Quotes from Football Coach Dirk Koetter's Monday Press Conference

Sept. 30, 2002

ASU Head Coach Dirk Koetter's Monday Press Conference

Opening Statement'First off, on a serious note, our prayers are with Mark Brand [ASU Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations] and his wife Lori who lost a member of their family so Mark has to be out of town this week. I know the people here in the media know that there is not a harder working guy in the athletic department than Mark Brand and our thoughts are with him and his family.

'Five dollar tickets are available for the second and final time this week and we'd love to get a big crowd. The crowd doesn't realize what a part they play in the game and the fans that are there are doing a good job.

'Scout team players of the week, Randy Hill, a freshman tailback who is redshirting was the offensive player of the week. Jordan Hill, a freshman linebacker, was the special teams scout player of the week and then Tyrone Bowers was the defensive scout player of the week.

'Tyrone played a fair amount in the second half last Saturday at linebacker. He came here last year as a J.C. transfer walk-on from Santa Barbara City College where he played cornerback. He wanted to play safety here but we wanted him to play linebacker. He does a great job on the scout team and with us having three linebackers out, Tyrone found himself as the fourth linebacker. He got a few plays in there and did a good job. It's always nice to see that work out for a guy, a walk-on player who was had to stick with it for two years. Sometimes, they think about giving it up and a day like Saturday is a nice reward for Tyrone.

'Game balls on offense went to Andrew Walter, big surprise, and Regis Crawford, who graded out 98% on offensive line.

'On defense, Jimmy Verdon had his second excellent game. Jimmy is really playing well on the front four. He played well at San Diego State and played very well again Saturday. A game ball, as well, goes to Mason Unck. Mason had 13 tackles in the game, caused three fumbles and tipped the interception that Joey [Smith] got. Then Mason also got another fumble that we almost got but it went out of bounds. Mason did a great job of getting the ball out.

'Special teams game ball went to Riccardo Stewart. Man, that guy is playing awesome, not only on defense, but everything. He's all over the field and if everyone on our team played at the same speed as Riccardo, we'd really be in business because that guy is playing hard. Captains against North Carolina will be Regis, Mason, and Jimmy.

'I'm very, very excited about how our team played on Saturday. I'm excited because we won as a team. That was a team win and we played well in all phases. Sure, we had mistakes; you always will. We got off to not the best of starts and we talked about starting fast. We did start faster than we have, we've been behind at halftime, but these guys are starting to believe in each other and believe in what we're doing. They are doing a great job of trying to do what their coach wants them to do and we can certainly live with that. To me, that's the biggest plus of what is happening right now. Sure, we know that we have some tough games ahead of us, not only in the Pac-10, but starting this week with North Carolina.

'It's interesting to hear Coach Bunting's comments. I always enjoy hearing the other coach talk. When he describes his team, it is a lot how we are: we're young. North Carolina is extremely, extremely athletic, but, like he said, they're young. When you see these guys on Saturday, you'll see that these guys look like a NFL team. They are a great looking football team. The reason they are 1-3 right now is because they are minus eight in turnovers on the season. We are plus nine. To put that in perspective, we are tenth in the country in turnover margin, but only fourth in the Pac-10. That is the whole difference. It is the biggest indicator in wins and losses in college football.

'Their quarterback is a great athlete. He can run and pass. He's their second leading rusher. They do things to highlight his athleticism. They have an awesome wide receiver and they are a talented, talented team. He talked about how young they are in their front seven. One thing that they do different from other teams we have played is that they match up different with our personnel groups. For example, if we have two backs and two tight ends in the game, they will play with four down lineman, four linebackers, and three defensive backs. If we have three wide receivers in the game, they will go with nickel defense. If we have four wide receivers, they'll go dime. They try to match-up with the offense. They are very good at it because they have a lot of athletes to do that with.

'This is going to be an excellent test for us. I wish we were playing a conference game, but it doesn't really matter. The schedule is what it is and we have to play them as they come. This is the first of a two game series; we will go to North Carolina next year. We look forward to going back there next year, but we're going to have our hands full this week and we have to just keep getting better.'

Do you need to guard against complacency or overconfidence?

'I've already been asked that about 5000 times and it's only Monday. I'm counting on the media to do a great job of not letting us be complacent this week. Just help me out because we can't afford to be complacent, I promise you that.'

Are you worried about the number of yards the team has given up so far?

'You know what, I think that for us to be the type of team that we want to be, we have to do a better job of running the ball on offense, and we have to do a better job of stopping the run on defense. That game on Saturday, we had everything that could possibly go right for us go right and we got a big lead on offense. I'm sure that Stanford was taken somewhat out of their game plan. We still, since Nebraska-which seems like an eternity ago-haven't gone against a team that has come out and slung it down our throats. We will see a team that is going to do that, they might not do it from a wishbone formation or something like that, but we will see a team that's going to test us.

'Our defense is built around stopping the run, but we just haven't seen that very much this year. The more guys you have to commit to stopping the run, the more that opens up the pass. That is exactly what Stanford tried to do to us. They committed their safeties to try to stop the run on us on Saturday and we were able to throw it downtown a little bit.

'Does that concern us? Yeah, it sure does. The yards part doesn't really matter, it still comes back to the turnovers. Our team is good enough to go 80 yards at four yards a pop. There are a lot of defensive coaches out there that think that offenses are not patient enough to go four or five yards all the way down the field. I think that there is a lot of truth in that.'

What keys are there to controlling North Carolina's quaterback Darian Durant?

