Coaches & Players Eager For Camp Tontozona, Season

A few hours before the Sun Devil were set to go up the hill, Football head coach Dirk Koetter and his players addressed the media.

Coach Koetter:

"We're certainly excited to get started. It's hard to believe that 18 days from now we'll be playing at Lincoln. It's just amazing how fast it's arrived…We're very impressed with our newcomers, and the practices with those guys. From a talent standpoint those group of guys is everything we hope they would be. As always the case, when you bring in 31 guys, a lot of them are still not in shape. That's not allowing them to show all the skills they have. We're real excited about all our linemen. They're all good looking players, and we're excited for them setting the table for the future…I know our returning players will be in great shape. We won't have to spend a lot of time on conditioning with those guys…As far as camp T's schedule: We're allowed by the NCAA 29 practices, not counting Sundays, before our first game. Nobody can fit that many practices in these days, because players can't hold up. No NFL team goes more than two days in a row, practicing twice a day. I knew we could report a day or two earlier, but they were only so many practices we could fit in anyway, and do justice. We have a 15-week schedule if you will with 13 games and two bye weeks. In the long run having tow extra two-a-days won't do us any good. We're trying to maximize the time we do have, so that's why today we're heading to Tontozona, literally throw our bags down get dressed and go practice. Wednesday and Thursday are the first two-a-days, and we practice in shells. Friday we start practicing with pads. The whole format of camp is not only to be fresher for Nebraska, but also for the season. On the days we practice once, we'll still have a one hour walk through…"

"The experience we'll gain from this game (Nebraska) will not only pay dividends this year in conference play, but also in the future because we have such a young team. Opportunities like this don't come often. It's too good of an opportunity to pass up. We took the game for those reasons. I told Gene (Smith) we wanted it, and we got it…The team we have coming back is extremely young. A couple of facts jump right at you: In the two-deep we have 36 players who have at least two years of eligibility. On offense 20 out of 22 players have at least two years of eligibility. All 16 scholarship linemen all have at least two years of eligibility…I can see a scenario where as many as 16-18 underclassmen will be starting against Nebraska."

"We met with our team last night. One thing we're gonna put a much bigger emphasis on are our season long goals, and how we're gonna get there. This goes as a progression starting with winning our non-conference schedule, winning all games at home, beat Arizona, have a winning season, go to a bowl game, be ranked in the top 20 nationally, and be Pac-10 champions. How are we gonna get that done? Two ways, a continuation of spring Football and our three T's – Teamwork, Tackling, and Turnovers. We made nice progress in all those three, but we have to continue to do that. In specific, we'll preach every week winning the turnover battle. We didn't do a good job of that in the past. We need to win the 3rd down battle – converting offensively, and stopping on third down. We have to win the game in the fourth quarter. We had a huge letdown in that area. For example, the Washington game last year. We had a chance to put it away on offense and defense, and we didn't. That's all teams ask for, is a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. All the great teams do that…"

"I do believe that we're moving forward with the program. Sometimes progress is slower than I want and everybody else wants. But we are making progress. We are heading in the right direction. I know that all people have to judge us by is last year, and that's why we were picked ninth in the Pac-10. We'd like to put last year behind us, and move forward."

WR Shaun McDonald:

DevilsDigest: Shaun, some people are worried about who's going to be the #2 receiver lined up next to you. What's your take on this?

Shaun McDonald: "I think we got a lot of capable guys there. I think Justin Taplin looked real nice in the summer, and Skyler Fulton coming back from Baseball looked real nice running his routes. We're gonna have a lot of depth and talent."

DD: The production of your group is very dependent on the play of the quarterback. This year the starting quarterback, whomever he may be, is going to be inexperienced. How do you think that will affect you?

SM: "Whoever will be playing there just has to get the ball in the right spot at the right time. As receivers we just have to worry about catching the ball when it comes our way. We just gotta worry about what we have to do. Coach Koetter and Coach Helfrich are gonna make the decisions, and we just have to go out there and worry about our assignments."

DD: After playing like you did last year, is it a challenge to exceed your performance from 2001?

SM: "Definitely. Coach Osborne came to me at the end of last season, and told me that a lot of players who had a good sophomore season end up not being that productive in their junior year. I'm trying not to fall into that category. I'm one of my worst critics. I'm still thinking about the last two games of the season, where I didn't get 100 yards. I'm still bitter about that…So I'm working hard on my technique and routes. I'm just trying to get better."

DE Terrell Suggs:

DevilsDigest: What are your thoughts about the Nebraska game?

Terrell Suggs: "We're playing against one of the better teams in the nation, and playing Nebraska will show you how much work we still have to do. Everybody's excited about it, and that builds team unity – because we're the only ones that believe that we can beat those guys. We're looking forward to it."

DD: What differences do you see in this year's team?

TS: "I think our character is much better. We're starting to believe in each other, and fight for each other. We're just believing in our team."

DD: Folks say that a loss against Nebraska won't have much impact on the rest of your season. Do you agree?

TS: "A loss won't matter for the world, but it matters for us. A win would be great for us. We haven't thought about it as a game we're gonna lose. We know we're facing all odds, and going into the worst atmosphere ever. But this will build team unity; the only people that believe we can do it are ourselves. Out there on that battlefield – all we have is each other."

DD: Your critics say that you don't play as well against the Pac-10 competition, in comparison to the out of conference teams. Is that criticism fair in your eyes?

TS: "I think it's very fair. I always start out very good, and in the middle of the season I slump, and then at the end of the season I try to pick it up. I prepared myself this summer. I weight trained, I'm heavier, and I'm in the best shape I've ever been in my life. I'm built myself up for this 13-game season, 14 if we go to a bowl."

Chad Christensen:

DevilsDigest: I'm assuming that Camp Tontozona will be a little different this year for you (smile)?

Chad Christensen: "It's a lot different than last year (laughing). Last year we were worried about how well we sing the fight song, and what camp is gonna be like. This year it's a whole different story. But it's a big relief that we have this huge playbook that five stories high (smile), and you feel that you understand the majority of it, if not all of it."

DD: Is the starter's job for you to lose? Are you going in as the #1 quarterback?

CC: As far as I know I'm #1. We're getting ready for Nebraska. All this quarterback controversy is great, but we have to play them in less than three weeks. If we can't get focus on that. We're in trouble."

DD: What do you like about the offensive scheme?

CC: "If there's any opportunity to score we'll take it. When you're a quarterback in that situation where your coaches want you to score at all times, that's a great feeling. There's a lot of pressure on the quarterback to score, and I like that coaches are showing confidence in me to do that."

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