Q&A with Coach Grady Stretz

No one position on the ASU's football team has received more infusion of talent during the off-season than the defensive line unit. Yet injuries are probably preventing this group for truly showcasing its improvement over the 2005 campaign. Devils Digest talked to the Sun Devils' defensive line coach about this group.

Devils Digest: Coach, with one week remaining before the season opener how is the defensive line looking right now?

Grady Stretz: "We've been making some progress and I'm pleased with the effort. Right now we're just fine tuning some things."

DD: Before the season started, it was a given that health was going to dictate the effectiveness of this defensive line. Unfortunately, there are some linemen hobbled. Has it been a great challenge under these circumstances to try and improve this group?

GS: "That's the nature of the beast coaching this position. It's obviously a real physical and demanding position. Sometimes you have guys that are down and you have to let them recover as quick as they can and keep them in the game mentally, so when they come back they're sharp and ready to go."

DD: Kyle Caldwell has really stood out among this group during fall camp. Can you talk about his play?

GS: "Kyle has done a real nice job at camp. He's playing through some things and has really prepared himself well in the off-season. I've been very pleased with his performance to this point. Now it's time to get out there on Thursday night and continue to do what he has been practicing here on the field."

DD: At other starting defensive end you have Dexter Davis. Some may say that he's in that role by default because of the injuries to Loren Howard and Tranell Morant, but obviously he must be doing a good job on his own in this role?

GS: "Dexter has done well. He's still young and has some developing to do. But he has good athleticism and quickness, and good change of direction. He's a natural athlete. The position is starting to grow on him here and he has an opportunity to play well. He's well-prepared and now it's a matter of going out there and executing."

DD: You probably can make an argument that Michael Marquardt has been the most consistent defensive lineman from the spring until now. Would you agree?

GS: "Maybe so. He's done a nice job and has been pretty steady. He's been consistent and shown he can make plays. He's doing a good job being physical and doing what he's asked to do."

DD: Some feel that Jordan Hill has been on somewhat of a roller coaster in regards to his performance in fall camp…

GS: "I think Jordan has improved a lot. David Smith was our most improved player on defense, but Jordan has done a real nice job. He works hard and puts his heart and soul into this program. He's certainly has continued to develop into a fine defensive tackle since I've been here and I'm pleased with his progress. I think he'll do some nice things this year."

DD: The optimal situation is to always rotate as many defensive linemen as you can in and out of the game. With the injuries on the line right now, is that forcing your hand to probably play the starters for longer stretches of the game than you'd like?

GS: "I'm gonna put out there whoever we need to win the ball game. If I'm gonna rotate, I'll rotate. It doesn't matter who's hurt and who's not. My job is to get these guys ready to play, have the depth that if somebody is down someone else has to step up and get the job done. If I have guys that are in good shape to play a good portion of the game, and they're playing well, then they'll play a good portion of the game. If they're not, then someone else will go in there and get the job done."

DD: Any other players that we didn't mentioned that are standing out on the defensive line right now?

GS: "I think Will Kofe is progressing very well. He has some quickness to him and does a nice job coming off the ball. He brings a little different element that way playing the defensive tackle position. He's cross-trained to play defensive end. He's done a nice job of studying and doing what's asked of him. We talked about David Smith and the nice camp he's been having. Both those have earned playing time and starting or not they have earned those stripes."

DD: How do you approach the performance of the defensive line last year? Do you have the guys play with a chip on their shoulder or do you file that away because you weren't here at that time?

GS: "I put it away. I wasn't here, I've watched film, and I'm excited about this season. Last year is last year and I had nothing to do with it. I think people will be pleased with this group. We have 13 games to play this year and we still have a long ways to go. I could care less about last year, who was coaching…it's a fresh start with a new coach, new players who transferred, a whole different philosophy and different techniques – it will all unfold as the season takes its course."

DD: How has the adjustment being part of the coaching staff for only eight or so months. The fact that you grew up here in the Phoenix must have made this transition a smooth one.

GS: "It's been really good. It's obviously a great coaching staff and with extremely knowledgeable guys. It's been great coming home and it has been a great opportunity and situation for me to be around family and friends that I haven't seen in years. Anytime you have a new job and a new transition there's a lot to it, but that's what we get paid for."

Sun Devil Source Top Stories