Q&A With Coach Bill Miller

Few would disagree that the fate of the 2006 season relies on the performance of the Sun Devil defense. Through out most of the pre-season, this unit has shown improvement from a dismal 2005 campaign, but has it been significant? Devils Digest sat down with ASU's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach to review this side of the ball just days before the season opener.

Devils Digest: Coach, with less than a week before the NAU game how is the defense looking right now?

Bill Miller: "We're not where we need to be yet…were getting closer and I've seen some good things out of them and we'll see next Thursday night."

DD: What are some the obvious improvements you see with the defense compared to last year?

BM: "It starts with run defense, big plays and great turnovers. All those things determine winning and losing football games."

DD: Any concern over the defensive line which has some key injuries?

BM: "We still have some guys hurt; we have to coach the guys we still have out here and they're doing a good job, and were going to go to town with these guys."

DD: Can you still rotate players as many players in and out on the defensive line or does the current thin depth not allow that?

BM: "It's still thin but we're going to play a lot of guys, and when we get back to full strength we're going to rotate."

DD: The linebackers group came into fall camp inexperienced. Have you been pleased with their development?

BM: "I really have. I think every one is going to like these young linebackers and it's going to take time and I think they're developing fine."

DD: Derron Ware had a 180-degree turn from his junior year. Can you talk about how he has established himself as a starter?

BM: "He's really gained confidence of the coaching staff and has made a lot of plays out here and it's all about opportunity."

DD: Gerald Munns is playing anything like you would expect a true freshman to play. How would you assess his performance?

"He's a really focused football player…he's about as locked in as any player I've seen, he's really going to be something in time. It's still a learning process like other true freshman but he's learning and he's going to play a lot."

DD: Garrett Judah seemed to taper off after a strong start at camp. How has he been looking these days?

BM: "Some guys develop at different rates and speeds; he's a guy who will play."

DD: Travis Goethel is another true freshman that has impressed early and often. How would you rate his camp?

BM: "He's had a great camp. He got hurt, missed some days, has a lot of knowledge and effort and makes great plays."

DD: The defensive backfield, especially the safeties, seem well established. How pleased are you with that group?

BM: "We're still looking for some guys, but I think the safety play from Zach (Catanese) and Josh (Barrett) has been pretty consistent, Justin Tryon has had a great camp. We're still unsure of Keno (Walter-White), but were hoping to have great two solid guys out of the cornerbacks."

DD: Can you talk about Rudy Burgess and his contribution at corner?

BM: "When he comes over that's another added dimension…he's such a good football player and when the situation calls for it, he will be ready to do it."

DD: Is last year's performance something you bring out often for motivation or would you rather the players turn the page?

BM: "I think everyone wants to be good, and when you don't play good you become challenged by this. "

DD: Do you believe that with a proven offense and special teams that the fate of the season lays on the defense's performance?

BM: "I've been doing this for 29 years and I haven't entered a year when I think the success depended on the defense."

DD: What else does the defense need to improve on between now and the season opener?

BM: "Well, the things we talked about, a good run defense and we can't give up many big plays and we need to create turnovers."

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