Pre- Season Thoughts

Read what Defensive Coordinator Brent Guy and several other ASU assistant coaches had to say about the prospects of their respective positions for the 2002 season. WR Daryl Lightfoot's thoughts are featured here, as well as OG Tim Fa'aita's.

Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach Brent Guy:

Devils Digest: Coach, the defense had a great spring. Do you see that momentum continuing to Camp T or do you feel it's like starting from scratch again?

Brent Guy: We're gonna continue the momentum we had in the summer, and continue our philosophy of the three "T"s. We have to turn over the Football more, better our tackling, and give a better team effort. We have to realize that not every single guy can make every play in a Football game. But when you get your opportunity, you have to make it count. Those are the things we'll continue to strive for. Our tempo was better in the spring, and as coaches we'll continue to emphasis that."

DD: Would it be fair to say that the race for the two starting linebacker positions is a three-headed race between Bates, Unck, and Amobi?

BG: "Yes it is. We're still developing Ishmael Thrower, and this is a position he hasn't played a lot. Bart Hammit did a lot of good things in the spring, and Jamar Williams is a young guy that was impressive in freshmen practices and will throw his hat in the ring. Obviously, Williams is very much behind the other guys but he will compete. Overall, I'm very pleased with the group of guys I have."

DD: You mentioned Thrower, and he's an interesting prospect. He played defensive end at the JC level, and here he'll play linebacker. Where do you see him fitting in?

BG: "We'll have to personnel a lot of stuff by down and distance. So, you'll see a lot more guys moving in and out. Thrower is definitely one of those guys that will fit into those situations."

DD: The defensive lien on paper looks much improved than last year. Do you think that group will make life easier on the linebackers this season?

BG: "We did lose some experience at the tackle position. That's where we have to move guys around a little bit, and find ways to plug guys in that tackle position. You'll see a lot of movement there, and a lot of guys playing there.

DD: You mentioned how impressed you were with Williams in the newcomer practices. How did Jordan Hill fair?

BG: We've known about Hill many years ago. He'll be a very good player. When we recruited him this year; he said that he's rusty not playing two years. His body weight is up, but it isn't fat. But he isn't that conditioned either, and we'll have to see how his body holds up in camp. He's certainly a mature guy being older, and we're real fortunate to get him.

DD: What does it mean for the defense to have such a player like Terell Suggs?

BG: Everybody knows about his athletic ability. But what's real refreshing is his love for Football. He loves to practice; he's always in a good mood. Having a guy like that is huge for us. He does have a lot of pre-season accolades, but he wants to be a better player. He knows that he has to make bigger plays for us, especially in the Pac-10 games. He accepts the challenge to be good every week, no matter who we play. His strength level and conditioning that he did over the summer should help him a lot…He may be a leader on the field, but off the field I would say that an Al Williams is more of a leader saying the right things in the right situation. He and Mason Unck make players look up to them…Having him drawing attention, allows us to scheme around him. You know he'll occupy one or two players, and that gives you an advantage when you draw your defense.

DD: Do you feel that the defense is gonna play with a chip on its shoulder, after all the criticism it endured last year?

BG: We just want to continue and develop our defense. We're young, and the future is bright. But we know that this season we have to play better than we did a year ago. We have to do that each week, and put ourselves in situations we can win. We have to win the fourth quarter. A lot of games we had to chance to make plays in that quarter and we didn't. If we correct that, I know we'll have a better season.

Quarterbacks Coach Mark Helfrich:

DevilsDigest: Coach, is Chad Christensen the clear-cut #1 quarterback going into Camp T?

Mark Helfrich: "Coming out from spring it was pretty clear-cut that Chad was number one, but all three are competitive and have done a lot to get themselves better."

DD: Does it bother you that some may label Christensen the lesser of three evils?

MH: "There's no question that Chad has a lot to grow and learn. It doesn't matter to us what the perception is, it just matters who's our best quarterback and who gives us the best chance to win. Today that's Chad Christensen. All those guys are gonna get better."

DD: With Christensen being the #1 guy, will he have the majority of the snaps in camp from day one?

MH: "As we start out it will be a little more balanced out, in comparison to a game planning situation. The first 5-6 practices the snaps will be more balanced. We just want to give everybody a chance to compete and see what our second and third string guys can do. You want to give players as much practice repetition before you throw them into the fire."

DD: What were you impressions of Kellen Bradley and Jon Stoner in the newcomer practices?

MH: "Kellen Bradley did some good things. He's very coachable, and makes adjustments when it's explained to him. To be able to do that in his position is huge. At quarterback, if something is wrong, you have to correct it right away and that has to be the end of it. He did that fairly well. What he has to improve on, like any other true freshmen quarterback, is that he has to do everything twice as fast. Jon Stoner is very rusty, and he was frustrated at times."

DD: The success of the quarterback hinges a lot of the play of the running backs and the offensive line – which are at both ends of the spectrum on this team as far as talent. What's are your thoughts on that situation?

