Offseason Works Gives Carpenter Comfort

Just when Rudy Carpenter was becoming familiar and comfortable with Dirk Koetter's offense, Koetter's tenure as head coach ended. Carpenter was then back to square one faced with needing to quickly learn a new offense. After a season in Dennis Erickson's system and an offseason of hard work, ASU's senior quarterback feels he finally has found his groove.

"As the game started to slow down for me earlier in my career, we had a coaching change," said Carpenter at his Monday news conference, "I had to get used to a new offense and a new scheme and a whole new set of rules with me and new protections for me, so I wasn't as comfortable as I would have liked to have been last year."

"This year we put in a lot of work during the off season and spring so I have a better grasp of the offense which allows me to make decisions faster. So, it does feel like the game has slowed down for me and I can just pick what I want to do. Hopefully, it keeps working out that way."

On Saturday, it certainly seemed like the game was moving at a snail's pace for Carpenter. In just over a half of play Carpenter went 22-28 for 388 yards and a touchdown pass.

"I thought it was pretty good," said Carpenter of his performance, "Obviously we started off fast, which was, like coach said, our emphasis for this season. I think we have a lot of work to do, but I think it was good overall."

The senior was also the Devils' leading rusher, something he didn't do at all last season. Erickson joked that he was fine with that if Carpenter rushed for over 200 yards per game.

"During the game on Saturday I was presented with a couple of opportunities to run the ball and probably should have ran it a couple more times."

"That was one of the reasons I tried to put on a little weight and get a little bit bigger and in better shape; so I can do that more. I felt like I ran the ball when I was here my freshman and my sophomore years, but last year I didn't do it as much."

A lot of Carpenter's success can naturally be credited to the talented and hard working wide receivers around him.

"I'm very comfortable with all of the guys that we have. Throughout my time here I've spent a lot of time with Mike Jones," explained Carpenter, "We came in here together, so I know Mike very well, but we had other guys too like Kerry Taylor, who had a great game."

"I think that's a tribute to Kerry, because he worked really hard this summer and spent a lot of time with me throwing. I'm happy for Kerry and obviously Chris (McGaha) is very good, whatever they call him, Mr. First Down…I'm glad to have him back since we didn't have him in camp."

The biggest improvement so far has been seen in Mike Jones. Both Erickson and Carpenter agreed that the mental lapses that used to doom Jones are no longer there. Jones, who played only quarterback in high school, has flourished under wide receivers coach Eric Yarber and become a legitimate NFL prospect at wide receiver.

"I think the biggest difference in Mike since he's been here, is obviously he has matured a little more," Carpenter noted. "I think when Mike first got here he hadn't played receiver, so I don't think he really knew how to play the position and he didn't know how to study to get better or even how to be coached to get better at that position."

"Ever since (wide receivers) Coach (Eric) Yarber got here, Mike's growth at that position has been substantial. He's a good player who runs good routes, catches the ball."

Carpenter also credited his success Saturday to his young offensive line. The line allowed ASU's leader to be sacked just once, an improvement from last season.

"I thought those guys did a good job upfront," Carpenter commented. "The reason why I say that is because we have three new guys who had their first start under the lights and I almost expected a couple more mistakes from those guys just because they were new and probably a little nervous."

"All those guys played well though and I was glad to see that. Obviously I think we need to do a better job in the running game."

Probably the biggest adjustment for Carpenter was working with a new center. Saturday was the first game snap he had ever taken that was not from Mike Pollak, who is currently with the Indianapolis Colts.

"Every game I've started prior to Saturday night, I had Mike Pollak, so it's been an adjustment that I had to get used to," Carpenter admitted. "I think Thomas (Altieri) did a good job and I think he will continue to get better. I just keep telling him that he has to be a leader on the offensive line because even though it's his first year starting, he's the center and that's his job."

That inexperienced line will get a taste of their first Pac 10 contest on Saturday when Stanford comes into Sun Devil Stadium; Carpenter was impressed with what he saw from the Cardinal in their win last week over Oregon State.

"I watched that game and it was obviously a good game. I pay attention to defense, so I think defensively they are good," said Carpenter. "They have a lot of guys back and their safety (Bo McNally) is a good player, along with (cornerback) Wopamo Osaisai. I also know they got all their linebackers back, so when I was watching that game I just thought those guys were a very physical group."

Stanford's defense went through some coaching changes from last season, but Carpenter didn't see much difference in their schemes.

"It seemed pretty similar to what they did last year," he noted. "When Oregon State was playing catch up in the second half, they played a lot more three-down defense and started blitzing a whole lot more. I'm under the assumption that we're probably going to get blitzed a lot, so we have to be ready for that."

Carpenter knows that with Pac 10 play looming large, the intensity of practice has to be taken to the next level.

"They play very hard and I think we're going to have to pick up our intensity in practice this week to be ready for the game this Saturday," he said.


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