Erickson Eager to Begin 2009 Season

The Sun Devils' Head Coach began his 2009 season weekly press conferences today by talking about how his team preformed in fall practice and his sentiments for the upcoming campaign.

Opening Statement

"Well, obviously the first game is great to get started and to finally play somebody else, other bodies to hit or be hit. We all kind of feel the same way right now, it was a good camp for us, and I really felt that there was a great deal of improvement in a lot of areas. You won't find out until you play but I feel offensively, because of moving people around in the front, developing some depth, I felt our offensive front played pretty well.

"I thought Danny Sullivan had a very good camp, he has really established himself there. Unfortunately, Samson hurt his arm again, it's not the same injury but it is bothering him so in saying that, Brock will not be able to redshirt, so we've got to play him. We have to have two quarterbacks and if Samson keeps going back and forth, we just can't take that chance. And I thought Brock, for being a freshman, did some awfully good things coming in the spring and where he is at right now. He is very talented but like any freshman, he has a lot to learn and obviously he is going to have to learn pretty fast.

"Then defensively, we had a great camp, developed some depth. I'm anxious to watch us play; there has been a lot of hype about our defense, we've got to watch them play here pretty quick and see where they are at. We're very athletic, we've got more speed than we've had, we've been very physical, and so it'll be very exciting to watch them play. The kicking game, which hasn't been talked about very much, obviously with Thomas Weber we probably have one of the better kickers in the country and with Kyle Williams in the punt return area and Omar Bolden who is going to return kickoffs for us we feel like there with our cover teams, with the depth that we've been able to develop, we're young but we have some young depth. What that enables you to do is to put more speed on special teams, so I'm anxious to watch them perform this Saturday night. You have a little bit of an idea where you're at but you never know until you start playing and so like everybody in the country, we're ready to get going.

Q: Coach, can you talk about the fact that you're highly motivated because of what happened last year, do you get that sense from the players that were on the team a year ago?

DE: "If they're not, they should be on this team. To be honest with you, it should be self motivation and we talk about it a lot but it's over with too, that year is over with. You can't talk about it any longer, let's talk about this year but it's been a motivational tool for us and not just now but in the winter conditioning, spring football and so forth, over the summer and camp. We want to prevent that from happening again and we're the only ones who can control that, the coaches and the players, nobody else can control that but us. We have an opportunity to do that by how we perform on the field, it's a long season and I like the work ethic and I like our athletes and how they're preparing themselves. We'll see as time goes on but again that's behind us but it's obviously been a motivation until now."

Q: How many of your freshman do you anticipate making an impact?

DE: "The true freshman, counting Brock who would be a true freshman, probably 5 of 6. If you count redshirt freshmen, we will probably have well over 10 or 11 playing."

Q: Can you talk about Dean DeLeone and the way his story is different in how he has come to ASU and a little bit later in his life and how he has moved up the depth chart and will potentially be a starter?

DE: "Dean is a well known story, he came from a great family and his father was an All-Pro center in the NFL for a lot of years. When Dean came out of high school he didn't know what he wanted to do, he wasn't quite as big as he is now and decided to go into the Coast Guard. He finished there down in Orange County, went to Orange Coast Community College and started playing junior college football. He is very athletic, he is a guy that when we watched him, he jumped out. He was fairly heavily recruited coming out of junior college so he is really going to help us. If there is on attribute, obviously experience is one, but he can run really fast. He fits in pretty well, we're able to move Dexter over to strong end and put him back and forth and he will have a tremendous influence in how we play."

Q: Coach, can you talk about the challenges against you with Idaho State?

DE: "Well, the offensive coordinator who was there last year is not there now but their head coach who I've know for a long time, he's at Central Washington, has been around and it's the Big Sky Conference and they create some problems for you. Number 1, we need to be ready to play. That's the bottom line and hopefully that's a lesson that we learned a year ago, play every week, regardless. We've got to worry about ourselves, us being prepared to play, us coming out and playing hard all the time and dealing with whatever they give us. Offensively they do a variety of things, one back, two back. They like to run the football and they've got an experienced quarterback coming back, a lot of experience in the offensive line.

