Quotes From ASU Football Coach Dirk Koetter's Monday Press Conference

Sept. 1, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz. -- 'I'm excited to get going and get a game. It's hard to sit back and watch the other teams play and not be playing. The theme for this week is just be ourselves. NAU already played a game and got to work some of their bugs out. We need to go out there and take care of how we're going to play.

'The thing I've been talking to a lot of the guys about is what kind of demeanor will this year's version of the Sun Devils take on. Last year is over and every team on our schedule from here on out gets this tape. We want people to say that we're a team that has great speed, a team that's physical, a team that knows what they're doing and a team that plays hard. Whether you're playing the first game against NAU or the last game against Arizona those characteristics should show up.

'We're relatively healthy other than Brent Miller being out for the season. There are three guys that still have a question mark if they'll be able to go. They are Kyle Caldwell, Lamar Baker and Joey Smith. All three guys are making progress and getting closer. Caldwell did some things last night in practice in an actual 11 on 11 situation besides just drills. I know Baker is making progress. So with today off for the players we'll just have to see what it looks like for Tuesday. As a general rule, if a guy doesn't practice full speed on Wednesday he probably won't play in the game.

'We have a lot of respect for NAU. NAU head coach Jerome Souers has done a great job wherever he's been and offensive coordinator Charlie Hall has done a nice job with what they do on offense. On offense you want to keep and eye on quarterback Jason Murietta. We thought very highly of Murietta who was the MVP of our camp the last two years. He can run and throw very well and when he gets outside of the pocket he can throw on the run. I've seen that kid make a lot of plays in his high school career when things around him were breaking down and he can still make a play.

'I also think wide receiver Johnny Marshall is another good player for them and he had 10 catches last week. On defense, cornerbacks Ryan Thornton and Maurice Taylor are good football players. They are both good cover corners and in their league, just like our league, having good corners makes you tough to beat in any game. Their punter Mark Gould led the nation in all levels of punting last year and he can really boom them.'

What were the general impressions of NAU from their game Saturday?
'You could tell they really knew what they were doing and have a lot of seniors. They didn't make too many mistakes on both sides of the ball. I don't think St. Mary's was a great test for them but they looked very solid. They did things right and made the plays that were there to be made. Most people say a team's biggest improvement is between their first and second game so I expect them to play even better against us.'

Does 'starting fast' have to do with starting the season or starting the game in particular?
'Well, the start of the season, but the start of the game would be nice too. There's no use in waiting around. We were a slow starting team last year. I think every team takes on its own personality and last year was last year. I don't think it's really fair to compare because we had a quarterback change in the first few games of last year. Everyone's a year older and wiser and been in the system longer. It means fast start for both.'

What positions can't you afford to have injuries at?
'In the days of 85 scholarships, and even less than that at NAU, I don't think you can afford to get too nicked up at any position. If you look at Oregon, they have potentially lost three starters off their depth chart for the season. I'm sitting here telling you that we're relatively healthy when we've lost one player, who is a freshman, for the season. I don't think there are too many teams who can afford to lose three players from their starting lineup.

'We can't really afford to have injuries at any position. There's usually a drop off from one to two. We have some positions, such as tailback, where there isn't much of a drop off between one and five. But most college teams don't have that kind of depth.'

What are two or three of the biggest differences in the team at this point from last year?
'Last year at this time we were going into a game at Nebraska hoping that we could go out there and be a competitive team and I don't think we're hoping anymore. Our guys are very confident and I think our confidence level in general, especially on defense. Our defense is kicking our offense's butt every day right now. I hope that means our defense is good and our offense isn't bad. We're not hoping and our guys think they have a chance to be in every game and I believe that. There are a lot less questions because everyone's been in the system and most of the guys have 14 games under their belt.'

Do you have a sense that the players can handle the expectations?
'That's probably one of the biggest question marks for me because I don't think you ever know that. These guys are having a lot of nice things said about them over the last few months. We have to go out and play and back it up. That's again why our approach for this game has to be 100 percent on what we do.

'That means we're working on the schemes of NAU just like we would any team, but the mental approach and the way we go about our business will set a strong tone as to how the players will handle the expectations. I don't believe you can sit back and wait for Iowa to see what kind of a team we have and if you are doing that you can just call up Maryland and ask them about that.'

Who is going to be the kicker?
'I would say you might see both Tim Parker and Jessie Ainsworth but if we were playing today I would go with Tim Parker as the punter and field goal kicker and Jessie Ainsworth on kickoffs. Again, the competition between Parker and Ainsworth is very close, just like it is on three or four other positions on our team.

'Since we are committed in playing Ainsworth and not redshirting him this year I think we have to continue to find out. We recruited Ainsworth to be the kicker and Parker has surprised us as to how well he has hung in there, to his credit. Not only has he been punting the ball great, but on kickoffs he's right there and is slightly ahead on field goals.

'Either of those guys can do the job but right now we'd be doing a disservice to Parker because we always tell the guys that the best player is going to play and right now Parker is kicking a little bit better than Ainsworth on field goals but Ainsworth has closed it in the last week. So you may see both of them out there but you'll see Parker first.'

Are you going to have Chad Christensen signal in the plays?
'Yes, Chad Christensen and Kellen Bradley, one of those two guys, or both, will be signaling. It comes down to whom Andrew Walter is the most comfortable with. Sometimes in the game I get a little nervous and I like to talk to Walter myself. Every team is watching your signals and every team thinks they can steal signals and some probably can. So if I think that someone is stealing our signals or it becomes an issue, I will talk to Walter directly.'

How did the Pac-10 look this weekend?
'The Pac-10 looked pretty good this weekend. The Pac-10 is a strong league and there are a lot of teams that can go all the way and, as we go along, injuries will have a big impact on that.

'USC is just what everyone said they were going to be and Washington will still have to be reckoned with before it is all said and done. Ohio State has an excellent football team with one of the most impressive guys that I watched this Saturday which was their quarterback. California is better than what people thought and Washington State got a shutout. Oregon worked on their power running game in the off-season as they got Samie Parker more involved and he is as fast a player as there is in our league. The Pac-10 is going to be very competitive.'

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