Quotes from October 11 Press Conference with Dirk Koetter

Oct. 11, 2004

Arizona State Head Coach Dirk Koetter's Press Conference - 10/11/04

On the addition of Mark Carrier to the coaching staff

'Obviously, instant credibility by his experience as a player. I was impressed by how much he convinced me that he wanted to be a coach at this level. I was nervous or not he was willing to make the commitment, because a lot of players that had the success that he had either don't need to financially or don't have the desire to want to make the time commitment that you have to coach at this level. He and his wife made it clear to me that they were willing to make that commitment. I loved his enthusiasm, and his intensity. There is no BS in him, his character shines through right off the bat and you can tell what kind of a guy he is and we need those kinds of guys around our players. He's still learning some things and he's learning with the enthusiasm that you hope for. Mark is a young man by coaching standards and he's still learning some things along those lines. He's doing it with great enthusiasm and great passion. If you ask any of our players that, it shines right through everyday. He's very approachable and has blended with our staff so well.'

On Reggie Bush

'Reggie Bush is an outstanding player. That guy can do it all. Every time that guy touches the ball you hold your breath. '


On any residual effects from USC's schedule?

'When you get to this point in the season, we have three really tough games coming up ourselves. As Pete (Carroll, USC head coach) said, every week at this point they're all tough.'


On the health of the team

'Excellent, we're in really good shape. Last night we had a lot of energy, a lot of bounce in our step. They all looked faster and looked quicker. We've gotten two big contributors on special teams healthy, Robert James and Lamar Baker, two guys who really fly under the radar. Those guys have been out the last two weeks. Coach Oz (Tom Osbourne, special teams coach) has really had to juggle the special teams lineups. It has taken eight guys to replace those two. It has been a big boost and big help because those two are excellent special teams players.'


On USC being winless when playing ASU nationally ranked

'I didn't know that and I probably was not going to use it. Players don't think about that kind of stuff. We're just trying to play the same way we've been playing and prepare the same way. We had a team meeting before practice yesterday and talked about proper preparation and getting better. We went out and had an excellent practice. We practiced hard for two and a half hours last night and we had a lot of full contact drills. I think if you prepare hard in practice and get close to a full speed look, that's how you get better. We know we're going to have to get better as a team. We would be foolish to try and change our approach to what we have done so far.'


On the emotion of the team going into the USC game

'You should be excited to play in a game like this. You should be excited to play every week. You only get eleven chances to play every year. With as much training as these guys do, football is year round with summer and winter preparation. Now you get a chance to play eleven times and now you're going to the Coliseum, you're playing the number-one team, there's a big crowd, a lot of ASU people and you're on national TV. I don't ever curb those guys for being fired up. We have a very mature team and they've handled a lot of things that have been thrown at them.'


On this year's USC team compared to last year

'The quarterback (Matt Leinart) continues to play at a very efficient level. The emergence of Reggie Bush and how versatile he is. In Bush and LenDale White they have two excellent backs. Defensively they have so many guys back and they have two lineman who are as good as anybody in the country in Cody and Patterson. Cody is a little more well known, but Mike Patterson is the real deal. All that guy does is make plays. He was awesome in the Cal game and deserved national player of the week. They do so much on defense with their scheme. USC is just a very talented team, there's no team that we see that has the talent that USC has.'


On any disadvantages of coming off of bye week

'Some of our players said they would rather play in consecutive weeks against USC. The schedule is made way out in advance and it is what it is. Last year we had to play eleven straight weeks and injuries really caught up to us. I'm going to pick health every time as a coach. I think the bye week came at a perfect time, because I saw how much fresher we were in practice last night. I love to have two weeks for a game plan. As an offensive coach I love to change it, we're four practices ahead right now. I like having two weeks; I think it's a good time for a bye. The momentum issue will be an easy cop-out if we don't play well.'


On changing the game plan following USC-Cal game

'We wanted to see that game; because from a schematic standpoint we're pretty similar to Cal. They're the most like us on offense. I was anxious to see the tape so we can study what Cal was trying to do. Coach (Jeff) Tedford has always had a real nice game plan and they did a real nice job of executing it. They're not us; we're going to do some things different. You still have to tweak your game plan to fit your personnel. Play to your strengths and hide your weaknesses. We'll make some additions and some subtractions based on the Cal game. I say 85% of what we've been working on will stay the same.'


On resilience of ASU team

'Maturity is probably far and away the number-one thing. The fact that we're playing seven seniors on defense and the two on offense Andrew (Walter) and (Drew) Hogden, they're our team leaders. Even in some of our juniors, guys like Love and Jamar Williams they're some of our top leaders in our program. We felt like we didn't handle stuff very well last year. The main thing is having more mature guys playing.'


On Aaron Rodgers performance against USC and similarity to Andrew Walter

'We have to put that in perspective, Rodgers, in that particular game, for his spectacular performance, that was a totally different style than Andrew. They went with a lot of control passes, a lot of passes completed behind the line of scrimmage and that's not really our style. For us to do that for a whole game would be difficult. In last year's win over SC, Cal took more shots down the field and hit them. That's how they got touchdowns. The one thing about Cal, when they got down in the red zone, they didn't finish it off every time. USC played good defense and Cal missed a few field goals they would have made on a normal day. It's still about points. The game comes down to points, not pass efficiency.'


On importance of Hakim Hill to the team

'He's been very important, because we sure need him right now; we're down to just one scholarship tailback. Although I like the way Rudy Burgess takes to that position and Rudy's getting better and better everyday, we've needed Hakim to step up. There's never been a question about Hakim's talent, but starting as a third tailback this year behind Loren Wade and Randy Hill and then breaking his arm at the end of the Iowa game. For him to play like he has under the circumstances with his arm it says a lot abut Hakim and I'm proud of him and what he is doing for our football team right now.'


