was best for our football team. I'd be foolish not to listen to that. I couldn't be prouder of this leadership group and how they handled a difficult situation."

The Sun Devil skipper said that he meets regularly with the leadership program, to discuss various issues impacting the squad. Needless to say that the meeting that took place this past weekend, dealt with matters less mundane than usual. "I've never been more impressed with a group of guys, as I was over the weekend with this leadership group," commented Koetter. "I asked these guys for some input on a very difficult decision and a very delicate manner and their insight was outstanding. Sometimes it hurts to say the things that have to be said in order for a team to move forward. All the leadership classes we have…it proves that these guys are listening."

" It's so easy in today's society to sit back and just hope the right thing happens, instead of trying to make it happen," continued Koetter. "That's why I can sit here and say that I know this team is closer than ever. I know there have been reports that this team is divided down the middle, I don't think this is true at all."

On a personal note, Koetter stated that he took all that has transpired the last few days in stride and acknowledges that it all comes with the territory of coaching college football at this level. "I know I make decisions for the right reasons and that all decisions won't please every person out there," he said. "I know I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I did the right thing for ASU football. That's what I'm supposed to do."

Welcome Back

Tuesday's practice was a productive one according to Koetter, and the squad started forming its scout teams, as they start in earnest preparing for the season opener against Northern Arizona on the 31st of this month. The defense bounced back from a tough scrimmage on Friday, and it's all thanks to one safety that came back from injury. "They got their emotional leader back; Josh Barrett was back tonight – what a difference in the speed of our defense when number 19 is out there," said Koetter. "He really made a lot plays."

Door Left Opened

One player that isn't back, but would be welcome to do so is Sam Keller. All signs are that the former starting quarterback will play elsewhere in 2006, possibly at Nebraska. However, Koetter claimed that if the senior wished to re-join the ranks of the maroon and gold he could do so. "I really hadn't had much contact with Sam or his family," commented Koetter. "There is a way that it can play out, but that's totally up to Sam and his family. I would welcome Sam back under the right circumstances. He hasn't been dismissed from our team and I've given him time to consider his options. The timing of this does stink, and Sam is trying to look at other schools and that's what he should do. If he wants to come back and join us, we'll try to work that out."

A Little Help From my Friends

With Keller's departure, true freshman Danny Sullivan is now Carpenter's back up Koetter said that Sullivan "Looks like a freshman that just got promoted to number two, but was confident that he would do well. He believes that the guidance Carpenter can provide will greatly aid Sullivan in his development. "Rudy is real good in talking to other quarterbacks, just like he is talking to the younger receivers," said Koetter. "Danny will progress at his own pace. We can't rush that any faster. We can cram all the knowledge in his head that we want, but he has to get the practice reps and be able to execute. Danny is throwing the ball really well right now. He's just adjusting to the speed of the game and that will be a process for the entire season."

Cornerback Consistency

Consistency has seemed to elude Keno Walter-White who is one of the more gifted athletes on the team. "If you took his athleticism and combined it with the consistency of (fellow cornerback) Justin Tryon...," said Koetter. "I know he's trying. Coach Simmons has been great for him (Walter-White). If we can get Keno and Chris Baloney to raise their level of consistency to that of Justin Tryon, then we'll be in business at corner. Tryon is a machine right now."

Injury Front

Tight end Brent Miller told Koetter he felt much better following his knee injury suffered last week. He asserted that sitting out several days really made a difference in his health. "He probably won't be able to do much until the end of the week," explained Koetter, "but Brent did so much over the summer and in camp T…we had some guys that haven't practiced much at all this whole all camp."

As mentioned, Barrett was back in practice and made a noticeable impact. Offensive lineman Julius Orieukwu (knee sprain) couldn't go in practice but did look better and his injury wasn't as bad as originally thought. Tight end Brady Conrad (groin) could be back any day. Koetter dispelled the rumors that defensive end Loren Howard was out for the year, and said "Loren suffered a minor setback in his quad injury. I don't expect it to be more than a day or two."

Defensive end Alex Fa'agai is still rehabbing from his ACL injury from last year, and is just working his way into shape now. "Unless we get into a real emergency situation," said Koetter, "Alex will redshirt." Fa'agai will join Martin Tevaseu who injured his knee in camp and true freshmen Zach Nisulu and Jon Hargis to make up a group of four defensive linemen that will redshirt in 2006, but provide a promising future at this position.

Wide receiver Jeff Gray and safety Rodney Cox both have shoulder injuries that make them doubtful for the NAU game. Tight end Dane Guthrie and defensive end Tranell Morant are also doubtful for the season opener. Receivers Mike Jones and Jamaal Lewis were back practicing, yet the thin numbers at wide receiver have kept Rudy Burgess at bay rather than shuttling back and forth for reps at cornerback. "He may go three days on offense, one on defense," said Koetter of Burgess. "We're gonna need him at one point on defense."

Thud is the Word

Tomorrow the team will have its mock game, which will differ from a full blown scrimmage in that it will be in ‘thud' level rather than regular tackling. "We're gonna have our first and second offense, first and second defense, and our scout teams intermingled," explained Koetter. "There are some looks; we want to get a little faster tempo look, so we'll go against ourselves. Some things we'll go against the scouts, because NAU's offense and defense are quite a bit different than our own offense and defense and they're certain looks that have to come off cards. Anytime you go off those cards, it will slow the tempo down." Koetter added that mock game is a dress rehearsal of sorts, and that execution and fine tuning are looked at closely during this session.

Back in the Booth

The defensive coaches, specifically defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Bill Miller and safeties coach Dan Fidler will be in the coaches' booth box on Wednesday, where they'll be all season long as well. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Roy Wittke and running backs coach John Wrenn will represent the offense in the booth on game days, but will be on the sidelines during the mock game. "With the calls going through my headset anyway, I don't need to practice hearing Roy (Wittke) talking in my ear," quipped Koetter.

Calling the Shots

In terms of play calling, a game plan board, as well as a game plan sheet that covers every situation that comes up in a game, is used during each contest. "It's all mathematically figured out," said Koetter. "Read (Baltimore Ravens coach) Brian Billick's book and ours are pretty close to that. We do all that work during the week, so on game day we call it off the sheet. Roy will be calling plays off the sheet and everything goes through my headset. We'd be foolish to not take advantage of my ability to do things that I can see on the field."

Koetter added that every offensive coach has an input into that game plan sheet. Darryl Jackson (wide receivers) is in charge of third downs, John Wrenn (tailbacks) - short yardage, and Brent Myers (offensive line) – run downs.

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