MH: "It kinda goes back to the lesser of three evils statement (smile). We are who we are. We have to make things happen with what we have, and we'll do our best to do that. Will there be some stuff that we'll have to slightly change? Sure. We already started planning for that. That's something that we do every year. You'll cater to a very good receiver or an inexperienced quarterback - it's just seasonal adjustments. The beauty of our offense is our diversity."

Safeties Coach Dan Fidler:

DevilsDigest: Coach, looking at your position you must feel good about having a very established group of guys back there.

Dan Fidler: "We had four guys that really separated themselves this spring in Al Williams, Jason Shivers, Riccardo Stewart, and Brett Hudson. They're our key guys and they need to continue and progress in camp, and learn the Nebraska scheme. We also have to develop some depth behind those guys. We have a bunch of guys competing for these spots, and it's just a matter of time how quick they come along. We do need more than four guys to step it up."

DD: With every second-year player who had such a sensational freshman year, like Jason Shivers, there's always the fear of the dreaded "Sophomore Jinx." What can be done in your mind to prevent that slum from happening?

DF: Jason did everything he needed to do from a physical standpoint to get ready for the season. Mentally, we'll do the best we can with him. But bottom line – it's really all up to him. But he's competitive, and he can keep his drive. So I don't see it as being a problem.

DD: What were your impressions of the newcomers at the safety position?

DF: We have two guys that right now we don't plan to redshirt (Matt Fawley and J.W. Lucas), so they will compete. They'll need to first make their mark on special teams. As far as playing at safety, they quicker they learn the quicker they'll be in the mix. Mentally they need to hang in there. Those two along with Hudson are the biggest safeties we have, so they have all the physical tools. They're very strong at 215-220 each. It's just a matter of how they pick up the system mentally.

DD: In the spring did you see enough of the safety position to know that there was much improvement from last year, and can this carry into the season?

DF: Obviously being in the system an extra year helps. We just need to make sure that we have players that can make more plays that affect the outcome of the game, and I think we added this year players like that. With the addition with Brett Hudson will be not only bigger, but also more athletic. We just have to see how we come along.

Running Backs Coach Tom Nordquist

DevilsDigest: When you look at all the positions on offense, it seems like yours is the strongest one out them all. Do you agree?

Tom Norquist: I don't know about that (smile). We'll find out shortly how this offense will develop. I proud of how hard the guys worked out in the summer, but there's no telling now what the strength of the offense is. I'm excited that we have the best fullback around, and we got a good stable of running backs. I'm excited to see what they can do. Fall camp will determine a lot of things.

DD: It looks to be a heated competition between Mike Williams and Hakim Hill. Are you anxious to see how that race will shake out in Camp T?

TN: Yes, I am. I just hope they both stay healthy, as well as all the players. Both of them are trying to be the guy…Hakim hasn't played yet, so he has a lot to learn. I'm sure he'll give his best and we'll take it from there.

DD: With a pretty shaky offensive line, how do you think that will impact the running game?

TN: Our guys have to take care of their job first. They can't worry about anyone else, and I can't either. When a linebacker blitzes, we have to pick it up…We have to see the holes when they open…It's up to us to get the job done. We have quality coaches here, and they'll take care of business just fine.

DD: What were your impressions of your position in the newcomers practice?

TN: I liked what Randy has been doing so far. He seems knowledgeable in the game. He has some good toughness and competitiveness. It's only been only four practices, and only 35 guys in practice. We'll see how it goes in Tontozona. Loren Wade has been unfortunately hampered by injury, so I really haven't been able to see what he's able to do.

DD: As the recruiting coordinator and the coach in charge of the Phoenix area recruiting, you have done a good job keeping the local talent close to home. How much emphasis do you put on recruiting well in your back yard?

TN: Being the state school, you have to make sure that you take care of your hometown. I've been recruiting here for nine years now, and I know there's a lot quality Football players here. The rate the valley is growing these days, the number of quality players will grow even more. We'll continue and make sure that they don't leave home, and become Sun Devils.

DD: Are your first two years here at ASU indicative of what you want to do recruiting wise – concentrate as much as you can on Arizona, and only then try to recruit out of state?

TN: We're always gonna focus on the home state first, and try to get all the local talent we can. But it's not a one-man show or one state deal. We have a great staff of coaches which recruit all over the country, and I'm proud of all the fine work they do… You're never gonna get every home state player you want. All you can do is show them how much they're wanted. That's all you ask for. So we're doing a good job in and outside of Arizona, and I know they'll keep our success in recruiting going.

Offensive Line Coach Jeff Grimes

DevilsDigest: I'll start with the obvious questions – should we be worried about the offensive line?

Jeff Grimes: Anytime you lose four guys to the NFL draft there's obviously cause for concern. But I have a great deal of confidence in the young guys that will be replacing them. I don't know yet who'll be replacing whom, and I look forward to the competition for positions. You always want competition, because that's better than a guy winning a job by default.