"Defensively they do a lot of different things. They don't create a lot of blitzes; at least they didn't a year ago. When you go into a first game you don't know, people change, things change, we have a pretty good idea of what they've done in the past but now we're going to have to deal with what they do. As I said, my concern is our football team, not our opponent. Us being ready to play, us going out and playing as well as we can and as hard as we can and see what happens."

Q: The tailback situation, do you feel like it is just going to be resolved by the performance in the first couple games? Is that ultimately what is going to sort that out for you?

DE: "Pretty much. It's fairly even; I wish somebody would just jump right out to be honest with you, and that hasn't quite happened yet. We've got to feel things out and see what happens. Probably four of them are going to play for sure but I don't know which four so we'll see what happens. Obviously Cameron Marshall we're going to let him have a look because he's young and he's got a lot of talent. Dimitri Nance will pay a lot as will Ryan Bass. Jarrell Woods has had a good of fall as anybody and he gives us something. To answer your question, we're going to see how many we play in that game and try to make some decisions. I'd love to get down to where you play two or three guys, any more than that; it's just hard to do."

Q: Do you have a specific milestone that you want to see the team achieve in order to call this season a successful season?

DE: "Our goal every year is to compete for the Pac-10 championship and to go to a bowl game. To me, we would like to prove that last year was a fluke in this program. And we want to go to a bowl game and compete for a Pac-10 championship. It's hard to just to just say we're 5, 7, 8 or 10 games as far as a goal, we just set a goal each week to keep getting better and better and to play for a championship and that's what our goal is now and that is what it will always be here."

Q: Can you talk about Chris McGaha coming back and the difficulties after the injury and the wide receivers in general?

DE: "Well Chris obviously was hurt last year when he had that injury in the spring. You didn't see Chris McGaha last fall at all, he was never healthy. He is healthy now, so you'll see a different player out there. With Chris, he can make a lot of big plays for us, he has proven that in camp he proved it two years ago when he was healthy, so having him is an added bonus for us. We've got some experience, Kyle Williams has played, Kerry Taylor has played, T.J. Simpson is getting better, Gerell Robinson, as we all know, has had a very good camp. It's a good group. We've got 5 or 6 players that can really play. It's probably as well rounded a group, depth wise that I've had in a long time."

Q: You mentioned the excitement for week one, but any more for you because you'll be able to call plays for the first time in a little while?

DE: "Well, not really. It's the same thing, it's exciting. I'm excited to make sure I don't screw it up and I know everybody will let me know if I do but I think that is a little out of context, a little overrated when I say that because it is still play selection by committee. All we've done is kind of change the schematics of where we're at and Rich Olson will be upstairs which will give him a better opportunity to see things.

He and I will talk about play calls and I'll make the final decision but if he sees things up there that he likes then we'll run those. It is all of us working together it isn't just me calling plays myself. I like what we're doing offensively; I like some of the stuff we're doing. Some think it's a spread but it really isn't, we're in a shotgun basically, more than anything else. We're at 3 wides more than we've been but you'll see two tights in a couple different formations but it's still going to be multiple.

"The thing that we're going to do is spread them out. With Danny and his strength we'll probably throw is a little bit more but really it hasn't changed a lot. I really believe we'll be able to run the football better with what we're doing and have a little bit better idea where to go from A to B to C with what we're doing right now which is very good as far as play calling is concerned.

Q: Coach, how comfortable are you in your secondary?

DE: "I feel like our corners have played and they're experienced, Pierre, T.C and Omar. Our safeties haven't played, Clint Floyd has played some. Ryan McFoy has played really more than people think. Keelan Johnson hasn't played a game and physically he might be the most talented I've ever had back there as far as how fast he can run and some of those things so they're going to have to learn on the job. I feel confident in our secondary. I know one thing, playing the secondary is a lot easier when you have a pass rush. A lot of guys become good when that guy is thrown on his back so hopefully we can create that too."

Q: As far as safety goes, have you decided on starters yet?

DE: "Not really. There are a lot of areas we haven't decided yet, that being one of them."

Q: Can you talk about Will Sutton and the fall camp that he had and I assume he is not going to redshirt?

