Q&A with Coach Dan Fidler

The ASU defense has a lot to improve on after a tough 2005 campaign. Going into the new season, some positions on this side of the ball may be a valid cause for concern, but the Sun Devil safeties probably don't fall into that category. Devils Digest caught up with their position coach to get the latest on this group of players.

Devils Digest: Coach, with just a couple of days before the season opener, how are the safeties looking right now?

Dan Fidler: "We're deeper than we have been in the past. We have two standout guys in Josh Barrett and Zach Catanese. It's obviously great that your better players on the team are also your best leaders and hardest workers – it makes my job easy. They set a great example."

"If Josh plays the way he has been practicing, he could be a very special player. Zach as we know is solid, and can do a number of things. He's very versatile and can play dime, nickel and linebacker. He had a great season last year."

"Ryan McFoy – we expected when we recruited him to be really good and he has been a little better than we thought he would be this early. He already has a body of someone who has been here a couple of years with the program. He has good ball skills and I expect great things from him. He's gonna be playing in nickel formations."

"Jeremy Payton is doing a good job and will play in the dime and nickel packages. He's also a versatile player, and someone who has experience from last year and has a better understanding of the defense."

"Rodney Cox was solid in the spring and fall camp, but he got injured and he will be out for this game (NAU). He's another guy that can play different positions."

"Troy Nolan is out for this game too. He's been slowed missing practice time in the spring and in camp. But he did progress well in camp and we do expect him to play this year. Angelo Fobbs-Valentino improved a lot and understands the defense better and is also is in the mix. We really have more quality guys than we ever had. We have great competition in practice and have a lot of interchangeable part in this group. Our two best guys are seniors, but we have a good future."

DD: There's probably no competition among the various units on defense, but do you feel that the safeties group is the best group on defense and thus carry a lot of reasonability in regards to how the defense will play?

DF: "I think Zach and Josh are taking it upon themselves to be the best they can, and will obviously help our defense. But they're a lot of guys that have been playing well. Kyle Caldwell has been unbelievable; Derron Ware has been a lot better…a lot guys have picked up their games. Josh and Zach are leaders on defense and a lot of young players look up to them."

DD: In ASU's scheme there's no traditional strong safety and free safety, but rather a right and left safety. Can you explain the philosophy behind that?

DF: "Both safeties have to do the same exact thing anyway. I think it (the left and right formation) is easier in adjusting to motions and shifts…both Zach and Josh are 230 pounds and have a lot of similar qualities. Josh obviously is lights out in terms of speed. I don't want them to be tied into one thing. We want to take advantage of their strengths and move them around. They've done a great job of learning how to play the position."

DD: You mentioned that the safeties group is the deepest it has ever been since you came to ASU. Does this means that your expectations from this unit are the highest they've ever been since you've been here?

DF: "The expectations of the whole defense are very high. They've been sitting around for almost a year now, listening to everyone tell them how bad they've been nationally. So all of them have a chip on their shoulder and look forward to start the season and show people what they can do."

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