Q&A with Coach Al Simmons

This year ASU's cornerbacks coach is also assuming the title of special teams coach. Yet, his functions in the later title are different than most teams. Simmons talked to the media following Tuesday's practice about his special team duties, as well as some of the cornerbacks, such as Omar Bolden, who've been playing well in fall camp.

Q: Having been here last year (under a different coaching staff) are there things (in special teams) you're trying to build on or change from last year?

A: "We always try to build on last year. I thought Coach Oz (Tom Osborne) did a heck of a job last year. Basically, we're trying to keep it simple, execute, play hard, and get the best guys on the field. We're giving a lot of guys opportunities on the punt team right now…they're some guys that are playing a position right now, but we need to look at the depth chart and see if we need them as a box player or an outside player – in particular a guy like Josh Barrett that we could probably use inside. We'll spend the next 24 hours really zoning in on who the top guys should be."

"We really wanted to start with the punt (team) part of it – it's so critical. There are so many things from the protection, the snap, the get-off time, the kick…and then I want to spend a couple of days on the coverage aspect, and then move on to punt return – Coach Christian will handle that. Coach Cozzetto will handle the kickoff return…Coach Erickson wants everyone to be involved and not to put it on just one guy. Fortunately for me, the two units he gave me I have experience with. The last couple of years in Cal I worked with the kickoff and punt (teams). I'm the primary person in the organization (in terms of special teams), but I'll oversee those two units specifically…so that's our progression – we'll punt return, kickoff return, we'll probably spend a day or two on kickoff before we break Camp T and catch up with some things when we get back here."

Q: For a special teams coach, do you always have to walk that fine line between playing your best players and also protecting the team's starters?

A: "Yes, but I think we're progressing in terms of depth here. We have some good young guys and they'll be decisions made as to who can play and who will redshirt. But we don't have to worry about the travel squad for a while (laughs) because we play the first four games at home. So we'll get to see guys that aren't redshirting get opportunities and show what they can do, particularly if they're not a starter."

Q: Do you put a limit on how many different special teams a starter will be on?

A: "I haven't put any limits on that, but you do have to be careful with some guys…try not to wear them out, especially with guys like Josh. He plays every down hard."

Q: You want to have competition at all positions, but it seems that even at return you got a large number of guys…

A: "I think we do and Coach Yarber will be in charge on who thinks the top guys will be. But I kind of look at this receiver core and I think we got some guys who can do some things with the ball in their hands. Kyle Williams, Rudy Burgess, Chris McGaha is a sure handed guy…and some of these young guys. (Justin) Tryon will be considered more of a kickoff returner."

Q: How important is it for the punt team to have an accomplished punter like Jonathan Johnson back? Is that a good starting point?

A: "Definitely, without question. (snapper) Jason Perkins will be huge for us too. His snap time is really good. So he may not be the best blocker, but he can get the ball off in pretty good time. It's a good twosome to start with. I just need to find the pieces around them, to make a really good unit."

Q: So you got the good news on Omar Bolden (academically qualifying)…

A: "I feel good about that. As much as we wanted to progress his play, at the same time we didn't wanna give him so many reps…and all of the sudden we find out that we can't use him. He's doing some good things. He's still raw, but he has instincts. He plays hard, he's fast…he has a change of direction (skill) that is pretty special. When he gets out of position he can recover. He's got some talent."

Q: With moving Jeremy Payton back to safety because of Troy Nolan's injury – will that speed Bolden's development up even more?

A: "Yes it will. We had to take a look at the safeties and decide if that were to happen in a game or on game week, who's our next best guy? Payton did a very good job in the spring, and so we just decided to go ahead and move him. We have three really good safeties, not to say anything bad about the other guys, and we just move from there. So that (the Payton move) will help Omar."

Q: It looks like Grant Crunkleton is starting to get it a little bit more. Does it seem that way to your too?

A: "He progressed this spring pretty well. His spring was the best since he played since he's been here. The thing about Crunkleton – he has to be so technically sound. He's not a 4.4 (40-yard speed) guy. But he's smart, he's conscientious…whatever you tell him to work on, that's what he'll do. He communicates well, he knows all the calls, he can line up and play outside, play nickel…he's coming along pretty well."

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