'I'll be honest with you, I am still watching North Carolina's defense right now, so anything I'm saying about Durant is from what I've seen on TV. I know Coach [Brent] Guy and the defensive coaches are holed up in the ICA right now trying to answer that question, but I'd be making it up if I tried to tell you anything right now. We put the Stanford game to bed last night, finished up our meetings, and started bright and early today [with UNC.] It's hard when we have this press conference when we are just not far enough into it.'

Have you seen enough of their secondary to get a feel for their defense?

'They have the one corner that I just got an article about. They were hyping #18 [Michael Waddell] for preseason All-American, but they actually benched him during the Georgia Tech game. When they play with the nickel and dime sets, they have a lot of defensive backs that are getting in there and, again, they are very athletic. What jumps out at me watching their secondary is what good catch-up speed they have. They get beat a few times, but they catch up and close it right back up.

'Their free safety, #24 [Dexter Reid], is their leading tackler. One of our coaches talked to one of the Texas coaches and they felt that the whole key to their game plan was controlling the free safety. They use him as a blitzer and, a lot like how we use Riccardo Stewart and Jason Shivers, they use him all over the field.

' Coach Bunting is a defensive coach and I'm sure that he takes a lot of pride in how that defense plays. His expectations, especially as great as they were on defense last year, I'm sure are very high for them.'

Does a three tight end muscle set pose a concern for you?

'Any team that is good enough to muscle you poses a concern. I don't know how much they are getting in three tight ends. I know that after [Sam] Aiken, who is another big receiver, their next leading receiver has nine catches. From a throwing standpoint, I don't think that they are throwing it that much to the tight ends. I have not watched a lick of tape and I probably won't watch it much. At this time of the year, we have four games on them. I spend all of my time watching their defense. Again, that is Brent Guy's job and I trust him to do it right.'

Can you comment on the play of the linebackers?

'I think that throughout the whole season, Josh [Amobi], Mason [Unck], and Solomon [Bates,] when he's been in there, and the guy who has been the most pleasant surprise, true freshman Jamar Williams, are key factors of what make our defense go. It's been a different guy every week that has made the plays. This week it was Mason. Mason might have played the best game, in the two years that we've been here, last Saturday. Our linebackers are making plays and getting the ball out. Mason stripped the ball and Josh recovered two of them. I gave him a hard time that he should have scored on one. Terrell [Suggs] and Mason both, instead of setting us up, may as well have gone ahead and scored with those fumble recoveries.

' We are happy with our linebacker play, but as I said , we have Solomon [Bates,] who we would love to get back this week, but right now it's day-to-day on him coming back. Barton Hammit is out for the season and Ishmael Thrower has been out for his second game, so we just don't have great depth at linebacker. We gave Tyrone Bowers and Connor Banks some reps at backup linebacker. Connor played a lot at defensive end near the end of the game, but he's a former linebacker. We are nervous about the depth, but pleased with how they are playing.'

What do you think about the amount of rushing yards their defense is giving up each game and how will that be a factor in this week's game?

'They are currently giving up 200 yards a game. When I watch their tape, and I'm right in the middle of it right now, I'll watch it by personnel group. I'm watching all their two-back stuff right now. Syracuse ran the ball decent on them, but they beat Syracuse and Syracuse is one of the best rushing teams there is because they run the option and everything is based on that. Come on Saturday and we'll see if we can run it on them. At this point, I just don't know.'

What do you see in North Carolina's problems with missed tackles?

'They are a very physical team. Those missed tackles that Coach Bunting is referring to, happen because they have been crowding the line of scrimmage with their safeties. What teams have done to them, like Georgia Tech, is that they have isolated the receivers one-on-one and threw intermediate out and curl-type routes. They were barely open, but the quarterback put it on the money. In fact, on one of those touchdowns in the Miami of Ohio game and also in the Syracuse game, the defensive back was right there, went for the ball, and didn't get it. It was a bang-bang play. Instead of just making the tackle for a ten-yard gain, he went for the ball and it got away. I think those are the mistakes that he is referring to and their base is a 4-3 defense. Their free safeties are very aggressive in coming down to help out in the running game, much like Stanford was. Their overall catch up speed in the secondary is better than Stanford's. They are physical up front and they are big at linebacker. You'll see when you are out there for warm-ups, they look hard and very impressive.'

How happy were you for Daryl Lightfoot after he scored that touchdown on Saturday?

'It sounds corny to say this, but when Daryl scored that touchdown, there are some times when that tear comes right to your eye. I did a forty-yard dash down the sideline, but there were so many guys ahead of me that I just couldn't get to Daryl fast enough. That kid has been through a lot and that meant a lot to him. You can't appreciate the struggles that kid has been through emotionally in the past year and a half.

'Daryl is a kid where a lot of his self worth is tied up in how he is perceived as a football player. That really is a sad commentary on our society, but it's the truth nonetheless. For where Daryl has been, for him to help our team in general and to make a big play, he gives us another guy who can do that. I just couldn't be happier and you could tell that was pure emotion for our players. Shaun [McDonald] makes a zillion touchdowns in his career, but the other players were all over Daryl on that and it was awesome for me to see.'

Do you feel that there is a break in your momentum going from a conference to a non-conference game?

'I think that it's a legitimate question and concern. As I said, we'd rather be playing a conference game, but when you set out to play your season, there they are laid out for you, 13 games, and you don't have any control over it. USC and Stanford traditionally have games against Notre Dame that pop up in the middle of the season. There's just nothing you can do about it.

'It doesn't really matter if you would or you wouldn't, you can't whine about it. We play North Carolina. If we, in any phase, think that we can take North Carolina for granted, we'll get beat on Saturday. We're just not that type of team that can say we're going to go on cruise control for a week and jump back into conference play against Oregon State. We are not that type of team and there are not very many that are. Would we rather play a conference game? Sure, but will we be excited to play North Carolina this week? Absolutely.'

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