Quotes From ASU Football Coach Dirk Koetter's Weekly Press Conference
Sept. 8, 2003
'Thanks for being here today. I would like to start off by saying thank you for the crowd support, what a great way, from a crowd standpoint, to start off the season. We were only expecting 45,000 and to have close to 60,000 was great for our team. I hope that those people come back next week, because we are going to get better and we will need them as the season goes along.
'We played 59 players in this game, which was a little less than what we wanted, but it's definitely a significant number when you are trying to build your depth as the season goes along. The highlights on the defensive side were Jamar Williams, Riccardo Stewart and R.J. Oliver. On the offensive side Andrew Walter, Moey Mutz and Mike Karney. On offense the scout team award winner this week was receiver Stephen Bisnett, on defense Nick Baker, a defensive lineman, and on special teams the player of the week was Rudy Sanchez, a safety out of St. Mary's High School.
'Game balls went to Moey Mutz on offense, Jamar Williams on defense and Chris McKenzie on special teams. We didn't know how much Chris would play on Saturday, but he ended up taking 40 snaps on defense because of the injuries to our cornerbacks. Plus, he ended up playing special teams. Because they played a middle wedge, which we weren't expecting, Chris ended up being our wedge buster at 170 pounds. The guys around him in kick coverage did a very poor job, but Chris did very well. At 170 pounds, he took on the wedge of three guys and the speed at which he covered was outstanding.
'In general terms our coverage units were not good on kickoffs and punts, but our return game on both those sides were good. We exceeded our longest punt return for all of last year in both our safe and regular punt returns. We only had one chance in kickoff returns, but it was a good one.
'The extra captains for the Utah State game will be Jamar Williams and Tony Aguilar. The offensive lineman who are still slugging it out, Tony [Aguilar] and Tim [Fa'aita] played about the same and Andrew Carnahan and Chaz White played the same at left tackle. I'm sure we will play the same rotation based on how practice goes this week.
'We did have some injuries in the game. The most significant and unfortunate is Josh Barrett out of Reno. That kid has been playing so well in practice. I don't know if you noticed but on the first kickoff that kid flew down the field and on about the five yard line, he didn't finish the tackle, but when he fell down he dislocated his shoulder. It's unclear exactly how long he will be out, probably looking at approximately four weeks for him. We'll just see how it goes. We can possibly redshirt him or still play him, we will just have to see when he comes back.
'Mike Williams got injured at the end of the first half. He had a ten to twelve yard run when his leg got stuck in the ground and he was hit from both sides. They are calling it a sprained MCL. Mike is probably questionable for this week, but we are just going to have to see.
'We have a couple more guys who we held out of the second half who were a little banged up. They were Jason Shivers with a bruised sternum, Mike Karney a sprained ankle and R.J. Oliver was a little tight in the quads after his interception so we held him out. The good news is we had a couple guys come back to practice yesterday. Daryl Lightfoot, Matt Miller and Jermaine McKinney on offense and Lamar Baker, Joey Smith and Kyle Caldwell on defense. They all went full speed and we expect all six of them to be available for the game this Saturday.
'Utah State has played two games already against two good teams in Utah and Nebraska and the games were a lot closer than the score indicates. The Utah game was a 10 point game with 5 minutes left and then Utah scored two late touchdowns. The Nebraska game was actually 15-7 at halftime. Nebraska just wore them down in the second half with their running game, but Utah State played well in that game.
'Utah State has a couple of real good players on offense, as [USU] coach [Mick] Dennehy said. Their quarterback Travis Cox is a high school coach's son in the Logan area who played well in the Nebraska game. The guy to watch for them is their tight end/fullback/h-back number 89 Chris Cooley. He is 6 feet 4 inches and 252 pounds and a really good player who will probably play in the NFL.
'On defense they play a 3-4, which we really don't see very much anymore. It's very unusual for us to see, and they usually play with outside backers on the line of scrimmage. One of their outside linebackers, number 91 Nate Putnum, is 6 feet 7 inches and weighs 240 pounds. Most teams don't play a 3-4 because it is hard to find someone like that. He was all-conference two years ago, and last year sat out with a shoulder injury. Their inside linebacker Robert Watts is their leading tackler and has done a nice job for them in the first two games.
'We have a lot of things we need to work on this week, and we will work on them. I anticipate we'll make a lot of improvement this week, we need to make a lot of improvement this week. We'll start doing it tomorrow.'
Do you feel better or worse after watching the film from the NAU game?
