VIDEO: Washington Defensive Line/Special Teams Coach Jeff Choate Tuesday Briefing - Arizona State Sun Devils

Dawgman.com spoke Tuesday with Washington Defensive Line/Special Teams Coach Jeff Choate, who talked about replacing punter Korey Durkee with Tristan Vizcaino during the Utah game, how close Chico McClatcher is to breaking a big return, the Huskies' tackling issues and what to expect Saturday at Noon when the Huskies travel to Tempe, Ariz. to face Arizona State.

On the decision to play Tristan Vizcaino over Korey Durkee “We want to put our team and every one of our players in the best opportunity to have success and so we just felt like at that particular moment that was the best decision for our team, I think Korey (Durkee) understands that. He had a really good practice today. I know he was out here Sunday working his butt off to make sure he got extra work on the Jugs. You can’t obsess about one play; you have to worry about the next one. That’s when I get nervous with those guys. They have all this time to dwell on that, specialists in particular. That’s all they’re thinking about, the last play. It’s kind of a gut feeling for me, like is this guy past this right now? Can we move forward? In that particular situation I felt it was best to go with Tristan (Vizcaino). I thought he did a quality job. He miss-hit the first one, but heck the Ray Guy Award winner miss-hit one in the exact same spot in the game. There are some tough conditions to kick in, but we’ve got to do a better job of handling those. I tell those guys that has to be our advantage. I can do a better job as a coach. Like I said, from every day on out, every week on out, this is wet ball Wednesday and make sure we do a good job of snap catch and catch everything with those balls.”

 

On if the potential of Korey Durkee not being over the muffed snap was part of the equation in playing Tristan Vizcaino “Some of it had to do with the situation we were punting in. Late in the half, backed up, weather still a factor, and I just felt like Tristan (Vizcano) may not be as pure a punter as Korey (Durkee) is, but he’s got a little edge to him and so I just felt like at that particular moment he was going to give us the best opportunity to operate. And then we went ahead and rolled with him in the second half. I think, like I said, I think it’s been tremendously close. It hasn’t been one of those deals where Korey has been this much ahead of him. And more consistently too. I actually thought about mixing-and-matching them in some games and Korey goes out and has a really productive game, so you’re like ‘no reason to make a change here. I’m going to roll with this guy, just going with the hot hand.’ Really that’s kind of what we’re doing. There are certain things Korey does a little better than Tristan and vice versa, so we just kind of play it by game situation and put these kids in a good situation to be successful. I don’t want to let one play lead to another bad play. You want to try to look a kid in the eye, see where he’s at, and then let’s do what we have to do in that situation.”

 

On how Korey Durkee responded Sunday “Awesome. He had a good day on Sunday. He was great after the game. He understood what we were trying to get done. He’s frustrated and upset with himself, but he’s moved forward and had a great practice today.”

 

On if a situation like a muffed snap makes him look at gloves or towels or if that would break a routine“It’s probably just a little bit of a lack of focus. It’s a good snap. He’s handled a lot worse situations than that really. I think last year’s Arizona State game was one of the worst punting conditions I’ve ever seen. Their first snap it takes a 90-degree turn to the left and he jumps up and makes the catch on that. I think it’s just a lesson for those guys and for us. You cant take anything for granted. You have to bee 100-percent focused on every one of those reps. Really the bigger lesson, heck you see a lot of those scenarios that come up throughout the course of the year, the bigger lesson was don’t try to pick up the ball and make a play; don’t make a bad play worse and that was the thing we hit on Sunday. Let’s learn from this here as a group. It doesn’t matter if you’re the quarterback, you’re the running back, you’re the punter, just get on the ball and let our defense played.”

 

On if the coaching thought on a muffed snap is to just sit on it and not do anything with it “Yeah. You want a good example of why you don’t do that, look at the end of the Michigan-Michigan State game. We actually showed that clip to them. We referenced it when I spoke to the kids on Sunday, like ‘hey, this is a learning opportunity like every single other thing that happens in a football game.’ Just make sure everyone in this room understands that when this situation occurs, let’s cut our losses hear.”

 

On how close he feels Chico McClatcher is to breaking off a huge return “I actually watched our kickoff returns, however many there were last night, just doing a little self scouting making sure we’re on top and I’m just like ‘we don’t get more than one or two deep opportunities per game, but we maximize them.’ We get an explosive return almost every game and then we get the jump-kicks. We get the skies, the squibs, against good teams. Good teams are doing that to us. Stanford is one that, at the time, was leading the PAC-12 in kickoff coverage. We creased them for 43 on one. I think we are close. I really feel like, I said this in the staff meeting the other day, I said ‘we’re so much better blocking this year than we were a year ago.’ John (Ross) did a lot of the things he did on his own. Chico (McClatcher), he’ll break it up in there. I really like that kid. He’s got some moxie and some toughness. I think it’s just we’re always one block away or one cut away and I think we’re close. We’ve just got to try to make that play.”

 

On if the fact that teams avoid kicking deep to his kick return unit is a sign of respect  “I think it’s interesting because stats are so misleading in special teams in particular. I think it’s one of the most ridiculous things in the world. You look at our kickoff return average and we’re middle of the PAC-12 to lower in the PAC-12. But you look at our drive start, and that we’re one of the best in the PAC-12. We’re always plus-30, plus-35 drive start because guys are sky-kicking us and squibbing us. You get that one chance, we’re getting the ball plus-30, plus-35, and so I think there’s some of that backhanded respect type of deal that comes along with that. I also think, looking at it from the other standpoint, like there are certain situations where you have to play to your strengths. If you’re scoring a bunch and the other team’s offense might be not doing that, field position doesn’t become as valuable, so why give them a chance to make a play in the kicking game.”

 

On how much of the tackling struggles he saw along the front four “We missed a couple of tackles in the backfield. I think Vita (Vea) in particular missed a couple. He missed one on the goal line area and then he missed another up in the field. Neither one of those really affected us because it was deep enough in the backfield that the guys rallied and made the plays. I was telling Darren (Gardenhire) today, we were doing this tackling rotation, we’re talking about it and I said ‘hey, you realize that our game isn’t even the same game.’ Because we’re talking about doing a pit tackle and he said ‘coach, we never do this,’ and I said ‘yeah, I know.’ That’s how different playing d-line is than playing in the secondary.  Generally speaking a safety coming into an alley tackle isn’t blocked. He doesn’t have to do anything except for keep his eyes. But, what makes their job that much harder is that that guy’s a really good athlete in space. You have a guy like (Devontae) Booker; I tip my hat to that guy. He was a hard guy to bring down. He was elusive. He broke tackles. I think the quarterback is way underrated as a runner. We said that to our guys all week and he kind of looks like Ichabod Crane out there moving around and then he just makes you look foolish because he’s a way better player than you think he is. I think we have their attention now.”

 

On if Mike Bercovici falls into that same category “In a different way, yeah. He’s not as big a guy. He’s a faster guy, a little bit quicker. Probably the biggest concer this game is those two backs. Those dudes are big guys. Kalen Ballage, we were showing clips and we were talking about tackling and our tackling plan for those guys and said ‘this is basically like Azeem Victor playing tailback, alright.’ You look at the bowling ball and they don’t know who Robert Newhouse is but that’s who this guy reminds me of. And number four (Demario Richard). It’s a big challenge in that regard.”


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