Carpenter At Ease and For a Good Reason

As the Sun Devils prepare for the 2007 campaign, there are some concerns on offense. Sluggish scrimmages, injuries, and the natural learning curve of a new system have all taken place in the last two weeks. Yet, you find quarterback Rudy Carpenter anything but nervous. He's a year older and year smarter, and is getting guidance from a very capable and experienced staff.

"I love Coach Erickson and he helps me out a lot," said Rudy Carpenter. "He makes me feel good about things. Sometimes I get real irritated after scrimmages, because I wanna be so good all the time and he'll be saying ‘we're fine. I've been around this game a long time. You see my rings? I'm telling you, it's OK.' So I believe him and it makes me sleep better at night… Coach Erickson has been so good for our program and myself so far."

When he talks about the upcoming season, Carpenter's anxiety takes back seat to the excitement and the anticipation that many Sun Devil followers share over the beginning of the Dennis Erickson era. "I'm interested to see how he is in a game setting. It's all new and we'll be feeling each other out," Carpenter explained. "That's why these first couple of games are very important. We're lucky that we got the schedule we did, because it's gonna make it a little easier being at home, feeling each other out."

"Those are some important things when you play my position. You and the head coach have to be one in the same. I'm interested to see how that goes, and I'm also excited because he's such a great coach."

Dennis Erickson's pedigree speaks for itself. His resume is so impressive, that all Carpenter needs to do is to survey his coach's surroundings, to realize that he's been tutored by one of the best in the business and have blind trust in his skipper. "The credibility is so huge. You walk into his office and he has national championship posters, pictures and rings," said Carpenter, "he played in every BCS game except the Rose Bowl. You know for a fact that he knows how to get there and I tend to believe everything he says. Whatever he tells me, whether I think it's right or wrong, I believe because he's been there. It's easier for me because I just have to listen to him, and not worry what I think."

For the first time since Carpenter has been at ASU, his Offensive coordinator will be with him on sidelines (Coach Dan Cozzetto will be the offensive coach in the booth, while Craig Bray will represent the defense). Carpenter is very content having Coach Rich Olson on the same side of the field with him.

"It's gonna be different. It will be good…we've only been in this offense for a few months and we haven't played in a game yet," Carpenter remarked. "I'm gonna need some help, them telling me what I need to do on certain plays. Having him down there, he'll be able to see things like I'm seeing it and answer my questions during the game. I think it's also gonna allow me to get a good feel for the tempo of the game, so we can get in good play-calling rhythms."

Carpenter quipped and said that he will always blame Olson when a bad play takes place and pointing to him on the sidelines. "He didn't like that too much," said Carpenter with a smile.

All the regulars at practice have seen this offense shine in most practices, and do almost a 180 degree turn for eth worse come scrimmage time. Carpenter realizes that they're some negating circumstances that need to be accounted for. "I think when we see a new team and somebody else that doesn't know all of our stuff, we'll be real successful," he stated. "We've had a good practice today (Thursday) and we're getting better on offense. I'm anxious for September 1st – I think we'll be ready to go."

"It's so hard to judge yourself when you're going against your own team. We know what we're doing, we know what they're doing…it's hard…the defense should always win these (scrimmages). For me, I just felt I made a couple of mistakes last night (in Wednesday's scrimmage) that I don't wanna make in games. We came out sharp today. We need to go against a new team and see somebody else other than our defense."

Carpenter does feel that the timing has improved, which is important in a new three-step drop scheme that features many routes and combinations that are new to the players. On that note, it's important to have the full compliment of receivers to learn the new system, and with injuries at the position the process of grasping the new scheme can be slowed down. Carpenter is optimistic despite the health of some of his potential passing game targets.

"My arm is sore, and if my arm is sore their (the WR's) legs must be tired, and the bodies must be fatigued. I understand that's part of the things that go on during camp," he said. "We've been doing so good in practice. It's just those game (i.e. scrimmage) situations…once all those guys get rested and get their bodies healthy. We're gonna be fine."

One reason for the Sun Devil signal caller's optimism, is the play of Kyle Williams as a slot receiver – something the ASU offense hasn't had in a while. "Kyle can turn a short passing play, into a huge play. We're gonna have to get Kyle the ball and find ways to get him the ball," Carpenter commented. "I think right now Kyle is overloaded playing so many spots, a little tired…Kyle in the slot will make it a little bit easier on me - throwing for a short route and he has the potential to go 70 (yards). We've hadn't had that in a long time. That's where Kyle will make the biggest impact on our team."

Speaking of offensive impact, all players probably pale in comparison to running back Ryan Torain. In Wednesday's scrimmage, he reminded those in attendance of his ball-carrying prowess, as he ripped off a 54-yard touchdown run bouncing off tacklers and displaying impressive speed in the open field. There's no reason for Carpenter to be les excited about that play, as he would over a long completed pas downfield.

"I'm excited when Ryan hits those big plays. That's easy for me. That's easy for our whole team," said Carpenter. "I'm happy for every play that's successful. I just wanna win games, that's all I really care about. Ryan is going be a big part of us winning games this year. Our running game is great. Our passing game has potential to be really great, we just gotta find it. I think we're doing that slowly. Our passing game will be one of those things where it's just gonna get better through out the year."

Torain and his running backs' abilities, will likely have the maroon and gold offense staring at seven, eight defenders in the box more often than not. Thus, the challenge on Carpenter and his aerial targets could be magnified. "They (defenses) will try to make me and the wideouts win games, and I think we're capable of doing that," claimed Carpenter. "I love that challenge, but I still think Ryan will be a huge factor in what we do."

In ASU's season opener, the Sun Devils will face San Jose State, sporting a 9-4 record in 2006 which included close loses to Fiesta Bowl champion Boise State and ASU's Pac-10 foe Washington. "You can't take these guys lightly," Carpenter warned. "NAU came in here last year and gave us a challenge. It's College Football and on any given Saturday, anybody can beat anyone. I still think that if we play the way we're capable of playing, that's all that's gonna matter in the end."

One defensive challenge for the ASU offense will be facing Spartan cornerback 6-1 185 Dwight Lowery, who's a returning All-American and on the watch lists for the Bednarik, Nagurski and Lott Trophy awards. "They put him in what we call ‘the field corner' and he'll be matched up one-on-one against our receivers a lot," Carpenter explained. "They trust him a lot to make a lot of plays and be their guy. He had nine interceptions last year so he's obviously a good player."

"We're not gonna treat him any differently. We're gonna have to go at him and try to make plays against him. I think it's gonna be good for our wideouts for the first game to get a test like that. If they have success against a guy like that, they know they'll be successful against anybody."

Confidence and maturation are the traits that Carpenter feels would jump out any one observing him this year, All in all, a natural evaluation for not only a quarterback, but also for a young man. "I learned a lot through last season – a lot of good things and a lot of bad things," said Carpenter. "I just learned that one thing I'm gonna improve myself is my decision making on the field – just throwing ball away, running the ball if I have to, getting down, less turnovers…that's just part of growth and experience. I'm still gonna make mistakes and not be perfect like anybody else. But I will do my best."

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