Here is what Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards said Sunday regarding where his team stands with their opening game rapidly approaching.
“It worked out, it’s (like) a Tuesday for us, knowing we’re playing on a Thursday (Sept. 2 against Southern Utah). I know it messes your schedule up, bringing people out on Sunday. I don’t really like practicing on Sundays for the most part, now I got to go to mass at 3 o’clock instead of this morning. So it knocks everybody’s schedule off. But we’re OK. I thought it was a good day in the fact that it was hot. First day is always difficult when you have the (play) cards, when you start practicing with the cards. Because kids, like anything, they’re not on the first-team with the first or second-team on the other field, they think they’re like outcasts and they’re really not. They’re actually playing against the ones on offense and defense. So I think the first day is always a little lethargic, but I thought they picked it up and it was a long practice. It’s hot out there, which is good. We need to get in — football stamina needs to improve. I think everyone’s there right about now in college football, your football stamina is what you always worry about going into the first game. But for the most part, we got a lot done today and looking forward to going back out tomorrow.”
If he feels a sense of urgency to succeed with this team given its experience:
“Well, I felt that when I first took this job. There’s always been that. There’s always a sense of, can we capture the moment? And be in position in games where we can win? If you’ve watched us play the last three years, we’ve been in position to win a lot of games. We let a few get away. I’ve always said, ‘We didn’t lose, we just ran out of time.’ That’s kind of my statement when it comes to football, I’ve always felt that way. And we can’t allow that to happen. When we have games that we can put away, we got to close them out and we can’t make errors in games where we can give other people opportunities. So I think if we can clean that up, we should be in good shape. We’ll be in position like we’ve always been here for three years, if you’ve watched us play. We basically, we get down to some games into the fourth quarter. And some of them we’ve won, some of them we have not, and I just think we need to win more of those than let them get away. Then, we’ll be OK.”
On senior tight end John Stivers earning a scholarship:
“The classic guy, comes in, he’s from the (Monterey) peninsula (an area where Edwards has a home). And so he got here due to the fact that he knew somebody that knew me. And the conversation got going and I go, ‘Yeah, we’d love to have a guy.’ And he came in and he’s been a really big part of our football team, and he decided to come back, right? So we were happy with that. His father (David) was named the CEO of Pebble Beach, so do I need to say any more? (ASU special advisor to the head coach) Marvin (Lewis) asked me, ‘Make sure you take me when you go!’ I said, ‘I’ll see if I can get you on the cart, Marv.’ But I grew up on the peninsula, and any time you can get some peninsula kids here in our program, that’s fun. Because we can have conversations, and he knows what I’m talking about, I know what he’s talking about. So it’s fun. But he’s really been — he’s been a big part of our team. Just the camaraderie that he brings in the tight end room, and like you said, he’s played before and he’s a tough football player. And we can use him in ways in our offense that can highlight what he does well.”
On how important his running back room is to helping the team close games:
“Very important. I always think good teams have the ability to run the football. We all like to throw passes, because that makes the highlight reels. The quarterback’s going to throw the football. But I still think there’s a toughness to you, when you can run it on offense. And it brings a toughness to your defense when you have to defend the run. Because if not, you become a little bit soft when you don’t practice versus the run. We have some talented players. You saw the two guys last year (junior Rachaad White and freshman DeaMonte Trayanum) who played for us, and don’t lose sight of (freshman Daniyel) Ngata. He’s a good football player. He’s a really good football player and didn’t play last year, but we’re going to find a way to get him in there too. So we got some good running backs, and 39 (freshman walk-on George Hart III) ain’t bad either now. All of a sudden, the walk-on kid. He’s interesting, I kind of like how he flashes at times. So (ASU running backs) coach (Shaun) Aguano has got a good room, he’s got a good room of football players. And they all like each other and they’re very competitive, and that’s what makes it fun.”
On practicing in hot temperatures and if it provides a competitive edge:
Well, I think any time you can practice in conditions, it just makes you more familiar when you have to deal with them. And for us, I remember when I first got here I said we’re going to practice outside. Some people looked at me like what? And I said, yeah we play outside we’re going to practice outside. The players have come accustomed to it, and I think they use it to their advantage. And it’s hot, and it was hot today. And it wasn’t like it was 80 (degrees), it was hot. And we had a good two-hour practice. And they got through it. That’s a good thing. The stamina of a football team is very important. I think when you can practice in those conditions it helps you. It helps you mentally, it really does, because there’s a different energy when the game starts right? And you zap a lot of that energy because of your anxiety. And when you’re in moments when it’s hot, how do you deal with all of that right? And I just think that has helped us. I have looked over across on the sidelines in games here early, and it has helped us. I’m not making it up. It’s hard to deal with this stuff. I can remember coming here when I was at San Jose State. I was the secondary coach and we played the Sun Devils here in the stadium. It was a night game and I can remember, like man, it’s hot. San Jose is in the valley there but it’s a different heat. It’s just part of it.
