August 8, 2006

Fall Camp 8/7: Sights and Sounds

Here is a new daily camp feature we're going to call "sights and sounds" and the purpose of this piece is to give our readers a greater feel for what is taking place on the field on a day-to-day basis and really get an understanding of the specific coaching mechanics going on and a better feel for the camaraderie and spirit of the players during camp.

- Spent a little more time observing the quarterbacks today and the group's new coach Roy Wittke and it was very impressive. Wittke has a saying he likes to repeat in drills: "Rhythm, base, target line," and sometimes, if he's not happy with one of the signal caller's focus, he'll repeat one phase, like "target line, target line, target line" while that player is taking a rep until it's undoubtedly stamped into the player's frontal lobe. These are kind of like the ABCs of the quarterback's drop and the saying Wittke uses is smart because it's a mental trigger for the mechanical nuances. The words are like an outline for much more detailed instruction that no longer has to be repeatedly given. I can envision Sam Keller or one of his position mates having the words echo in his head as he's preparing to deliver the football, and that's a good thing.

- Speaking of quarterbacks, there is one interesting drill they partake in where a big red ball plays the roll of defensive lineman. The quarterback drops back to pas and one of the assistants rolls the ball rapidly at the legs of the player, who has to avoid contact while keeping focused on what is developing downfield.

- Tight end Dane Guthrie was on a knee on the sidelines during a special teams play when safeties coach Dan Fidler noticed and asked him where he was supposed to be. Guthrie pointed to the other side of the field and Fidler told him to get over there, but in a nice way: "We don't have any periods (ASU practices are set up in segmented, timed periods) where we sit out here do we?" The answer obviously being no, Guthrie hustled over to where he was supposed to be. "You ever had a period where you got to sit out," Fidler asked Chris McGaha sarcastically on the sidelines, while McGaha himself waited in line for his repetition on another segment. "No sir coach," McGaha answered. "Didn't think so," Fidler said.

The above conversation was humorous but it underscores a very important point and that is that these practices are extremely regimented, very well orchestrated, and they require all players to be engaged and/or directly involved for the entire 3-plus hour session.

- One would think that defensive coordinator Bill Miller would be highly capable working on the tarmac at Sky Harbor Airport with all the hand signals he delivers to the defensive players lining up as offensive players in position drills. Basically it goes like this: Miller stands behind the defensive players and calls the plays non-verbally so the guys don't know what's coming. Miller is an animated person to begin with and he's a job to watch because you can tell he's having fun out there, but when he goes to the hand signals, it's a bit humorous.

- Offensive line coach Brent Myers is the team's most vocally intense coach, with Miller probably a close second. Myers does a fantastic job getting his players to understand the significance of every rep and there is a focus with these players that sometimes goes above and beyond what you might see at any other random position group at a given point in the workout. Certainly it doesn't hurt to have a veteran group that is probably the most physically talented of any he's worked with at ASU, with guys like Andrew Carnahan and leading the way, but we suspect is also has a lot to do with what he brings to the squad.

- Not sure what got into Paul Fanaika on Monday evening but whatever it was, it sure was nice to see. First of all, the guy looks to be in the best shape of his college career, and that's worth noting, but he's also working his tail end off and getting after guys in an aggressive manner. In 11-man situation drills he literally took out Garrett Judah and Jamarr Robinson in open space after getting downfield for some blocks. Later on, he had a good laugh about it with Rudy Carpenter while the two players were lined up for conditioning drills.

- Dirk Koetter was having a difficult time getting the volunteer guys on the sidelines to have the down and distance correct in some of the offensive situational drills they were running. They'd be working on a second-and-intermediate play while the sideline guys had it third and long. "That wasn't even a third down," Koetter called out from the field. Eventually he had to have the team's equivalent of a script supervisor head over and get the guys back on schedule. "Teach 'em how to fish," Koetter said.

- Seeing Loren Howard get knocked out of practice in the first 15 minutes with what appears to be a mild-to-moderate quad strain, only to be followed later in the session by Tranell Morant, who had been tugging at and seemingly bothered by a groin muscle issue all evening, is not exactly a pleasant development. It was so nice to see this group looking healthy to start Sunday, but then Martin Tevaseu went down with a displaced patella and the following day Morant and Howard get dinged. But hey, Kyle Caldwell was out there again, the fourth day in a row, and looking great, I might add.

- There is no coddling of the youngsters on this team, particularly at linebacker where Gerald Munns, Travis Goethel and Jamarr Robinson are all competing for playing time and spending a lot of reps working either with the first or second teams depending on the situation/drill. Miller dressed down Robinson for a mental mistake and essential said, "We're past that, Jamarr." Basically, ASU is giving those guys a shot at playing early and playing a lot and as long as they don't screw it up, at least two of them are going to be seeing a ton of game snaps as soon as the home opener. Munns and Goethel appear a little more mentally prepared at this early juncture.

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