'When you play bad, it's never as bad on film as you thought it was and when you play well you never played as well as you thought you did. I think that pretty much holds true all the time. There were some good individual plays mixed in. As a team we didn't play as well as we need to play. It was a good measuring stick of where we're at and where we need to go. The beauty of it is that it's all on videotape, it's not opinion, so you can just put it up on the screen where everyone can see it. It was a good teaching tape, we had some good teaching sessions yesterday.'
How do you feel about Jamar Williams's leadership skills as a captain this week?
'Very well, Jamar is a leader above his years. It's only his second year on the team, but there's no question that Jamar is one of the leaders of the defense. We have a lot of guys on defense who don't say much, but Jamar is willing to speak up. He has to be playing the middle or defense all the time. Of the linebacking crew, he understands defense the best. We're a blitzing defense and with the exception of Jamar and Riccardo, our blitzes looked like they were going in slow motion. But we've been practicing that and I think that'll pick up.'
Do you expect to have any changes in the starting lineup for the next game?
'It's possible. Some because of injury and I don't know if we'll have any because of play. A few spots on the offensive line are very close, but I think the only other ones would be based on injuries.'
Can you talk about the play of your secondary?
'I thought R.J. Oliver was spectacular, he just wasn't out there very much. He had a 100-yard interception return. He broke on the ball so fast that he was in front of the receiver and the receiver just stopped and just left his quarterback hanging there and R.J. took it to the house. He almost intercepted one on a hitch route earlier and had he trusted himself a little bit more, he would've had another one.
'On the other side, both Emmanuel Franklin and Josh Golden were having cramping issues as the game wore on. We ended up playing Chris McKenzie 30 snaps and Mike Davis 46 snaps at corner just because they were the only guys left that were healthy. Let's face it, when Josh Golden goes up against a 6'5'' receiver, and they throw their first touchdown, there's not a lot of corners that would've covered it where that ball was thrown. Josh also got beat on the second play of the game, they faked the reverse, he got caught looking in the backfield and they threw it over his head, I hope that doesn't happen again. But Josh is a great player, a great competitor, and I think that showed up in the return game, he had a 42-yard return.
'Franklin has been playing terrific in practice and he did some really great things out there and he did some things that weren't so good, but it's also his first game back from missing a year after brain surgery. Our corners are who they are. They're not going to grow taller for us. Those are our corners so we might as well get used to it.'
How much do you expect the addition of Kyle Caldwell to make a difference?
'I want to caution everybody to not paint an 'S' on Kyle's chest right off the bat. Kyle's going to be a really good football player for us, but he's been out for two weeks. Don't get it in your heads that Kyle Caldwell's going to come in and remind you of Terrell Suggs the first time he plays.
'Everybody's all nervous about how much pressure we've got on the quarterback with the four man rush, but most people that are going to release four or five receivers into the route are going to protect a certain amount of the time with six protectors. We protect with six a lot. NAU didn't protect with six one time in that game, it was seven or eight every single pass.
'Now if we're rushing forward and they're blocking with seven or eight, the odds are not in our favor. So there aren't many teams that get pressure on a four man rush unless you're protecting with six. We're going to get better with our four man rush. Our front four were in position to make some plays but we didn't finish at the quarterback very well, that is probably attributed to the fact that in practice we never let them hit the quarterback.'
How did you feel about Loren Wade's performance and what can we expect out of him in the future?
'I thought Loren did a good job. Loren runs the ball hard downhill, that's his style. He's not necessarily a breakaway guy although he does have good speed. Loren probably played exactly how we thought he would in that game. We decided before the game that we were going to rotate those guys every six carries and I think Loren got the hot hand going there and if that was a different type of game we probably would have stayed with Loren and if Mike can't go this week, Loren will.'
Are you going to do anything different with conditioning to eliminate cramping?
'We're going to investigate several avenues along that line. We're going to start off with hydration. I've always felt that our players do a good job of hydrating themselves before the game. The only time we really had a cramping issue since I've been here was during the Holiday Bowl.
'For some reason, our misters on the sideline didn't work last Saturday. I was told after the game that a breaker went out, I don't know if that would've made a difference. I found it somewhat unusual that the only guys that cramped were in the secondary and our receivers ran just as much as those guys did. Some of that is an individual thing, like Riccardo and Manny have a history of cramping. We're going to have to do a better job of hydrating those guys before the game. There are a couple of products on the market that our training staff can give them.'