On redshirt freshman quarterback Trenton Bourguet being in a walking boot and freshman quarterback Finn Collins possibly being his backup:
[Trenton Bourguet will] be back Monday, he just got stepped on. But Finn [Collins] would be the next guy if something happens, you’re correct.
On the team’s discipline so far in practice and how they’re adapting to limiting penalties
Well that’s important, fouls. I don’t like fouls, especially foolish fouls, emotional fouls, they kill drives. I said remember out here (pointing to the Sun Devil Stadium field), we had a touchdown and it got called back because of a foul. I don’t like fouls, I just don’t, because it’s the lack of concentration for the most part. I think our guys know that I’m big about that, I’m big about when the game starts, especially in games, that we keep our emotions intact, and we don’t get to the emotional side of it. We can play passionate but when you get to the emotional side of the meter, bad things happen, they just do. We’re all human, and I think any time you get to the emotional state of how you think or how you react, 95 percent of the time it’s going to be an error. And we always say ‘aww, I shouldn’t have gotten emotional.’ You can’t do that because it hurts the whole team. We really talked about that going forward now. Spring Football is done. Training camp for the most part has come to an end. Our discipline, our sideline discipline, our on-field discipline, our coach-to-player sideline, coach-to-coach in the box, all of that now comes into play in a football game. How we orchestrate how we communicate to people. You know, it’s funny. Players don’t walk onto the field wanting to make an error. Coaches don’t make calls thinking well that ain’t gonna work. But there’s this trust between the coach and the player, because I’ve always said this, as much as you think you’re in control you’re not. Because you stand over here and they have to play. So there’s this trust factor, coach and player. And then what happens is if it goes bad, the series goes bad, now these two parties have to meet. You go over on the sideline, now the conversation starts. How you start the conversation as the coach to the player is critical. You got to know your players, you got to know how they’re feeling at that moment. It might not be a guy when he comes off the field you can go to him and talk to him right away, he might need to go over there. I always tell the coaches, take a deep breath before you say anything, because coaches, they’re angry too, because they want to get it right and the player wants to get it right. And then sometimes if a wrong moment of engagement takes place then you got a problem. Then they’re on television and then people are saying, ‘Oh, they’re not disciplined.’ That’s far from the truth, that’s just the competitive environment that happens on the sidelines, in all sports. The more you can control it and be calm and teach, the better. I know this, I’ve always done this with all players since I’ve been coaching. When it’s all said and done, I’m going to find that guy before he goes back on the field and I’m going to ask him one question. Most of the time you folks don’t even know who I’m talking to because I’m looking on the field because I can’t just talk. I got to look on the field. I’m just looking and they’re standing there to the left and the right and I’m going, ‘How you doing?’ It’s amazing when you ask them, ‘How you doing? You ok?’ ‘Coach I’m good.’ I say, “Well then if you’re good I’m good. Then you need to go back out there and play.’ That’s it. All that finger-pointing, everything’s on television, everything’s on camera. That’s what people want to see, oh they’re not a disciplined group. It’s not that they’re not disciplined, it’s emotion. There’s emotion running over on that bench, in any sport. I’ve always told players and coaches, you don’t want them to show our sideline because we’re not playing. Don’t take away from the 22 guys out there that are playing. Either our offense, or our defense, or our special teams competing right now and the camera’s on you, and that ain’t fair to them guys out there. Them fans didn’t come to the stadium to watch you guys argue, they actually want to watch the game. And I don’t want to hear that nonsense either. Just fix it. Get it fixed and let’s move on. That’s the operation. That’s how it should unfold. Not always true, but that’s how it should unfold.
