Q&A with Coach Greg Burns

The cornerbacks group is one unit on the team that hasn't lost significant contributors from last season. Having said that, their additions from the 2009 recruiting class stand to make their presence known this season. Devils Digest visited with their position coach, Greg Burns, to discuss the state of the ASU cornerbacks group.

DevilsDigest: Coach, let's start by talking about the two new players who join your unit this year…

Greg Burns: LeQuan Lewis – "Ridiculously fast on film and I can't wait to see it on the field. It's unusual to see a guy who's not only fast, but plays fast. These are two different things. He's a guy that can accelerate, decelerate, and chase down players. Like I said, after watching his film we were very much looking forward to see what he's capable of. But besides his speed, he's tough. He plays the position well, he'll put his face into the tackle, and I think he'll help us on special teams. He'll be a punt gunner and a straight line guy in regards to kickoff coverage and kickoff return."

Osahon Irabor - "I think he's a very athletic player that displays good quickness, good speed and to be honest with you a good understanding on how to play the corner position. This is a guy who has played this position for a few years. So he will come in with a little more polished footwork and understanding."

DD: From a cornerbacks perspective, how would you sum up the 2008 season?

GB: "I would rate us a C plus. There are some things we could do a lot better and obviously as a defense we're now in the process of going over the entire last season and seeing where our breakdowns were. I think we improved as the year went on, but at the same time we have to make more plays from the cornerback spot, especially when we had opportunities. And sometimes you have to create those opportunities. ."

DD: Granted, a down year for Omar Bolden wasn't the only reason for the group's performance. Yet, he was obviously a big part of this unit and didn't play as well as he did his freshman year. What do you attribute his decline to?

GB: "When you come in as a freshman, it's usually more along the lines of just using the natural athletic ability and 'go make plays'. Now he understands the position more and doing a lot more learning, and through that process it has slowed him down a little bit. But at the same time, now that he has gained a lot of that knowledge of how to play the cornerback position, it should right back up.

"Yes, he did have a slump there but at the same time he had some plays where he could have made, should have made, and unfortunately he didn't. I still feel good about him and I still think he's capable . He does bring toughness and explosiveness to the position, as well as playmaking ability. But he has to back it up."

DD: Last year, Terell Carr and Pierre Singfield seemed to be in a never-ending battle for the starter opposite Bolden. Can you talk about the performance of those two players?

GB: "Pierre got the nod probably just because he was a little more disciplined, so that's what you saw in the first two, three games. Then we rotated between him and Terell, but the one thing we started to realize about Terell was that with the same amount of plays, if not less, his production was more. So it did come down to who's making plays.

"No disrespect to what Pierre was doing…maybe he didn't get the plays coming his way. But the bottom line there was more production. So when we did switch and put Terell Carr in (as a starter) and see if there was going to be some production early, Terell started doing pretty well. Unfortunately at the same time, Pierre had a little bit of a decline. So the battle became lopsided.

"But this is a new season and they know the rule – no one is a starter. We start from scratch. What I do like is the potential of Josh Jordan having a year under his belt and getting a good feel for what's going on. I like the potential of Deveron Carr and what he can do. Now that's a lot of potential and I'm curious to see what will happen."

DD: You mention all these different players and it does seem on paper like your group will have a lot of depth going into the season, even if some of the players are unproven. Is that your opinion too?

GB: "I love what I have right now, which is more than I had last year. I love the fact that the group will be competitive, because now looking at it before spring ball has started, I feel like there are four, maybe five players, that can battle for a starting position. And you have some unproven players that may just surprise me. But the bottom line is that it's not just two guys and we hope we can find one.

"So the numbers are going up and I also like that the starters can't relax because the competition in the group will make everyone better. Josh Jordan is going to push whoever is in front of him. Pierre is going to push Omar. LeQuan I expect to push whomever, just like Deveron Carr will do. I'm excited to see how far we can go and how many guys improve."

DD: Last season was your first one here in Tempe, and history will probably show that more often that not second-year coaches tend to have their group play better once he and his players had a season to get used to each other and smooth out the transition…

GB: "I would definitely think so. Obviously I was the new guy coming in last year, and I was adjusting to the players and they were adjusting to me. But yes I do believe coming into this year they have a clear understanding of what my expectations are, how you should carry yourself and do what you need to do with regards to team rules and what coach Erickson is asking of his players. So yes, as a group they should understand how I am going to go about my daily routine and getting them where they need to go."

DD: Speaking of expectations, what are you trying to achieve with the cornerbacks in spring practice?

GB: "Creating depth at the position, develop the players, finding out the nickel stuff as far as who's capable playing that position, improve run support and tackling, and attacking the ball in pass coverage situations - we didn't do that as well as I wanted to. Creating turnovers ties into obviously attacking the ball. Those are some of the things we'll be working on in the spring."

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