Q&A with Coach Eric Yarber

Despite the struggles of 2006, there's much to be excited over the Sun Devils' wideouts. The young players in this unit are coming into their own, and under the guidance of a proven coach they should blossom in a wide receiver-friendly scheme. In this exclusive interview we caught up with ASU's wide receivers' coach to discuss the progress and the health of his players.

DevilsDigest: Coach, let's start by discussing the two wide receivers signed in the 2007 class T.J. Simpson and Kerry Taylor?

Eric Yarber: "T.J. Simpson is a big, athletic fast guy that we think can really stretch the field. We're looking forward to him coming in and having an opportunity to play, as he will give us added speed. Kerry Taylor is a real polished high school receiver. Has great change of direction, good speed, and good hands. He can play both inside and outside, but I think we'll start him outside. He's real eager to go right now."

DD: These two wide receivers were recruited by the former staff. Yet, you're probably content with these players even though you didn't recruit them?

EY: "Even though I didn't recruit them, I was familiar with a lot of the top wide receivers in the west coast, and after I watched film on those guys – they were better than the receivers we recruited at Washington (Yarber was WR's at that school prior to his arrival at ASU). So there was no need to recruit anymore guys. Their film spoke for itself."

DD: Thus far in spring practice, how do you feel the wide receivers are performing as a group?

EY: "They have to get used to my coaching style, but they're progressing very well. We're trying to find added depth. With Mike Jones and Rudy Burgess not being there right now, the depth is limited. Chris McGaha is doing a good job and is solid. The surprise of the spring to me is Kyle Williams, who's doing a good job at the slot position, and I think he'll be pretty good in there. Also, Brandon Smith is doing good things. He missed two practices (due to a concussion), but came back and picked up where he left off."

DD: Granted, last season these receivers were coached by a different staff, but as group they didn't perform well. As the new coach of this unit, does last year's performance give you even more motivation to greatly improve this wide receiver group?

EY: "I know the coach they had last year (Darryl Jackson) was a very good coach. The thing I feel about those receivers watching them on film is that they were young. They were just green. There's no substitute for experience and they didn't have any. Going out early in their career and people wanting them to produce…you just need reps, and reps, and reps and experience. I think they do have a little of experience now, and the more reps they get in practice under our system, the better they're gonna get. Athletically, three or four of them, are exactly what you want."

DD: What is the prognosis of Mike Jones and Rudy Burgess and their availability in the spring?

EY: "Mike has tweaked his back, so I had to limit his reps. He can go full speed a certain amount of time, but he can't go through a whole practice full speed right now. I don't know if Rudy burgess will be back for spring ball, but he will be healthy for the summer. Nate Kimbrough will be healthy for the summer too."

DD: Is Mike Jones still shuttling back and forth between football and baseball?

EY: "Mike is still playing baseball, but I don't think he's making the travel squad. He's just playing the home games."

DD: Does it make it hard on you as a coach, when you have a player in and out practice, like in Jones' case?

EY: "It is kinda hard, but Mike has experience and he's so smart. He picks up things very well, and I think that comes from his quarterback background and his knowledge of the offense. That makes it a little easier on him. If he wasn't smart as he is, it would be more difficult."

DD: When fans think about Coach Erickson's offense, they just salivate over a wide spread offense with big plays made by the receivers, receivers that played under coach like Chad Johnson…how do you see your group performing in this explosive offense?

EY: "They will be the forefront, but before they become explosive in the passing game, they have to do a good job in the run game. Coach Erickson's offenses usually have a 1,000-yard runner, and that runner helps the receivers get open. You're going to see this offense spread the field vertically and horizontally. Like you said, fans should be salivating. When he first started they called him ‘Air Erickson', so people should start salivating over right now."

DD: Brandon Smith has really had a good spring so far. Is it just a matter of a young player who the light bulb finally just went on or maybe it's his athleticism finally coming into play?

EY: "He knows he's gifted athletically. He just needs the experience; learn how to run routes better…the one thing is that he's very eager. He always wants to watch film. He's always asking me ‘Coach, critique me on this, critique me on that…let's watch these pro receivers you coached before. I want to be good…' And he's not the only one talking like that. When you have a group of guys like that it makes it easier for you as a wide receivers coach."

DD: Considering we're almost halfway through spring practice, is this group doing as well as you wanted them to be at this juncture?

EY: "The first unit is doing pretty well, they're ahead of pace and hopefully they'll stay ahead of pace. But they still have a lot to learn and they know that. The fact that they're coachable, they will get better."

DD: Any specific goals you want to accomplish between now and spring game?

EY: "First and foremost I want to play hard, run to the football. I want them to be very involved in the run game. I want them to take on safeties and play with great effort. Secondly, I also want them to be fundamentally sound, be able to run routes with great discipline. Thirdly I want them to make plays. So as we go into spring ball, hopefully they can accomplish all that."

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