On the emotion of the players from southern California

'Our players from Southern Cal always get up to play LA schools and I think that does play a part in it. A lot of their family and friends will be at the game, people that normally don't get to see them live. Our guys like to play the LA schools, its one of our main recruiting areas.'


On last year's game and the added confidence going into Saturday

'I think our game last year was very similar to Virginia Tech, Stanford and Cal this year. In that we played decent against USC last year there were four or five key plays in the game and USC made them all and we didn't. I think that was the same in the Cal, Virginia Tech and Stanford games from this year. I would say that's a testimony to why USC is where they're at. Why they're the defending national champs and the number-one team in the country. They have found a way to make those plays that other teams haven't been able to. Our guys believe that we can play in this game. The trick is, you have to execute. That's why USC has been better than everyone else these last two years.'

USC Head Coach Pete Carroll (via teleconference)


Opening Statement

'Matt (Lienart) has been real steady so far this season and picked up where he left off last year. He has a real command of the offense. All of his leadership qualities come through when we have needed him already in big games this year. He is throwing at a 57% clip and is ahead of where he was at this same point last year. We are really pleased with his play and hope we can grow around him.'


On Reggie Bush's ability to play many different positions

'Reggie has had a big start to the season being effective in many different areas. Some of them were running the ball, catching the ball and some returning. He has had a play in almost every game that has been a unique special play and has been a factor in the win. He continues to surprise us with all of the things he can do. I try to use him in a lot of different situations to utilize his talent.'


On his game against ASU during his first season with USC and the team's subsequent turnaround

'At the time, we were struggling a lot offensively and we did not develop any sort of identity. Sunny Byrd started pounding the football downhill and really didn't average more than three yards a carry. But, he gave us a start to the formula that we put together that fall on how we wanted to play our offense. We really didn't get it done that year. By the next year, we kind of found our way and Justin Fargas took over and we had pretty good success with that system.'


On the emotional challenge of playing ranked teams every week in the Pac-10 as the No. 1 in the nation

'Week to week it is an extraordinary challenge for all teams to see if they can maintain a high level of play regardless if the team is on top like ASU or not. We are all tested to get our game plans ready for each game. The Cal game for us was the biggest game that week. We were very clear about that fact so it wouldn't affect our preparation for ASU this week. We are always challenged, but this is what you come to expect. If you want to fight for the conference, every week is going to be a dogfight and you have to get after it every time you go out. This is the way it is. Hopefully, we will play well and we are excited to be playing at home again. It seems like all year we have been traveling. To get back home and play two weeks in a row is good for us.'


On the differences between 2003 ASU team and this year's team

'Well, I think like what we saw with Stanford's team, ASU played some difficult teams last year and their players are maturing. The quarterback, receivers, and the running game have all matured and they have made some adjustments on defense. They look very solid on defense and more effective than before. They are just growing with their program. Dirk has done a terrific job with the program and it is coming together well for them. I know they have to be really pumped about the situation they are in. Both teams are 5-0 so it is a great opportunity for both schools.'


On making USC better at protecting home field

'We realize that if you want to have a great program you have to be dominant at home. Fortunately ,we have put together a good feeling about playing there. The coliseum rocks now more than we have seen it in past years. We have found a way to be prepared to play a really good football game every time we go in there. Again we are challenged to do that here. But it is about establishing something about yourself when you play there that gives you that home field advantage. We have done it in the past, but we have to do it again this week.'


On Shawn Cody and the d-line

'We have two really good tackles inside. Shawn Cody has been playing and doing a great job for a long time. He has been a really great leader and captain of this team. I think that Michael Patterson has had a fantastic season as well. He was national player of the week on defense, and deservingly so. Both of those guys spell trouble. They are very good technique wise and they play in tandem very well. They play with a consistent intensity. Hopefully, we can keep that going. We've been getting big plays out of Daniel Wright as well. There are different combinations we play with and we work on different rotations, but we are certainly led by Shawn, Michael, and Daniel.'


On the toughest challenge from week to week

'It is maintaining the high level of preparation that gets you the performance you want on game day. It's just practicing every day with great energy, enthusiasm, and intensity. It makes us competitive. I think that the key absolutely to playing well on the weekend is if you have great practices. We try to go out every day and get jacked up. It really just comes down to preparation and really what it comes down to is a day-to-day challenge for the staff and the players to maximize that opportunity.'


On the particular things that have to be done to maintain the high level at practice

'There is a lot of stuff that goes along with it. I have to get myself and the coaches pumped up every day too. I think that it all starts with us, the staff, and our guys will go wherever we take them. If we don't do a great job as coaches to come with the great intensity that we want, then we can't expect our players to do it. If you were watching us practice, you'd see that the coaches were learning just as much as the players and that they are pumped up too. The players need to get the intensity and significance of the drills through us. And that's where it begins. If that happens, the players will do whatever we want. They are very compliant and it's worked out very well, but definitely, it's a day-to-day task to make sure that we are in it together. That's how we do it.'


On the injury to Steve Smith

'It's a disappointing injury. Obviously you have a kid who has had a fantastic year and then you have to play without him. He has a hairline fracture and it's enough to slow him down for a while. We just going to regroup and try some different combinations. We don't even have it set up yet to figure out what's the best way for us, but we're going to take a look at our receivers and see what works throughout the week in practice.'

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