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

Sept. 15, 2003

TEMPE, Ariz. -- 'Scout players of the week were Brandon Rodd, freshman offensive tackle, defensive lineman Nick Baker, and on special teams Tyrone Bowers. Game balls went to, on offense Skyler Fulton, Riccardo Stewart on defense and Jimmy Verdon on special teams. Jimmy is a backup on our punt team and he played 80 plays on defense and goes in on punt team and made four tackles. Jimmy and Skyler will be the extra captains for the Iowa game.

'It's great that we are 2-0, but we didn't play great. We did things better this week than the week before. We talked last week about getting more pressure from the four-man rush, and we did that. Six of our seven sacks came in the four-man rush. I think our defensive front did a better job of getting pressure on the quarterback. Ishmael Thrower did a great job helping us from the end position, even though he should have had two of those sacks himself. He caused them by running the hoop and forcing the quarterback to run into somebody else.

'We only had 4 negative rushing plays from scrimmage, with 37 passes and 37 runs. I don't think we ever have had that low of a number before. Whatever we gained rushing we gained, we didn't give half of that back in sacks and lost yardage. With that said, do we need to run the ball better at the goal line? Absolutely, that is totally unacceptable to fumble one at the two and have two shots at it from the one and not get it in there.

'After looking at the tape we feel we did some things better, some things not so well. If you take away 4 plays in that game everyone probably has a big smile on their face. I mean, two times inside the five and didn't score, dropped touchdown pass and we don't score, and have a punt return for a touchdown called back. If we make those plays, now the score is 50 something to something in the teens and everyone is smiling, but we still played the same game. We didn't make those plays.

'There are too many things we are beating ourselves on, and we are playing a team this week that is the epitome of not beating themselves. Iowa is unbelievable at not beating themselves; they are not flashy on offense. They put the ball in their tailbacks' hands, they don't turn it over, they have an excellent offensive line even though they lost several players. I think Sports Illustrated picked their special teams as the best in the country, and you can certainly see it. They have the best kicker in the country, one of the best punters, and they blocked two punts against Iowa State last week which really turned that game around in a hurry.

'Defensively they have six starters back. They have a very, very talented front four, three of the four are returning starters, and they have controlled the line of scrimmage against everyone they have played. Their best DB, Bob Sanders, is out for a while, that guy is a lot of fun to watch on tape. Their linebackers have really been playing very well. The question people on the outside have questioned is their secondary. Their secondary looks to me like they are playing fine, they do a good job of getting to the quarterback in a four man rush, so it helps their secondary out. We have our work cut out for us; Iowa has a 14 game regular season winning streak, which is one of the longest in the country. Last team to beat them was Iowa State last year and they lost the Orange Bowl to USC, so we know we have to get better in a hurry.'

What tailback will play this week? Will Hakim play because he is from Iowa City?
'That's going to depend on the health of our tailbacks and how they do in practice. Of the four guys we held out last week, all of those guys ran in practice yesterday, and I was told that Mike Williams ran well in rehab over the weekend. Loren Wade is a little bit game sore still. He practiced in an orange jersey last week, which means we don't allow him to get hit, I think that hurt him in the game. I think he played like he didn't get hit in practice. The best tailback will play regardless of hometown.'

Who will take the PATs and field goals? Is Jesse Ainsworth ahead of Tim Parker for the kicking duties?
'We haven't decided that yet. I wanted to get Jesse to kick in the NAU game and we didn't score enough points to get him in there. We can't keep missing extra points, that's not brain surgery. I want to get Jesse in, he's been kicking great. With that said, I want to say that Tim Parker probably had his best single game in his career, all of his punts were over 50 yards in the air, he really kicked the ball well.'

Any concerns about taking your team on the road for the first time this year?
'We're going to a difficult competitor and it's going to be different, but that's one of the great things about college football, I think our guys are going to be pumped up, they know Iowa is a team that wins. I think we'll play better, we know we're playing against an excellent team. The challenge of going on the road to play excites our guys. I am concerned about it, but I'm also concerned about getting 100% of the center snaps this week too, and all those little things.'

Which tailback is the best pass blocker, and how does that weigh in on who gets the carries?
'Mike Williams is our best pass blocker. It only really weighs in when we're passing, it doesn't weigh in at all with who carries.'

Is Iowa going to be the game which gets you over the hump this season?
'I wouldn't say 'get over the hump', it certainly is a huge game, but they're all huge from here on out. Next week, Oregon State, opening Pac-10, is a big game, USC at home is going to be a huge game. Basically everyone on the schedule is a huge game for us.'

How much is there to the theory that teams play to the level of their competition?
'I'm not a big believer in that, I don't think the best teams play to the level of their competition. Which is why I've been saying that we're not playing as we should be playing right now, not to take away from Utah State, they played well, and competed hard, they have some good football players, but I'm not really a believer of that.'