DD: Did you see encouraging sings in the spring that this young and inexperience group was being cohesive and building much needed chemistry?

JG: I hope so. The task is always difficult to bring guys together from such different backgrounds and classifications. But I did see some encouraging signs of unity in the spring. Right now we DEFINITELY have more unity than we did last year. We don't have any seniors, so there's not much difference between the older and younger guys. The freshmen that came in are already blending nicely with the group. I feel good about our chances coming together as a unit.

DD: Regis Crawford is the elder statesman of this group. Has he shown the leadership skills that you would expect from someone in his status?

JG: He really has. He has a done a great job leading by example and working hard, doing the extra things. He pulls the younger guys with him with his work ethic. Maybe it doesn't show up in the public eye as much, but he's a guy that puts a lot pressure on other guys to work hard. He had an unbelievable summer in the conditioning program. Drew Hodgdon is another guy that worked his tail off, and brought some guys with him. So, that's what you look for – two or three guys like Regis and Drew that work hard and bring others along.

DD: When you recruit a JC player like Louis Areyan you expect him to play right away. The fact that he wasn't here for the summer workouts and even the freshmen practices – how much will that set him back?

JG: I have no way of knowing how much he will be set back until I see him in practice. Obviously, it will hurt him coming in late. Anybody who starts in the fall starts with his back against the wall. There's gonna be a huge difference between him and Tim Fa'aita who's a JC guy that came here in the spring. A guy that comes in right now has a lot of ground to cover in three weeks to get ready for a game.

DD: Are you pleased from what you saw at the newcomers practice?

JG: I'm very pleased. All of our freshmen are big guys that can move very well. Some of them aren't in shape, so once they're in shape you really can see what they can do. In those practices they were going against other freshmen, so until you get them in with the big dogs you won't know how good they are. But I'm very pleased with their effort and their attitude. They all exhibit some toughness.

Wide Receiver Daryl Lightfoot:

Devils Digest: Daryl, a lot of question marks surrounding the #2 wide receiver spot, and your name always pops up as a candidate. What's your take on the situation?

Daryl Lightfoot: "I'm just gonna camp and practice hard like I did last year. I feel I'm ready to step up and grab that spot. It's basically me and Taplin battling for one spot (Matt Miller backs up Shaun McDonald). If he beats me out over the summer, than he beats me out. But I'm not going into camp thinking that he is. He's gonna have to work hard to beat me out. The competition will only make us both better.

DD: Where are you most comfortable now on special teams?

DL: "I'm comfortable any place on the Football field. I just want to help the team, because last year I wasn't able to do much. I just want the ball in my hands, just like everyone else (smile). Coach Osborne is gonna give everybody an equal shot. I just have to eliminate the mistakes I had last year on special teams, and do a better job catching the ball on punt returns."

DD: A lot of fans wonder how you survived all the troubles you had last year – your mom and grandpa passing away, the constant injuries, and all this in your first year at ASU. How did you get through all of this?

DL: "I had a lot of support from Coach Koetter and the other coaches. When you have all that support it's easier to deal with that. I did have my struggles, and I did mess up some off-season stuff – just because my mind wasn't on Football all the time. Some of the coaches understood it, and some I don't know if they did. It's hard losing your Mom and Grandpa, I come to ASU highly touted from high school and I get all these injuries. It just wasn't a good year for me… I'm just hoping that all the bad stuff that could happen to me in four years at ASU happened last year. So, the next three years should be smooth for me. But I want to put all that in the past. I went to my Mom's gravesite and talked to her. She's ready for me to go to Camp, and I'm ready to go too. I take it one day at a time. I play every down like it's my last play, because you never know if you'll get injured and never play gain. So, I'm just gonna enjoy everything. "

DD: With all the injuries you had last year, do you feel you're coming in more durable?

DL: "I missed some workouts, and I could be coming in better shape. But I feel that I'm prepared for the season. "

Offensive Guard Tim Fa'aita:

DevilsDigest: Tim, everybody talks about the young and inexperienced offensive line. Are you sick of hearing that talk?

Tim Fa'aita: "Yeah I am. It's just like anything else; you have to come together as a team. A lot of people doubting us because we're young and inexperienced, but it's how you prepare for it. If we practice and play hard, we'll be fine.

DD: Do you personally get motivated by people that say that ASU has no chance against Nebraska because of is offensive line?

TF: "That's one thing that really pushes me. When I went back home, people come up to me and say: You're playing Nebraska your first game? They talk like they don't have faith. I know what we're doing here, and as long as we believe in the same goals, we'll make it happen.

DD: Chemistry and cohesiveness are so important to an offensive line. Being that they're so many faces here, do you think all of you feel comfortable with each other?

TF: "We're working on it. Spring brought us together. All of us we're working hard in the summer. Now we just want to continue that at camp T and erase everybody's doubts from their minds."

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