Koetter Respects UCF and the Challenges It Brings

In his weekly press conference the ASU Head Coach reviewed the win against Eastern Washington, and previewed the match against Central Florida, a team that the Sun Devils won't dare to take lightly.

Dirk Koetter started by thanking the media for coming out on Labor Day. "We've been laboring since 7:00 this morning watching UCF game film; they gave Penn State quite a scare. Since they've been on the schedule, we've been trying to tell people that these guys are pretty good. They have really good team speed but they did lose nine guys on defense. On offense, their quarterback has a cannon for an arm; they have three receivers who are good. They're going to be a true test for us." According the Koetter, the school's location plays a major role in the type of players it's able to recruit. "Florida is one of the three best high school football states and there's just a zillion players there. If you read their guide, they have several guys that they claim turned down Florida or Florida State offers to go there. Some of them are JC guys who were offered then went to a JC. I would equate it to what our fans say Fresno State does on the West Coast. I'm not trying to label anybody but let me tell you, nobody wants to play Fresno State, and no one is dying to put Central Florida on their schedule I guarantee you."

When asked for specific observations of UCF, Koetter replied: "They do a little of everything. They'll run some conventional two backs, one tight end although that's not their main thing. They sometimes run three wide, sometimes four wide, a lot of shotgun; they'll run the ball out of the shotgun some. Coach Kruczek (UCF's Coach) was the offensive coordinator there before he became the head coach, so they make good on offense. As their team has moved up divisions they've been good on offense every year. The returning quarterback has a really strong arm and he can stand in there and take a hit. A couple of his throws that I saw on TV I was really impressed with so we're going to have to do a good job of putting pressure on him, do a good job of changing coverage so he doesn't think we're just sitting in one thing and we're going to have to cover a little tighter than the other night."

The second year coach labeled the game against Eastern Washington as a no-win situation. "It's pretty much what we expected. Paul Wulff [EWU's coach] told me that they only brought 55 players with them on the trip so, let's face it, they were out manned. We're going to have to play a lot better than we did against Eastern. They had all new starters on offense and a transfer quarterback so they were very basic in their attacks. Central Florida's QB completed something like 70%-75% of his passes for 350 yards against Penn State last week. We're going to have to work on ones versus ones this week in practice to prepare our defense for that and this is going to be much more of a speed game." While Koetter was pleased at the offensive outbursts of his team to start the game, but he didn't appreciate the laid back attitude as the game progressed. "We went out and scored the first four times we had the ball and I was telling our team that I don't think we're a mature enough team right now because when we were up 28-0 some guys were too happy on the sidelines. We don't know how to put people away for four quarters and we really just haven't done it very much."

The play of the ASU's defenders was especially pleasing for the Sun Devils' Head Coach: "Defensively I'm pleased about what was, in essence, a shutout. In two games now our defense has only given up 20 points, but the rest of the team has given up 30 points, which is not good. For the season we're minus two in turnover margin and we'd like to be better than that. As far as takeaways go, R.J. (Oliver) got the interception that set up our second touchdown; we should have had at least two more interceptions. The other thing, on third down-a big point of emphasis for us this season-our defense has only allowed 32% conversions and our offense right now is converting at 44% which is excellent. If we could stay at those two numbers for the season we'll be in good shape."

Dirk Koetter announced that the scout players of the week were Offensive Lineman Zach Krula, Linebacker Jordan Hill (for the second week in a row) and the special teams player of the week was Terry Richardson who will redshirt this year. "As for our game balls this week," Said Koetter, "Greg Pieratt earned one on special teams. He kicked off seven times and had excellent hang time. On one of them he had 4.5 second hang time, kicked it two yards deep in the end zone and when the guy caught the ball we had three guys inside the 15 yard line, so that's where the hang time comes in.…Terrell (Suggs) received our game ball on defense with his three sacks. There were several other guys who played well on defense, Matt Fawley and Riccardo Stewart played well so there were a lot of different ways that the game ball could have gone." The game ball on offense went to Running Back Cornell Canidate. "Cornell went into the Nebraska game as the second tailback but this week he ran as the third tailback. He's one of those guys who the more he plays the better he gets and I thought that he really did a nice job running. He continues to improve as a blocker and receiver as well." Koetter also mentioned that 31 sophomores and freshmen played on Saturday, a fact that "Will all be good for us this year and in the years to come."

