Q&A With QB's Coach Mark Helfrich

When the ASU quarterback carousel finally came to a stop, Andrew Walter was the last man standing. His performance over the last two games have earned him a starting job, and the Sun Devils' signal caller position seems to be finally settled for this season. In this exclusive interview Devils Digest talked to the person closest to all the ASU quarterbacks – their coach Mark Helfrich. Coach Helfrich talks about Walter's recent play, and Chad Christensen's state of mind following his demotion.

DevilsDigest: Coach, as fans we sat back and were amazed at Walter's play against San Diego State, especially when his first two throws go for long touchdowns. As his coach were you amazed or maybe even surprised by how quick it took him to make an impact?

Mark Helfrich: "It was impressive. I don't know if I was amazed, maybe surprised is a little closer to reality. I kind of talked to Andrew during the last week trying to keep abreast of his health situation as much as possible, because he had improved to a point where we wanted to see how he would do in a starting role. Unfortunately, that wasn't able to happen. But he was improving enough physically, that we thought he would perhaps be able to play, and obviously he did so very well. I was trying to keep his mind focused that he may go into the game - I told him don't be surprised. As it turned out it worked out great."

DD: It was pretty shocking to see Walter coming cold off the bench, and asked to throw a long bomb on his first play of the game. Was it a situation where the Aztecs defense gave you a look that you weren't able to exploit with Christensen taking snaps?

MH: "Actually, the first play of the game was the same call, and we just missed the throw. Initially, the game plan was designed with Andrew as the starter. So, you kinda have to skew things one way – they're things Andrew does better than Chad and vice versa. So, those plays weren't new that night they just weren't executed. Obviously on Andrew's first two plays they were executed perfectly."

DD: The rap sheet on Andrew the last year or so was that he has all the physical tools in the world, but is lacking on the mental said. Can you be specific as to what mental aspects of his game he was lacking at, and what he did to bridge the gap?

MH: "Let's keep in mind that he's a redshirt sophomore and not a fifth year senior that is just hitting on all cylinders. He's still a young guy, and he came in with expectations that were totally unrealistic. To some extent that happened with Chad too – he's been ordained the man, and for some reason things haven't clicked. And he's a redshirt freshman…I don't think it's so much as an awakening. He's more comfortable in the offense than he has been. He'll continue to improve, and that will happen as time goes by during practices and game situations."

"Andrew has been a better corrector. It may sound odd or elementary, but one of the biggest things that you need to do as a quarterback is never make the same mistake twice. That's hard to do because they're so many scenarios that arise, but he has done a good job so far this year. Now once in a while he'll make bonehead mistakes, like he did in practice yesterday. But he immediately knew what he did. Last year, the realization of - I know why I screwed up - maybe wasn't there. A of quarterbacks usually know what to do and how to do it, but not necessarily why to do it. That's the true thinking of our system, and he's just getting a better understanding of it."

DD: Being able to throw the deep ball may not be the only perquisite for a quarterback in ASU's offense, but it's definitely one of the integral ones. Thus, does the arm strength of Walter give him a better chance of executing game in and game out this offense since its much better than Chad's arm strength?

MH: "Not necessarily. The biggest factor in every passing offense is timing. If you're holding the ball, not throwing the ball in rhythm, and you're late throwing it, then a guy like Shaun McDonald went from being 35 yards downfield to 55 yards downfield in the time that you waited. Chad and all the guys just need to improve on the timing. Now if you have a stronger ram, you can be a little later once in a while. It's not a good thing, but you can make up for it. They have been plenty quarterbacks throughout time in an offense like this, that are good at throwing it quicker, not harder or deeper. You have to have a quick release. In comparison between the two, absolutely Chad has to be able to throw quicker and not later."

DD: Chad's psyche after that San Diego State game is probably a legitimate concern. As someone who spends a lot of time with him, how is he holding up?

MH: "He's fine. He's a redshirt freshman, and he will continue to get better. He's a competitor, and he's more disappointed than anyone out there. He's frustrated as anybody, but in a positive way. He'll battle through this."

DD: Your #3 quarterback Andy Goodenough is an intriguing player, since he may be the best combination of arm strength and mobility out of all three quarterbacks. Can you speak of his progression, and as to the chance that he may move up the depth chart?

MH: "I don't know. As of right now he's still third…He's been bothered by a muscle pull in the back, so he's lingering a little with that. Andy is still combining things from his JC offense to here, and at times it gets a little mixed up. He's still working into the system. He has improved quite a bit, but not to a point where he'll be challenging the other two guys today. Does that mean it won't change during the season? No."

DD: Looking ahead to Stanford, do you anticipate that a strong passing game, like against San Diego State, is vital to beat them, or is balanced attack more appropriate when facing their defense?

MH: "I think anyone's goal is to have balanced attack. Stanford is a good defensive team. They don't have as many starters back, and they did get some wrinkles adjusted between their first and second game. They do some good things on defense, so we have to be able to be balanced."

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