Quotes From Dirk Koetter's First Press Conference of 2002 Football Season.
Aug. 19, 2002
Dirk Koetter opening statement: 'I want to start off by saying how excited we are to be playing in the Black Coaches Association Classic in Lincoln on Saturday. All the talk that leads up to a game like this, all the build up we've talked many times about, what kind of carry over this game has for your off season program, your winter conditioning, your summer; well it's here. I mean it's game week and it's even more exciting when you get here. There are a couple of things obviously when you get this close to a game like Nebraska that you realize. The most important things and the hardest things to prepare a team for that is different than we're used to is number one the humidity. The reports right now are for around the mid 80's for the temperature as well as mid 80's humidity wise. I'm a little nervous to how our team will react to that, because I was listening to one of the TV stations the other night when the Cardinals played the Packers and they were saying how hot it was for that game at 105. Well we were practicing at the same time and when the sun goes behind the mountain over on our practice fields and you're in the shade 105 doesn't seem that bad to us. I mean our players would say that there's really nothing to that, but that's different than humidity and we just have no way to duplicate that. The second thing is that when you've been practicing for 20 or so practices against your own guys and as we move more and more into Nebraska obliviously you have to start practicing with scout teams. Trying to duplicate Nebraska's offense, running the option which we don't really see from any other team, the speed factor with which we are going to see the option and the fact that Nebraska is probably the best cut blocking team in the country that's been something else that's been very difficult for us to duplicate in practice. We're going to have to adjust to those teams very quickly, but on the positive side I still think, and the staff thinks, that the environment and the experience that this game offers us is too great for us to pass up. We probably won't play in another hostile environment like Lincoln until we travel to Eugene late in the year to play Oregon. The experience factor, if you look on the two deeps if we started today we'd be starting with 5 seniors, 4 on defense and 1 on offense. And really in that two deep I think there's only something like 8 seniors listed in that two deep. There's actually a couple of changes on this two deep that are not correct, but we're just a very young football team and we have a lot of great young talent and I think this game will continue to have a carry over effect for us long after all that money we're making is spent.'
(Question and answer session)
Question: Why is Nebraska's option offense so hard to defend?
Dirk Koetter: 'Well just because the speed in which they do it. If you've ever been to one of our practices or anybody else's, normally you have your freshmen and your red shirt guys emulate the other team and run their offense and defense. There's just no way to copy them because we don't run the option like they do with as many different varieties in the option we just can't run it with the same precision and the same speed that they can. I'm sure their scout team can't give their defense the same look at the passing game the way we're going to give it to them. That's just the way it is and years ago there used to be a lot more teams running the option than there are today. There just are not very many that are totally dominated with the option and we don't even know for that matter, Nebraska's been talking that they were going to throw the ball more this year, but I noticed in their first scrimmage out of 100 snaps they had 78 rushes and 22 passes so I'd say we don't have to look for the run and shoot.'
Question: Nebraska plays on field turf do you think given that fact that there will be a concern from a speed stand point in the game?
Dirk Koetter: 'I think that field turf, from a speed stand point, is about the same as grass because field turf has a lot of give in it. Now we did get those two practices in at that secret practice site where we got to work on field turf and I really can't notice a big speed difference in our practices between field turf and practice in either Tontozona, our fields here or at Sun Devil Stadium. I think Nebraska has excellent team speed, and when I say team speed we're not just talking about their tailbacks, corners, and their wide outs, Nebraska's front four can really go on defense. I think our team speed is better as well, but I don't think the surface is going to have any effect one way or the other except that they are a little more used to it than we are. Getting on it for those two days was great for us and I don't think that will be a big issue.'
Question: How much of Jammal Lord have you been able to see if any?
Dirk Koetter: 'Very little. There's just not very much. That's one thing about Crouch, the Heisman Trophy winner from last year, he took almost every snap and was always in there. When Lord did come in at the end of games they would usually just run the ball. You know all the things that are written about Jammal Lord, what a great athlete he is, he can run and throw, he's a big strong guy. I mean we certainly have to respect that, but we just don't know and that's the hard part.'