When asked if he planned to incorporate more of the long passing game against UCF, following an offensive game plan last Saturday that relied heavily on shorter passes, Koetter couldn't help himself and take playful barbs at the reporter asking the question: "Last year I was an idiot because we threw long every play, this year I'm an idiot because I throw short every play. I don't know what exactly we want here (smile)? Which would you like to see? I haven't started to game plan yet (smile)." He did proceed to say that the offensive game plan is dictated by the opponent's defensive tendencies. "Eastern Washington was a two-deep shell, in essence double covering your wideouts the whole game. We were fortunate to get the tight ends the ball and get Mike Pinkard the ball, and we used the screen more. Central Florida against Penn State was similar to Eastern Washington in how they cover so draw what conclusions you will from that."

The three back rotation employed by the Devils on Saturday worked to perfection. Is this a trend or an aberration? "That's a good question. I think everyone would like to have one back who is the 'do everything' type of guy. Unfortunately we're not there right now and the other night was a good example. Mike Williams was so tired after carrying seven times in a row that we had to put our second back in regardless. It's hard to get the guys in the kind of condition where they're taking those hits that they take as a running back and always be ready to go. The second part of that is that Hakim and Cornell are still learning, because no guy coming out of high school knows how to pass block. For a guy to be an every down back he's got to be a great blocker. Mike Williams is one of the two best blockers on our team at any position. Long-term I'd like to settle on one guy, but I don't know how long we're talking about there." Another position that was extremely pleasing to Koetter is the Tight End and the play of Mike Pinkard. "Mike Pinkard has worked very hard on his game. He's gotten stronger, he's gotten faster, he's gotten more competitive, he's gotten tougher, which he wasn't great in any of those categories a year and a half ago. You know he played d-line and isn't a natural tight end. He's worked very hard on his game and, I think I mentioned after the Nebraska game, that that was the best I had ever seen Mike compete even though he only got the ball thrown to him once. In the Eastern Washington game Mike made two really nice catches and on another time Chad (Christensen) was throwing to Shaun (McDonald) and Mike caught it and it wasn't even tipped. I guess when you become a star you go for all the balls (smile). We need a tight end in our offense and the more he can contribute the more we will use him."

Coming into this season, the defensive line was not expected to be of the stronger unit on defense. Nevertheless, they have played well in this young season. What does the second year coach attribute that to? "I think that one of the keys is that we've been able to play a lot of guys and keep those guys fresh. We played 11 defensive linemen the other night. Terrell [Suggs] played 38 snaps but the two guys that give us versatility on that line are Brian Montesanto and Jimmy Verdon who both played 40 snaps the other night. Now, in our starting group in run downs, we play Brian Montesanto inside at tackle and Jimmy Verdon at the other end. In passing situations we bring in our pass rush groups and put Jimmy and Brian at the tackles and bring in freshman Nick Johnson at the other end. The rotation inside of Khoa Nguyen, Shane Jones, and Phil Howard has really been a big plus and (defensive line coach) Ted Monachino is rotating those guys and keeping them as fresh as he can…So I think the big key is the fact that we've rotated them and kept them fresh and then you have a great player in Terrell. And I think Brian Montesanto has found his spot at defensive tackle."

Koetter was a little less complimentary towards the linemen on the other side of the ball. "To be honest with you, I thought the offensive line played better against Nebraska than against Eastern Washington. A couple of things there, one, Nebraska's front was outstanding and our guys were fired up for that and, let me say this, this is Central Florida's strength, their defensive front. We had a little different style of game plan between the first two games; against Nebraska we tried to help our offensive line a little bit because we were nervous about Nebraska's end so we tried to give him some help. I was real pleased with how the offensive line competed {against Nebraska). Against Eastern I thought we did well in run blocking but I wasn't happy with some of the individual breakdowns we had that hurt us. Maybe that's just a lack of maturity with not being able to put an opponent away. When we got ahead in that game, I wanted to do some different stuff and I wanted to do some stuff with Chad [Christensen] to make him better. Really we didn't do a very good job with that and we had some letdowns on the offensive line that are inexcusable and we're just going to have to learn. The nice thing is that we played 13 offensive lineman in the game where we usually only get to play seven or eight. To play 13 will be a good experience for them, including Chaz White who got 21 snaps as a true freshman. Anytime you start subbing your offensive lineman you start to have breakdowns and we did."

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