Steve Sarkisian met with reporters about an hour ago, and we have most of his comments posted below.
A few of the highlights:
— Sarkisian said Erik Kohler is getting a lot more reps this week with starting left guard Dexter Charles limited by some type of shoulder injury. Charles has been suiting up and participating in warmups with the team — that part is open to media — but was stretching by himself during position drills on Wednesday.
Asked about Kohler’s experience, Sarkisian cited the block he made on Bishop Sankey’s 60-yard touchdown run during Saturday’s loss to Oregon.
“Oregon had sent a blitz through his gap,and he came off his initial block and picked up the blitz that really sprung [Sankey] for his long run,” Sarkisian said. “So a guy with experience can really see those things and react to those things a little quicker than maybe an inexperienced player.”
— Asked about the overall health of the team after facing two physical opponents, Sarkisian said he isn’t doing anything differently so far.
“I’ve just been monitoring the team,” he said. “And again, if I would have felt like yesterday or today our energy wasn’t great or we weren’t flying around, I may have backed off them a little bit. But they appear just in really good spirits, we appeared fast today and tomorrow, naturally, Thursdays are a little bit lighter for us anyway, so we’re in good shape.”
(Lack of catches for Kasen Williams/Austin Seferian-Jenkins a good problem because of balance?) “It’s not a problem to us. Its kind of the world that we’re living in. I went for 10 months of people talking to me about who’s our third wide receiver? So we’ve got a good offensive football team, we move the football very efficiently. We’re effective in the red zone, we’re very effective on third down. And the reality is, it’s because of our balance. It’s because who are you going to cover, what are you going to stop. And I think that’s where we want to be. For those guys, I’d love for them to have a big game or two or three here come to the fore, but so much of what we do is dependent upon what the defense gives us, and then we operate accordingly and so does the quarterback, and so that won’t change moving forward.”
(On mood of the team) “They’ve been awesome. I just told them that. I’m glad you guys saw that because I definitely saw it. I thought their energy was awesome today, their enthusiasm for practice, their competitive nature when it was offense vs. defense periods was tremendous.”
(Defense too anxious vs. Oregon?) “I don’t know necessarily how apparent it was just looking at the film. Sometimes some of that stuff is internal. And that’s one of the big things you try to guard against in a ballgame that potentially could be a big game and guys trying too hard or wanting to make a play rather than doing their job and allowing plays to come to them. So we obviously, if they’re feeling that way we obviously have still some work to do and that maturation process of understanding it’s the same game no matter who the opponent is.”
(Run game important in spread offense?) “I think just the running game in general is huge. For us. I don’t know how everybody else operates. For us, so much of what we do comes off of our running game. We’re just fortunate we have a guy in Bishop that can handle that load. If Bishop weren’t able to do that, we would use more running backs and give them more opportunities. But he’s so good, he’s so durable, he’s so well conditioned. His mental toughness is unparalleled, that he’s just able to carry the ball in the high-20s, even into the 30s and still look fresh doing it in the fourth quarter.”
(Feel like a new season at halfway point?) “We’ve been talking that way. I’ve been preaching that to the team about this is the second half of the season, this is the start of the third quarter, here comes our first drive out of the locker room and the first one is Arizona State and how well we do in the third quarter of ballgames in normal games. To me, we’ve been preaching it that way. I don’t know if it feels it, exactly, but we’ve been preaching it that way because we pride ourselves on our ability to finish and how well we play in the second half and how well conditioned we are, and we’re going to have to rely on all of those things in the second half of the season.”
(Has Bishop’s routine changed at all?) “I think it’s just been the same. From where he was about a year ago at this time is really when he started to make the turn of being an elite running back, in our eyes. It took a while for everyone else to see that. And he just hasn’t changed. You just look at the second half of last season into the first half of this season, I don’t know what those numbers add up to, but I’m sure they’re pretty impressive.”
(Does he ever get excited?) “He gets excited when he scores. I think like all running backs, they get pretty excited when they score. Even when … I love Bishop to death. He’s not perfect. Even when you get after him for something, whether it’s on the field or off the field, he doesn’t blink. He just remains the same. He’s very calm, he’s very focused. I definitely appreciate that about him.”
(When was the last time you got on him?) “I don’t know. It might have been class this summer. Summer school or something. Little things. Obviously pass protection and different things. Alignment stuff. That’s the beauty of our program. It doesn’t matter if you’re the nation’s leading rusher or a redshirt freshman, we’re going to coach you. We’re going to coach you hard. To Bishop’s credit, he takes the coaching and he listens to it and he tries to apply what is being coached to him. That’s what makes him a good player.”
(Turning up heat in Dempsey to prepare for ASU?) “I don’t know if there is heat, but if you bring in 100 big, sweaty guys it kind of heats up naturally.”
(Message heading into ASU?) “I think the overall message is for us to understand we’re a good football team. We’re good because we prepare really well, we practice great, we focus on the process and not about what just happened or what might occur down the road. We’ve played two really good teams the past two weeks and gone toe to toe with them. Unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to win, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not a good team. And we’r going to need that same type of effort Saturday to put ourselves in position to get a win against a good Arizona State team.”
(Any tweaks to gameplan against ASU DT Will Sutton?) “You need to know where he is and the matchups that he has. He’s a very good pass rusher, he’s excellent in 1 on 1 scenarios. And Bradford too coming off the edge is an excellent rusher. Their front’s very good. It’s probably the strength of that defense, so we have to have a plan for them depending on situations as the game unfolds.”
(Offensive line this week?) “They feel good. They look pretty good. Erik’s obviously getting a lot more reps and his conditioning’s getting better and better.”
(Going 1s vs. 1s in practice more?) “We naturally do it every day in practice, just based on some of the offenses we might see moving forward, we can do more of it because of the similarities between the offenses and the defenses, but we still have to have our scout periods, our service periods to make sure our guys are getting the looks they’re going to see on Saturday. So there’s a real balance there. I love the opportunities when we get to do it, because I think the speed of it, the intensity of it, the enthusiasm of practice gets really ramped up.”
(Assistants enjoying that?) “They love it. I think you get the best out of your players, because if they don’t perform in that period, the guy across from them is going to beat them. It’s different when it’s scripted and it’s a scout period. It’s goods on goods, you have to perform, so it really pushes guys to their elite levels of performance.”
(Darrell Daniels adapting to TE?) “He’s not doing bad. It’s a work in progress obviously, the pass game is the real strength for him. The run blocking and pass protecting is obviously the biggest area that needs improvement. But for him, the willingness is there, which is great, and he’s definitely working at it.”