On Iowa's quarterback Nate Chandler:
'Chandler's a player that we looked at as a junior college player out of Pasadena City a couple of years ago, though Iowa's emphasis on their offense is not based on their quarterback, like ours is. They're a run it first, play-action second type offense. He's not quite the runner they had last year with Brad Banks, but he's done well running, he ran for a 40-yard touchdown last week. At his size, he runs much better than you'd think, though they don't call the quarterback run as much as they did last year, but he's done well with scrambling.'

What are your thoughts on running back Fred Russell and the rest of Iowa's offense?
'I think Fred Russell is a star. I think he's an excellent player, I thought he was excellent last year, he's a real patient player with their blocking scheme, which is zone blocking. He stays in there and tries to get you on the cut-back, and if you're not disciplined on defense and you overrun it, he can cut it back, and he's got the speed to go all the way. One of their tackles, might be the best lineman in the country; the guy is fantastic on film. They lost some starters to the NFL, but their offense is playing solid.'

On Hakim Hill's performance last Saturday:
'I thought Hakim gave us a nice lift. The way he ran the ball was how he'd be running it in practice. He's been running with his pads down, he's been hitting the hole hard, and he's showing the ability to run through tacklers. Hakim still has a little bit of a tendency to want to look for the big play, when sometimes you really just have to do the best you can.

'Hakim has made progress, but the other tailbacks aren't making it easy on him. Loren Wade and Randy Hill both had great runs. The hardest thing about tailback is that I can't keep all those guys happy, we're trying to use those guys on special teams, and they've done well. An issue is they all think they're the best, but I think the play on the field will sort itself out.'

Iowa State did a good job containing Russell last week, what did you take from the film of that game?
'Iowa State did do a great job last week, they held him to about 75 yards. I spoke to [ISU] Coach Dan McCarney after the game and Iowa State was hurting. They had 4 or 5 starters out for the game, and they felt if they could slow the tailback down they could have a chance in the 4th quarter, but the two blocked punts really turned the game around in a hurry. I think for us, the key is to stop their running game, or it's going to be a long day.'

If Maurice Brown is unable to play, what will that do to Iowa's offense?
'He's their big go-to guy, and he's an excellent player, but we don't know the extent of his ankle injury, but we hope he has a speedy recovery.'

Do you have any thoughts about an underclassman challenging the NFL rule about eligibility for the draft?
'I would hate to see that rule get changed or overturned. There are probably some guys who are mature enough to play in the NFL, and there are some that aren't. The NFL and the NCAA have had a good working relationship on this.

'I think if that rule changes, there will be some guys who make the jump early successfully; I think the vast majority, however, will not be successful. I think if they allow guys to go before their 3rd year, you're going to have a lot of guys who go and don't make it, then they're out of luck. Not only are they not in the NFL, but they don't get a college education either.

'I think the NCAA has done a great job reforming their academic requirements towards graduation. The way they have it now, if you stay in school 4 years, or redshirt and stay 5, it's impossible for you to not graduate. If they change the rule it's going to hurt the education these players are getting, one of many things changing the rule will do.'

How big a part of your job is it to keep the team motivated?
'It's a big part of the position, it beats not having enough guys and wondering who you're going to put in. We do our best to try and create roles for guys, whether it's extra receivers or extra tight ends, extra tailbacks. The one thing that people who watch us play once a week for 60 minutes don't realize is that we watch them play in at the games and in practice, then we watch the tapes, then we watch them again with the team. Believe me we hear our criticisms, but that's only based on them seeing one or two things.

'Even right now with the tailback situation, the difference between number one and number five is not great, it's not a great difference. I'd be perfectly happy with our number five guy in the game, but we can't get into a rhythm if we're splitting the reps five ways. In the upcoming games, we're going to substitute them in the best way we see to take advantage of their talents.'

Their special teams are the best in the country, does that make you become more of a directional kicking team on punts?
'We're always a directional kicking team. If you noticed last Saturday all seven of Tim's punts were outside the hash. Against NAU, Tim accidentally punted a couple right down the middle. That's why it was amazing that Tim lead the Pac-10 last year, because when you're a directional kicker you usually lose a few yards. I think that says a lot about Tim, because we asked him to sacrifice some yardage to kick it outside the hash.'

Utah State did a great job of getting their hands up on the short passing game. Do you think Walter will see the same deep coverage schemes against Iowa?
'I think that their blocking our passes was more a result of us not doing the good job that we should be doing in protecting some spots, than it was them doing a great job of blocking passes, though you have to give them credit for that. I anticipate Iowa trying to keep everything in front of them. They are traditionally a deep zone team and try to keep the ball in front of them. I wouldn't see them changing for us.'

Who stood out on defense last week?
'Both inside backers and all four of the front guys. The two linebackers, I think they combined for about thirty tackles last week. There aren't a lot of teams in college football with a four-man rush that can put pressure on, Iowa is a team that can.'

Do you think USC is the best front four you'll see?
'Everyone has been raving about them, 'they're the best we've seen in awhile', so if there's a better front four out there, I'm not looking forward to seeing them.'

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