On what it means to be able to give scholarships to walk-on players:
“I think it’s really become a part of college football. I say that, and some teams gave every player a scholarship, but I won’t even get into that one. I think it’s a moment for players, for their family, and for the team, and we’ve been fortunate enough to do that since I’ve been here, every year. We’ve given out one, two, and I think it’s important just to show other guys that have walked on or however they got here that they have an opportunity. I have a softness for guys that are walk-ons. I get that part. For some reason, I didn’t get drafted. I know why. It wasn’t because of talent. It was because of some other things. So I was a free agent. All I wanted was a chance, and a man by the name of Dick Vermeil gave me a chance. And it turned out pretty good, so I get that part, and for some reason, guys sometimes — wrong place, wrong time, got injured, got overlooked — we get all that, but when they come here, they know they’ll have an opportunity to earn that, and we’ve been able to do that for some kids here, which is a lot fun, and it’s really fun when their parents find out, how excited they are. But they’re still young people, and it’s just fun to be able to do that.”
On the team’s overall readiness for the season:
“Going into today we had nine practices, so one’s down. It’s getting closer. Players are starting to understand. The conversation we had today in the team meeting was all about, ‘Okay, now, it’s season preparation time now. We’ve got to get ready.’ They kind of know what road we need to travel, per se. There’s a lot of guys that decided to come back, and they feel like if we can just stay healthy and play smart, we’re going to have an opportunity, and that’s all you can ask for. That’s all you can ask for every year. Every time you go into a new season, it’s a different journey. That’s what makes the game of football so great. It’s always going to be some new people, some new coaches, some new players, new situations, but there’s this journey you take, and over the history I’ve been involved in this, over 40 years now playing and coaching, there’s always moments and memories you never forget, and it becomes a part of your life. We start a new one here, opening night, on Thursday night, and we see where the journey takes us.”
On the progress of the tight end room as a whole given what he and offensive coordinator Zak Hill plan to do with them throughout the season:
“I think we’ve got a group that all have different talents per se. I think as Zak is more familiar with them and we know where they are, we’ll have different packages for them. We got some athletes over there, obviously. How we use them, I think Zak is figuring that out. But we’re a multipurpose offense. We kind of do a lot of things with guys. We move guys around and that’s what I like about it. It’s hard to pin us down. It’s hard to say, ‘They’re going to do that,’ because of the movement, because of the personnel groups. Now we got to get it all orchestrated. We got to get a flow and the only way to get a flow is we got to make first downs. That’s the whole part of being an offensive team. It’s about scoring but really it’s about making first downs. Because once you get into a flow where you can run on average eight to 10 to 12 plays a series, you’re getting all those guys involved, right? And the more people that touch the ball, obviously the happier the players are. You stress the defense. The three-and-out thing is not a lot of fun. It’s just not. You want to do that on defense. A three-and-out is like, ‘Oh man, I don’t like the punt team. Punt team, no no. We don’t want the punt team. We want the punt return, we don’t want to do a lot of punting.’ And some games, sometimes, it’s that way. I think if you could move the ball on offense, everybody gets excited, right? So make first downs and move the ball.”
On his biggest concerns and questions with ASU’s first game rapidly approaching:
“Opening day is always, you don’t know. You kind of think you know but you don’t know. How are we going to react, right? And then once the ball gets kicked in the air, you kind of figure it out. We have two new kickers (senior Logan Tyler and freshman punter Eddie Czaplicki) so that’s going to be interesting. They haven’t kicked a lot. You got a freshman kicker (Czaplicki). You got a kid (Tyler) who came in here last year and didn’t kick a lot for us. He kicked off. That’s going to be kind of interesting how that works out. That’s something I look at and go, ‘They’re new. They got to go do it now. They got to do it in an arena with people. How does that all play out?’ Kicking is a big part of football. Sometimes we don’t think so until you got to kick one with four seconds left against Michigan State and win. It becomes big all of a sudden. Those things become big. Going on the road and winning a game with a kick, those things become big. So how they handle all of that is important. How we look at it is important as well.”
On what Edwards looks forward to about the first game of a season:
“It’s always standing on the 50-yard line and having two or three of my players that I know, and (Hall of Famer) John Lynch was one of them, he would give me a hug before he went on the field and I would always tell him, ‘I can’t play anymore but you’re going to take a little bit of me with you out there.’ I do the same thing here. You’ll see me walk down that sideline and there’s going to be a couple of guys that I’m going to hug. Everyone knows I’m going to hug the quarterback. He walks with me down the tunnel and we do what we do and there’s a couple other guys. If they don’t hug me, they can’t go on the field. I want my hugs! That’s the uniqueness of the game of football. It’s the little things like that that you will remember your whole life as a coach and as a player. You get that part. I used to hug (former NFL quarterback) Ron Jaworski. That was my guy, the quarterback. You just remember those guys. They’re in your life for the rest of your life, right? Those little things that sometimes people don’t see and imagine, that’s a lot of fun.”