Question: Do you expect that this game will tell you more about how hard you worked on tackling with the type of I backs they have?
Dirk Koetter: 'Most definitely. I mean Dahrran Diedrick and Thunder Collins are both strong powerful runners that will test our tackling and they are the type of guys that not only have the speed and can go all the way, but can run through tackles. In our preseason practices we do a lot of tackling drills, many times we quick whistle the drills before the ball carrier goes all the way to the ground. Now we're counting on the fact that after first contact we hope to have a lot more bodies around the ball so that even if those tail backs do break the first tackle that we have other guys around it, but we'll be tested in a big way and probably more so than we'll see from almost every team on our schedule. This could be very easily the best running team we play all year.'
Question: Dirk is seems like a battle will be between your young offensive line and their defensive line how do you feel about the progress of the offensive line in your preseason camp?
Dirk Koetter: 'Well I think we've come a long way and you know I think we're pretty solid in four of the spots. The right tackle spot,there's still a lot going on at right tackle, Adrian Ayala, Damien Niko, and Chaz White are all playing some at right tackle. Chaz, as you know, is a true freshman who played 2A football at St. John's last year. I think all three of those guys are going to get some time. On the other hand Nebraska's defensive line, even though they had a guy go down to a knee injury last week, they still have three guys who have starting experience and they have a lot of depth and those two ends are excellent players. Adams and Kelsay are both excellent ends, so how big of a test will it be? It'll be a huge test and we're going to have to do some things to try and help our offensive line out. We've been working a ton in our practices against our own number one defense as far as how we protect the quarterback and I think that's one area-you know we talk about areas that are tough to duplicate in practice-that is not tough for us because our tackles go against Terrell Suggs everyday. '
Question: Talk about the environment in Lincoln on game day. Is there anything you can do that's special before the game to prepare the team for success?
Dirk Koetter: 'No, I mean that's one of the reasons we're playing a game like this is to try and prepare ourselves for games down the line like in Autzen Stadium in conference play. Now we hardly work against crowd noise in preseason and we're working everyday with our crowd noise tape. We actually got a new speaker system put in over at the practice fields so we could work, not just when we're in Sun Devil Stadium, but when we're on our practice fields. We can work crowd noise everyday, which is obnoxious if you're driving by and hear that, but it is good for us. We work way more against crowd noise than we ever have but 80 plus thousand live bodies wearing red shirts, we can't duplicate that.'
Question: How do you assess Nebraska defensively by looking at their last two games?
Dirk Koetter: 'There has been a lot of talk about those last two games against Colorado and Miami and I have to admit Nebraska got dominated defensively in those two games. Now if you look back on them, Colorado had the best tight end in the country, a first round draft pick, they had one of the best o-lines in the country, they had a great game plan and everything went their way. Miami had how many first round draft picks? A tail back was a first round draft pick, their tight end was a first round draft pick, at least one or two of those offensive linemen were first round draft picks. So let's not forget that those two teams were pretty good that they played and if you look at the rest of Nebraska's games, which we have many times, the [Nebraska defense] dominated those other games. Yes they ended on a down note, I think they're probably going to be out to prove something against us, we just happen to be the first ones up. From reading their preseason clippings it sounds like their defense has dominated their offense. Their offense in their first scrimmage had 100 plays and no touchdowns. So it's safe to say that their defense is going to come out and try to set the tempo early. The other thing is they've talked a lot about playing more zone coverage than they've played in the past. That's something that we have no way of knowing what changes that they made in the offseason. All we have to go on right now is last year's game film so they might come out and play a totally different scheme and we're going to have to be able to adjust on the run. Now do we have some skill guys, do we have some guys who can run, and some weapons? Absolutely, Shaun McDonald, Darryl Lightfoot, Mike Williams, Hakim Hill, Mike Pinkard can really run at tight end. We're gonna put some speed on the field, how we attack them somewhat depends on what adjustments we have to make based on this supposed new scheme they have.'
