Q&A With Coach Grady Stretz

In this exclusive Devils Digest interview ASU's Recruiting Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach Grady Stretz shared his thoughts about his recruiting philosophy, the upcoming 2011 class, and the spring performance of the Sun Devils' front four.

DevilsDigest: Coach, how would you assess the performance of the defensive line in spring practice?

Grady Stretz: "I've been pleased with the progress made. The guys are passionate about what they are doing and are dialed in this spring on what they need to accomplish individually. We set a lot of time early on to set goals as a unit and things they would like to accomplish within themselves. We let them put their own input in what they wanted to accomplish. I think what they came up with and the chemistry was very exciting and we made great strides heading in the right direction."

DD: This spring the ‘30' (i.e. 3-4) alignment was introduced a couple of weeks ago to the defense. Granted the reps in that scheme were limited but what is your opinion on how your unit preformed when running that system?

GS: "I think it was good to experiment a little with the '30.' It's something that we wanted to be able to get into in the past. We now have the depth, particularly at linebacker, and the speed back there. It gives the defense a different feel and more versatility with some of the pressures we can create, especially in third down situations. I think it worked out well because we have the personnel and the depth up front.

"We laid the foundation and this is something we will continue to work on, and we'll see how much further we can take this as we get into two-a-days in the fall."

DD: You talked about the depth at linebacker being a requirement to run the '30.' From a defensive line perspective what is needed to run this formation effectively?

GS: "You have to have physical defensive ends that can collapse the pocket - we're exploring right now this scheme predominately in passing situations because we are able to bring linebackers from all different directions. When you rush three and play max coverage you have to be able to collapse the pocket and get the quarterback under duress. You also need to be able to play run defense and base defense out of it.

"We certainly feel that we have players that can fill that defensive end role like Lawrence Guy. We definitely feel like we have the personnel for the ‘30' so we are excited about."

DD: You mentioned Guy and he is one player that has had an outstanding career so far. Considering how well he has played in his first two years do you see any signs of him improving even more in 2010?

GS: "I really do. Lawrence Guy has very high aspirations and I have very high expectations for him. He is a young man that has totally bought into everything we have thrown at him. He has become a great leader and technically he has really advanced in the spring. I'm very excited about his future. He has done a lot of the little things that maybe you take for granted at the next level and has really become a very sound technically player for someone who has played just two years.

"In the past he has been able to get away with overpowering people and utilizing his athleticism. Now we are able to combine his power with a lot of finesse. So he has grown a lot this spring."

DD: Shifting now to your new title of recruiting coordinator, how do you view those the duties of that position and what are some the goals you will be trying to achieve year in that capacity year in and year out?

GS: "I think Organization in a huge part of it. As coaches going around recruiting we all have our own responsibilities and accountabilities. As we try to get the best players into our program and evaluate the prospects, we have to get the whole staff involved. That is a key element and something that I'm looking forward to us doing here in the near future.

"So again everything starts with organization and also exploring and seeing what other programs are doing differently from us and just trying to grow and keep a broad perspective of opportunities out there and getting new ideas."

DD: Can you describe some of the new ideas and changes that will be implemented?

GS: "We've got a plan in place and first of all we need to do a good job in film evaluation and get an early start and this is something that our staff has done a tremendous job over the years. We have to get a good hear start with our offers. It just all comes down to seeing the plan through, do a thorough job this spring and also during the season, and just staying on top of these guys and keep attacking with what we have to offer and educating the young men about that. We need to make sure that when they come here for a visit that they realize all the resources that we have and show those players and their families what Arizona State has to offer."

DD: A lot has already been said about how deep the 2011 in-state class is. As not only the recruiting coordinator but also as a coach who is the primary recruiter in Metro Phoenix area, what is your take on that element of this recruiting class?

GS: "It's exciting times for the state of Arizona. You look at the direction the state is going in, the population growth and the talent level that is coming out of here – it just continues to get better. As with every state, you will have some years where there is an overabundance of talented young men and some other years that are leaner.

