Q&A with Coach Rich Olson

Featuring an inexperienced group of quarterbacks and a one of the most talented wide receivers units in the league, the Sun Devil offense certainly has its contrasts. We caught up with Coach Olson to get his assessment of Arizona State's offense just days before the start of the 2009 campaign.

DevilsDigest: Coach, with fall camp in the books and the season opener fast approaching how would you assess the offense?

Rich Olson: "We are further ahead than we were at this point last year. We have to get some cohesiveness in the offensive line. We had some injuries in the pre-season and we just have to get those guys back so we can get back some continuity."

DD: How do you feel the overall offensive scheme has changed since last year?

RO: "It's a little more three wides and we're in the shotgun more than we were last year. But the basic running and passing game schemes are the same. It's just a matter of spreading out people more and give our backs an opportunity to find some holes and spread the ball around.

"There's no big adjustment the team needs to go through from last year."

DD: Obviously all eyes now are on Danny Sullivan, getting his first start ever this week. Can you talk about his progress in fall camp?

RO: "He's made tremendous progress. His accuracy is really good. His mobility is where it needs to be. He lost weight. He's not gonna beat you running, but he can make guys miss and run for four, five yards. He's been really smart about what he's doing with the ball. He knows to throw it away when things aren't there and that makes a big difference."

DD: In your experience, when you have someone like Sullivan who is really a newcomer at quarterback if you will, is there more mental preparation he needs to go through compared to physical preparation?

RO: "He's always prepared himself like he would be the starter. When you're the second string you're only one injury away from being the starter. He has always prepared himself mentally to do what he needs to do when the time came. He works hard, he's smart, and he understands our offense."

DD: Talking about injuries, you have to feel bad for a player such as Samson Szakacsy who has really been snake bitten by his elbow injury. How would you rate his limited play in fall camp and what do you think the future holds for him?

RO: "It's frustrating for him to go through a lot of different things since he has been here, and he also had a big injury from his high school days. But he is a tough kid and he knows how to get through it. It's just frustrating that he went through spring ball just fine, and then he had this injury in fall camp. So he had to back up from throwing and from that aspect he just needs to overcome the frustration not being able to do what he wants."

DD: Because of Szakacsy's injury, Brock Osweiler has been thrown into the #2 spot, but maybe he isn't your typical true freshman as far as his development since he's been here since the spring…

RO: "He's made some progress, but he also makes some freshman mistakes. The game is obviously faster than it was for him and he has to adjust to that. He just needs to realize that he needs to manage the game and not do anything spectacular. More than anything just make good decisions."

DD: When I look at the wide receivers groups, it's definitely one of the more gifted here in the Pac-10. Do you believe that even with a new quarterback at the helm the passing game can improve over last year?

RO: "Without a doubt. We already have improved and all the wide receivers are making plays for us. When we get the ball in their hands and give them an opportunity to make a play they do so. The quarterback's job is to put the ball in the hands of the playmakers and let them do what they do."

DD: The tailback position is a crowded bunch of good players, with no one stepping up to the forefront yet. Do you feel that the running game can be improved than last year?

RO: "It's a much simpler scheme than last year, so they can repeat a lot of the runs. A running back runs with his eyes, so they're able to see things over and over again and not needing to adjust to new schemes all the time.

"Dimitri Nance has done extremely well. Cameron Marshall has been doing well. Ryan Bass is coming along. James Morrison and Jarrell Woods are doing well…so we have five, six guys that can make some plays. We have some home run hitters too."

DD: Many people look at the first two games as the push over contests where maybe not much can be learned from the team. However, you can make the argument that these two games are very important because it's an opportunity for the offense to really showcase itself and remove some doubts surrounding it?

RO: "Every game is important and we have a number of players who haven't played under the lights before. We have to find out if it's too big for them or not and I don't think it is. They are tough minded, and we are a more physical team than we were. but until you play it's pretty hard to speculate what the results would be.

"We need to start fast and be consistent and like I said put the ball in the hands of the guys that can make plays."

DD: How much will things change with your move from the sidelines to the booth?

RO: "It's a different feel because you can see things a little better. Coach Erickson will be calling the plays and I will give him as much information as I can, from what I can see from upstairs. It's just a different look, that's all it is."

DD: As the season approaches what do feel are the keys for this offense to play this year to its fullest capability?

RO: "Offensive football is consistency. If you always put yourself in bad situations in early downs it's hard to be successful. If we can't run the ball and end up always in third and long situations we won't be successful. Our success is going to come from our ability to run the football."


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