Question: Are you anticipating them trying to throw everything, but the kitchen sink at Chad in his first game? And that being the case do you try and go to a conservative game plan to gain his confidence like hitches and things?
Dirk Koetter: 'That's hard to say without telling you exactly what we're going to do. The other thing is, you know, I wish we could throw hitches every play, the problem is that in the past Nebraska has been a bump and run team almost exclusively so you don't throw hitches against bump and run. Those hitches all turn into fades against bump and run. That's part of the give and take that we're going to have to find out. Now I personally expect Nebraska to go to a lot more zone blitzing than they did last year. As I said before, in the past they've been a 4-3 man-to-man bump and run team, that's their m.o. I think we're going to see some changes, I think we're going to see some more zone blitz. I think they will try to confuse Chad and give him some different looks. It will be great for us to say yes, let's keep it simple and gain some confidence for Chad, but I don't know if Nebraska is going to make that possible for us. We're going to have to figure out what they're doing, make our adjustments, and try to attack them in their week spots because now what they're doing, they'll be doing some things that will be tough on us. But there are going to be some things that we can do that will be tough on them too. That's the whole chess match right there of the first game of the season no matter who you play.'
Question: Talk about your time at Missouri against Nebraska.
Dirk Koetter: 'I always kid people and say Nebraska has the politest fans in the world. They kick your butt and then stand up and give you an ovation as you leave the field. If you look at their home record over the years they're good at doing that. The time I was at Missouri we could never stop their option. One year we played them in Columbia and we threw, at the time, the first or second or third most yards against them and we lost a close game like 35-31 or something like that when they had Tommie Frazier and he jumped over a bunch of guys over the goal line and won the game for them. Going back to a prior question, they played bump and run, man coverage on us the whole game and we completed six or seven fade routes on them. [Missouri] had really good wide receivers then, much like we do now, and we hit them on some fades. That was 10 years ago so how much carry over? Probably zero. I mean, I know that they have made changes to their defense in the off season. It's a tough place to play, they don't lose very many games there and we certainly have out work cut out for us, but again what a great challenge for us and what a great opportunity for us.'
Question: What are the changes on the depth chart?
Dirk Koetter: 'There are some changes on the depth chart that are due to players being day-to-day. This depth chart is going to change a little bit as we move into the end of the week and there are still a couple of guys in that hamstring group who are day-to-day and so based on their availability they may or may not be in the spots they are in based on that depth chart.'
Question: Will Lamar Baker be ready?
Dirk Koetter Closing Statement: 'One thing I'd like to say before we go that I had on my list and a question I get a lot. As of today I would say that in that freshman class, seven of those guys will probably play Saturday. Seven of them will be on something. Mike Talbot is right now the second fullback. Derek Hagen, the freshman wide receiver, will definitely play some. Chaz White I already talked about at right tackle, Nick Johnson, defensive end from Chandler, will be in the two deep. Josh Golden, the freshman cornerback that came to us from Grossmont Junior College and is a freshman by eligibility, Matt Fawley, freshman safety, and Jamar Williams, freshman linebacker. Those seven guys I have a pretty good feeling will be playing. There are four or five other true freshman that are on the bubble and before the season is over are going to play. We think they are good enough to help us this year, it's just going to depend on how fast they improve and some injuries. There are a few guys who are really good redshirt candidates right now. Normally for a Pac-10 game you can only take 60 players, but because this is not a conference game, obviously it's a preseason game, we are going to take 75 players to Lincoln. Which, number one, will help us with the heat and humidity and we'll be able to play some of those guys, but number two, some of those freshman who are on the bubble will be able to travel and will be a great experience for them even if they don't play.'