Q&A with Coach Rich Olson

Devils Digest sat down with ASU's Offensive Coordinator and QB's coach to sum up the Sun Devils' performance on this side of the ball in 2008, talk about incoming freshman quarterback Brock Osweiler, get his thoughts on the spread offense, and discuss his expectations of spring practice this month.

DevilsDigest: Coach, let's start with the quarterback who signed in the 2009 recruiting class – Brock Osweiler. There's already a lot of buzz surrounding him and he's already here on campus. What can you tell us about him?

Rich Olson: "For as tall as he is, being 6-7, he extremely athletic. He can run, he can make people miss, he's strong and he's a very smart kid. He was offered a basketball scholarship as a sophomore by Gonzaga University, and he decided that football was the direction he wanted to go. We're definitely excited to have him here. "

DD: Some may think that he has a good chance to start as a true freshman, but that can be a tall order for someone at this position. I know you never want to say never, but for that scenario to become reality what does Osweiler need to show you in the off-season?

RO: "That's a little early to comment on. He's been here for only a month or so. There's always that speculation, but I think he has to take some time to learn the offense and that's what it really comes down to. The speed of the game in spring practice will be a heck of a lot different for him than it was in high school. "

"He's spending time studying the offense. We're not aloud to work with him (before spring practice) but he's out there twice a week throwing on his own with receivers, backs and tight ends so he's able to work on his rhythm and timing."

DD: Whether it's far fetched or not, one of the reasons Osweiler's name is being brought up as a possible starter is because of the wide open quarterback race. What are your thoughts about this much anticipated position battle?

RO: "Competition is good for every position, especially the quarterback position. It's Danny Sullivan's to lose. He's been here the longest and he's earned the right to be the starter in spring practice. So it will be a matter of what he does and comparing it to what the others do. But like I said competition is what makes you better, and you can't stay the same. You either get better or get worse.

"This will be a healthy situation for us. For the last two years Rudy Carpenter was our designated guy, and those other kids didn't have a chance to develop. He was in a new system and needed as many reps as possible to learn it, and so did Danny. So the younger guys never really got a chance, but they have been here for a couple of years and the learning curve for them isn't what it used to be. "

DD: Sullivan didn't get many reps last season, even in games that were decided early. Do you feel confident based on his limited playing time that he can make that transition from backup to starter?

RO: "Yes. I think he proved part of that in the Holiday Bowl a year ago when he went late in the game and threw a touchdown pass. Like anything else, there's no substitution for experience so the more reps he gets the better he will be and he'll work on it. That won't be a problem."

DD: Coach Erickson mentioned after the season ended that Samson Szakacsy is still not 100% following his elbow surgery. Is that a concern?

RO: "No, because he's still working on it and getting better every day. His strength is getting better and his motion is getting back to where he's feeling comfortable with it. So is it a concern? Not right now. Until we get through spring practice and he gets to throw a lot of times then we'll be able to assess it better. Right now he's the No. 2 quarterback. "

DD: What did you see from the other two backups Jack Elway and Chasen Stangel?

RO: "Like any new quarterback Jack came in and got a small dose of learning the offense and once he was on the scout team he was really moving away from it, aside from watching it in practice. But he's smart guy and he shouldn't have a problem learning it. Chasen Stangel the same thing. If he works hard at it he has a chance to compete. "

DD: Do you think that the fact the team is going more towards a spread offense this coming season can help with the inexperience at quarterback?

RO: "We're going to first of all evaluate ourselves based on what we did last year, and then look at other things that people are doing and if it will work for us in the realm of the personnel that we have. As you well know, if you are going to totally commit to the spread offense you better have some quarterbacks…because they are exposed all the time. You've seen Oregon quarterbacks get hurt a lot.

"We're going to explore all avenues that can make us better and that includes the spread offense. "

DD: As you look back at the 2008 season and the offense, what do you attribute the offensive struggles to?

RO: "We had no consistency in throwing or running the ball. We had inconsistency at all positions. We didn't make big plays and you have to make them to get opportunities to score. We made a lot of big plays in 2007 and that's why we were able to score more points then. "

DD: The running backs were a fairly experienced group coming into last season. How disappointed were you in the production of this group?

RO: "The whole thing was disappointing, and at times embarrassing. It's not acceptable to the coaches; the players don't accept it and we have to get things going again. "

DD: A significant function of the running game is the offensive line. Not to make excuses but do you feel that a more experienced line next year can help with the rushing attack as well as overall improvement on offense?

RO: "As I said before there's no substitute for experience and getting a year under you belt with the system and having more knowledge in making adjustments will help. So, yes I do expect it to be better. "

DD: As far as the passing game is concerned, do you feel that injuries at wide receiver, specifically to Mike Jones and Chris McGaha, really affected the group?

RO: "It was a problem because throwing the football is about timing and they have to be at practice for you and the quarterback to be on the same page. So them being hurt was an issue. "

DD: Out of all the skill players that either redshirted or got very little reps last season, is there any player you feel that could really make an impact in 2009, maybe even as early as spring practice?

RO: "I think T.J. Simpson and Gerrell Robinson will make an impact. A.J. Pickens, who we redshirted, is an explosive player. They've been doing some stuff on their own and I think the wide receivers group will be a lot better this year in terms of speed. "

DD: Going into spring practice, what are your goals for the offense as a whole?

RO: "Where we failed last year was not being consistent in our ability to run the football or throwing and catching it. So, being consistent is the biggest thing we need to work on in the spring."

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