Coach English Backing Up His Corners

At the beginning of the 2002 season, virtually every ASU fan had their concerns over the cornerback position. Lack of depth and experience runs rampant at this position, which causes opposing offensive coordinators to feast early and often on the Sun Devils via the air. Cornerbacks Coach Ron English does acknowledge the deficiencies in his unit, but clearly finds some positives within his unit.

Last Saturday against North Carolina ASU gave up 417 receiving yards. When we asked English to assess the Sun Devil corners in that game he replied: "(R.J.) Oliver played great, and he's been very consistent for us all year. I told the guys when they're graded out that they have to win 7 out of 10 reps in that spot. Oliver is doing that, but the other corner position is winning less than 50%. We make a play and then we give up a play. We need to be more consistent at this position, and we're not helping the team to win." The offensive explosion that is taking place in the Pac-10 each and every week causes extra headaches not only for the Sun Devils' cornerbacks coach, but also to his colleagues in the conference. "With us it's like it was last year when we played Oliver, (Emanuel) Franklin, and (Lamar) Baker. Every time they see something different it's new to them. The tempo at this level is very high. The number of yards that we give up doesn't bother me. It's the type of plays we're giving up when players are in position to make plays and don't make them – that's what bothers me."

Even though ASU is giving up 253 passing yards a game, ranking seventh in the conference, the Sun Devils have managed to win more games than they lose. Thus, would it be fair to label ASU from here on out as a bend-but-not-break defense? "Last week we gave up plays that we're shouldn't have given up, and some were at the safety position. At corner we gave up two plays that you just can't give up at critical junctures of the game. You talk about a true freshman like Mike Davis that gave up a big play that hurt us. Sometimes you just don't understand what you did wrong until you get beat. That's just the nature of the position." One complaint that fans seem to have about cornerbacks in general is that they don't look up when the ball is thrown, but rather focus solely on the receiver, and usually react to him a second too late. We asked English if that tendency is one that exists with the ASU corners. "We have a bunch of picks this year. Oliver has three picks, and a lot of other players have a pick or two (ASU ranks second in the Pac-10 with most picks at 11). We're playing the ball good. That's not the issue right now. It seems that people want to make it an issue every time the ball is passed. There was chance or two where Josh (Golden) should have looked at the ball, and that has to do with comfort level. You can coach it as much as you want, but if the guy doesn't feel confident to do it. He won't."

Another tough test awaits the Sun Devils this week when they host Oregon State. Coach English offered his thoughts on the looming matchup with the Beavers' passing attack. "I played and coached against Erickson's teams. I know they're gonna throw the ball around, and exploit matchups. The team we saw last week (North Carolina) is the type of offense we'll see every week in our league. We have a lot of talented receivers in the Pac-10. My thought is can we get better each week, and can we start making the plays we need to make? We're not gonna make every play, but we need like I said to make 7 out of every 10 plays. Once we start doing that, we'll play a lot better on defense."

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