Q&A with Coach Jamie Christian

Can you blame ASU's running backs coach Jamie Christian feeling like a kid in a candy store? He has the most talented group of players on the squad, which will play in an offense that should only improve on what was a great ground attack last season. Yet there's much more work to be done. In this exclusive Devils Digest interview, we sat down with Christian to talk about his position group.

DevilsDigest: Coach, there's was only one running back signed in the 2007 recruiting class, but the staff seems to be very excited about Jarrell Woods. What can you tell us about him?

Jamie Christian: "We weren't looking to take a running back, but we just couldn't pass him up. He has great explosion, he can run, great hips, great movement…he's someone we couldn't let go of so we grabbed him. We're pretty deep at that position, but he's a special running back."

DD: You mentioned the depth at this position and you certainly have the players to back that statement up. Are the high numbers here something that you will just sort itself out later on?

JC: "You always want depth and you want good players that create competition and make everyone better. So, we're set at the position but if there's another guy we feel should be in the mix – you get him."

DD: You're one of several new assistant caches on the staff, but I have to think that with the players you inherited, your transition here to the program may be smoother than others…

JC: "(Laughs) You would think it would be easier but you still have to coach them. It's actually a situation where you feel you better not screw up. Those guys are supposed to be good, and you have to make sure that they know what they're doing, where they're going, and trying to make them better."

DD: What are your impressions so far in spring practice of the top three backs Ryan Torain, Keegan Herring and Dimitri Nance?

JC: "They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but they're very talented which is more important to me. Just knowing that you can reach back there and get a guy that can make plays, makes you feel a little bit better."

DD: You saw film on Ryan Torain from last season and the phenomenal performance he had. What in your opinion makes him such an effective running back?

JC: "He has great size and strength, but for someone that size he also has great speed, great movement, great footwork, great vision…he can do a lot of good things. He still has some stuff to work on, and once he gets that down he'll be a very tough guy to stop. I'm excited not only to work with the kid but to help make him better, because he wants to learn and that's encouraging to me."

DD: Fans call Torain and Herring - ‘Thunder and Lighting.' So what have you seen from the other part of this tandem?

JC: "Lighting…that kid is extremely explosive and he can make big plays. He has to work on…instead of trying to make the big play all the time, just to hit it up in there even if it isn't for a big play. He's definitely a guy that you can throw in there knowing that he can make a big play at any time."

DD: Dimitri Nance is the youngest of the three backs, but is also not short on talent…

JC: "I'm real impressed with him. He's a natural runner who has a great feel for the position. There's no doubt he'll be competing for playing time with the other two players. He's doing a lot of good things right now. Like I said, having all three guys out there…I have the tools and that's exciting."

DD: One aspect of the running backs that sometimes goes unnoticed is the pass blocking, which would be very important in an explosive Erickson offense. How would you currently rate the unit in that skill?

JC: "Yesterday (Tuesday) was the first time that we saw blitzes in practice that we had to pick up. They did a good job blocking, but I told them that they have to get better at that because we can't just substitute a guy because he's better in pass protect than the others. They all have to pass protect well, and that's something you need to have to be a complete running back. We still have to work on some technique, but they're tough kids that will stick their nose into it and get better."

DD: People often think of this offense as a big play scheme that often stretches the field vertically. But the running game is still just as important in this system…

JC: "No doubt. Coach has had some great running backs in this offense like Ken Simonton and Steven Jackson. The key for the offense is running the ball first and then spreading it out. We obviously have the guys that can run the ball and they'll get a lot of touches…there's no pressure; they just need to go out there and perform. They're doing fine and they'll only get better."

DD: At this point of spring practice, is this group doing as well as you expected them to?

JC: "I think they're doing a great job. We'll see how it goes. Keegan and (Shawn) DeWitty have been out, so the rest are kinda getting worn out because we're giving them a lot of reps. But they've done a heck of job so far."

DD: Any goals you want the group to accomplish by the end of spring practice?

JC: "Just keep getting better running the offense, understanding each other – me as a coach and them as a player. We're still getting to know each other. Them understanding my coaching style, me understanding them as men. That's my main goal, just getting on the same page with them."

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