"There is definitely great in-state talent this year and we have some specific needs and we are also a little bit limited in the number of scholarship available because we have such a large junior class on scholarship. So we have to be extremely selective and we'll start in-state and do obviously everything we can to keep the kids here that fit our system and get us to a championship level."

DD: Would it be fair to say that having a smaller recruiting class makes the overall recruiting efforts harder compared to a year where you can take as many as 25 players for example?

GS: "You just have to be extremely selective and making sure that you get young men that are passionate about the game and that are academically extremely motivated. That is the type of character that we are looking forward to coming into the program and help us win a Pac-10 championship and a national championship."

DD: ASU's annual Junior day is coming up this Saturday. Can you talk about the importance of this event in the overall scheme of recruiting activities that will take place in regards to the 2011 class?

GS: "It's a great time that jump starts everything. It's like an official kickoff for our recruiting class. We're getting in all the young in-state men that we offered and some other players that we are really excited about and are very close to offering. It's a great opportunity to have all these players come here and visit with them, and have them really get to know the coaches and give them a very thorough idea what ASU and the football program has to offer and the direction that we are heading in. We will show them how they can be a key part of our future success."

DD: Can I get your assessment of each of the defensive linemen that signed as part of ASU's 2010 class? Let's start with Lee Adams

GS: "Lee is very explosive and comes from a great program. I have the utmost respect for Corona Centennial High School. I think everybody has a great understanding what kind of players we got from that program. I had some opportunities in the past to see how those young men there practice and the physicality of practices they run and the kind of coaching they are getting. It is also very evident when you watch game film.

"Lee is just a perfect example of that program. They have a ton of talent and he is a very good athlete. He has a high motor and is physical and has a lot of athletic ability."

DD: What can you tell us about Calvin Tonga, who was a late addition to the class and the skills he brings the table?

GS: "Calvin has a lot of upside and we understood this when we started the recruiting process with Calvin that he has some academic work he needs to get done. But he has a lot of upside and is a young man that we project at the nose tackle position. He's a big, physical presence, is very light on his feet and brings quite a bit of athletic ability to the table.

"So we will obviously continue to track him and see how things progress academically. We do feel good about the depth we have in the system, but he was a late addition that we were trying to hopefully get in here and he'll have to take care of business and be accountable. We hope he gives himself that opportunity to join us."

DD: Joita Te'i is one prospect that really flew under the radar. How would you describe his game?

GS: "That's a great question. Joita is a young man that in our opinion was quite overlooked in the recruiting process. As the case with a lot of these young men, once he got a Pac-10 offer then things started rolling and a lot of schools were trying to get him take other official visits right after we offered him.

"We're going to start him out and give him a look at strong end. We certainly know that he can play for us in the future at defensive tackle. He runs around real well and has great work ethic. As with every defensive lineman we recruit, we wouldn't be recruiting him unless he had tremendous athletic ability. We will see where he fits in the best as time unfolds."

DD: As you take a snapshot of the defensive line has your group preformed as well as you expected them to at this point of spring practice and what are some of the aspects you look forward to working on in fall camp as you prepare for the 2010 season?

GS: "As a coach you always have the highest aspirations. I think we have the talent, the depth, the chemistry, and the camaraderie to be an extremely successful unit. Are we ever happy with where we are at? No. But we have made very good strides. These young men have been in the system, at least the core of them, for a good number of years. They are most certainly headed in the right direction.

"This should be an exciting season for us upfront, as well as for the entire defense. We are very excited to get going this summer and we have had a good spring. We have been healthy other than the unfortunate injury that Saia (Falahola) sustained a week and a half ago with his ankle. It's not major but will probably hold him out of Saturday's scrimmage. But they all made a lot of progress, have a great understanding of what we are trying to do as a defense. The defense itself has set some good personal goals as players and I think the defensive line will be a big part of what we do next year."

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