DE: "No, there are some freshmen that aren't and Will is going to play and play a lot. He is in our rotation up from and we're going to try to play defensive linemen as much as we can and rotate them in there. He and Cory Adams will both play, they're not going to redshirt. They'll be in there with Lawrence, and Lawrence is questionable whether he'll play this week or not and Bo Moos will play quite a bit in there and Saia Falahola. So we've got 4 or 5 players that we can play in there but Will has had a very good camp. Of all the freshmen he probably wasn't as heavily recruited as some, he was heavily recruited but he wasn't recruited by SC, which I guess is how you put it. That seems like how you guys judge the stars in the star search that you all have but he is a good football player and we're fortunate to have him."

Q: Dennis there isn't a lot of national buzz around this program based on what happened last season. I know you want to look forward to this year but have you been in this situation before where your program has been below the radar?

DE: "Two years ago when we first came here. Every year I was at Oregon State, every year I was at Washington State. Every year I've been since Miami, and then we were way up there. It's not unusual. When you come off a 5-7 season you shouldn't get much publicity, you really shouldn't. There are a lot of teams that have a lot of people coming back like SC and Oregon and Cal, Arizona, those teams that have a lot of players coming back. Oregon State who has always been underrated and people are starting to recognize what they do year in and year out. It really doesn't faze me at all; we just get ready and go. That's the great thing about playing; you have to win regardless of where you're ranked."

Q: You mentioned Lawrence Guy, are there other people that are questionable for this game?

DE: "You just don't know. Zach Schlink won't play for sure. Tom Njunge is very questionable in the front. Garth Gerhart, I don't know if he'll play, we'll know more as the week goes on. On defensive we're not sure what's going to happen on linebacker, Shelly Lyons and some of the rest of them are pretty much ready to go. We'll have 4 or 5 guys that are questionable, probably won't know until we play."

Q: There is so much talk about the defense. If you win the coin toss in the opening, who are you sending out there the defense or offense?

DE: "Who I am going to send out there? I don't know. It kind of depends on the weather, you know it changes so much around here, the wind and the rain and all that stuff it's pretty hard to make a decision right now. I don't know, I guess we'll all wait and see, it'll be kind of fun that way."

Q: Coach your best teams historically have been driven by the defensive line and linebackers. Having that as one of your biggest strengths this year does that give you more confidence going into a season like this?

DE: "Well we'll see how we play. If we play real well on defense, and I hope we do, it kind of depends on the game. You have to remember we didn't play every game real well last year on defense. We've got to become more consistent than we were a year ago but that's the strength of our team but by no means are we a totally a dominant defense, we've got to prove that on the football field. However, when you do get in that situation it gives you a couple things you can do. Number 1, it gives you a little more of a chance to gamble on offense and so some different things because you know you'll probably get the ball back. Sometimes when you're not playing real well on defense you don't want to give the ball back to often so it works both ways.

"A lot of people say ‘well' you run the ball and the kicking game and run the clock and play great defense', I believe the opposite. If you play great defense you're going to get the ball more which gives you more opportunities to gamble a little more on offense. When I was at Miami that's why we were pretty good on offense. It was 4tt & 1 and we went for it on our own 20, we knew they would be lucky to get a field goal so it kind of, not quite like that, but it does make a difference."

Q: Sullivan hasn't really had a chance to play from the beginning of the game and certainly have the whole game in his hands, can you just talk about what him taking what he has shown in the spring and the fall and making it count in the game?

DE: "It's different. It's a different world, there will be a lot of quarterbacks on Saturday or Thursday, whenever they start playing that have not been on the field yet and its totally different. Playing in a game is different than practice, starting a game is different than practice. Starting a game and understanding that you're going to play and what you're going to do is different than playing USC in the Coliseum as a junior who hadn't played.

To me, in his preparation and where he is at, I'm excited to see him play. He will only get better as he plays. You can only accomplish so much at practice; it's a learning process for him as he starts every game and plays."

Q: Josh Jordan is also in the student senate. What was your reaction when he decided to do that? Do you think that's a good thing that your athletes kind of branch out and do other things in school as well?

DE: "I call him Senator Jordan by the way. I think it's great that our players can get involved with their student bodies and student government. That's what he wants to do in the future, get into politics and if he was a politician I'd feel pretty good about where we're at. I like to see them get involved in things like that and he is pretty excited. He has his opinions on things."

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