Hawks Talk: Arizona State Pregame

With the Iowa St. gorilla off of their backs, the Iowa players began preparations for a showdown under the lights with Arizona St. C Brian Ferentz discusses meeting up with former prep teammate Hakim Hill, QB Nathan Chandler talks about ASU's speedy defense, LB Grant Steen compares the Sun Devil offense to USC and WR Calvin Davis prepares for a bigger role in the absence of star Mo Brown.


Q: What part of the field is open with five defensive backs (in the 4-2-5 alignment used by ASU)?

NC: They have five DBs but the way they play them it's almost the same as three linebackers. They just kind of rotate who that third linebacker is based on how we line up. The opening on the field, we don't ever know where that's going to be. They run the same coverages as anybody else, cover 3, cover 2. We expect to see the same spots in those coverages. But when you snap the ball, you just go through a progression. You see which guy opens up and you give him the ball.

Q: Is your running ability becoming a strength?

NC: Yeah, it's definitely something that I have confidence in. If something breaks down, I can do something with my feet. Hopefully, not too many plays break down. But we have great receivers as far as getting open after I start to scramble. As long as I'm behind the line of scrimmage, we can make use of that.

Q: Did you learn anything from Brad last year just how much of an option it can be?

NC: Yeah, his threat to run scared defenses last year. We knew coming into this season that that was an area that we could still exploit. If teams aren't expecting it, that's all the better. That's not something we'll publish a whole lot.

Q: Without Mo, how do things change for you and the offense?

NC: Mo is a great athlete. Any time you lose a guy like that, it hurts you. But I don't think you'll see many changes, really. I think that we have great confidence in the next two guys in line, Ed and Razor. One of those guys will slide over to his spot. We expect them to pick up where he left off.

Q: Is there somebody that can stretch the field in Mo's absence?

NC: Yeah. I think you have to respect those two guys as a defense. Both of them run great routes, and they've got good speed. I don't think that you can sit down and not guard the deep ball on them.

Q: Do you anticipate defenses playing the run even more now that Mo is out?

NC: That might be something that they do. But like I said, we have confidence in those two guys to find holes in the defense.


Q: Your former high school teammate at City High, Hakim Hill, is coming back with ASU. What do you think he's expecting coming back?

BF: Hakim? To be honest with you, Hakim and I played together. We were never close friends in high school. I haven't really spoken to him since our senior year. So I have no clue what he's thinking, besides hoping that they'll win. I'm sure he's preparing hard this week. I'm sure that's a little extra incentive for him too to come home. I'm sure that he wants to play well.

Q: You know his story, the good and the bad. Do you think that it could be tough coming home?

BF: Hakim is a pretty resilient guy. He tends to take things in stride, I guess, as much as he can when you've lived the type of life has has in the media. I think that he has had a hard time just because he was such a...you know when you play high school football in Iowa City, for whatever reason, you become sort of more than you really are as a high school athlete. That was tough for him. But he seemed to handle it pretty well in high school. He's a friendly guy. He's an outgoing guy. And I think people like him. You know, he's made some mistakes. But he's a good guy. I saw the newspapers today. It looks like he's handling it well. This is kind of right up his alley.

Q: Will you say anything to him after the game?

BF: Sure, I'll say hi to him. And I hope he plays well. Not well enough to beat us, but I hope he has a good game.

Q: Nathan has been able to run more than some people expected. Did you expect this?

BF: To be honest with you, when we run those naked plays, no I don't expect it it because usually the tight end is wide open. But on Saturday, that one play, he caught me a little off guard. He's even a little faster than I thought he was. He wasn't doing much dodging and weaving. He just took off down the sideline. I was trying to throw a block, but I couldn't catch up to him. And he punished a few guys on the other end of the field. Nate is definitely a better athlete than I think people give him credit for. There's a reason that he's playing quarterback. You won't see any offensive linemen running like that.

Q: How far along his the cohesiveness of this line?

BF: I think that's been the big question every week. It probably will continue to be. I think it's really improving. I think we make strides every week. Obviously, we're going to have stretches where we're going to be up and down. Some games you're going to run for a lot of yards. Some games you're not. But as an offensive line, I think every week we play together we play a little better together. We had a good test last week as far as any environment. This should be an excellent test this week too.

Q: Coach Ferentz said that you guys might have missed some assignments causing Fred (Russell) to look tentative at times in running against ISU. How often is that happening?

BF: Unfortunately, if we miss an assignment, it's going to show up on film. If we miss, one, two or three, and you're looking at a game where we run 72 plays, in the big scheme of things it's probably not that great of a percentage. But you look at the ones we missed, and I can think of one for sure, Edgar's fumble. And that's a time when we've got to control the ball. That's a critical mistake. That falls squarely on the shoulders of us. A couple of times Carstens came untouched and hit Freddie pretty hard. That's our fault. Nate didn't get sacked, but I think he got pressured once or twice when he hit the ground. We need to stop making mistakes like that. Even if they don't cause fumbles and stuff, we can't have our guys in the ground like that.


Q: Do you see the similarities between ASU and USC?

GS: Yeah. They've got real quick receivers and a high-powered quarterback. He has no trouble getting the ball downfield, that's for sure. Our guys are going to have to be ready to defend the deep ball and our linebackers are going to have to take away the underneath routes.

Q: What did you guys learn from the USC game that you might be able to use on Saturday?

GS: I think that they did a good job of exposing some of our coverage holes. There are plenty of plays where a guy is just a half an inch or so from knocking a ball down, but Carson Palmer is threading it right in there. So, we've got to go back and look at that game and realize what mistakes are there in our coverages and clean those up so that ASU doesn't exploit them.

Q: Are you better equipped to handle a speedy offense this season?

GS: The corners have a lot more experience. Last year, D.J. hadn't really played a whole lot since his freshman year at corner. So, he was kind of rough around the edges. And Antwan was in his first year of starting. So, anytime guys have more experience coming into a game or a season, it's going to make them play a lot faster.


Q: Are you prepared to get on the field and be the man again?

CD: If the opportunity presents itself, I want to go out there and help the team out. I'm just looking forward to getting on the field.

Q: You haven't caught a pass yet. Is that driving you nuts?

CD: I'm itching for that first completion. I just want to get it out of the way, and get comfortable out there.

Q: What are your strengths as a receiver? What are they asking you to do in Mo's absence?

CD: Just go out and make plays just like all of our receivers. Just go out there and when I've got a chance to make a play, make it. To go out there with confidence and just play football.

Q: Have you learned a lot from Mo?

CD: Yeah, all of the older guys help me out. After that redshirt year, I'm still learning. The older guys are just trying to get me ready to get out there and play.

Q: Do you feel like you're ready for this?

CD: I think so. I'm just waiting for the opportunity to get out there and get into the flow of the game.

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