Wednesday is coordinator day at Spaulding and as usual, OC Noel Mazzone and DC Lou Spanos met with the media after practice. At this point in the season, there apparently aren't a lot of questions for the coaches, so we didn't get any real new information today.
Mazzone said that while the weight of this game is bigger than usual, their preparations and routine this week are the same they have always been.
We're working hard. To be honest with you, we treat every week the same. We don't care who we're playing. We come out and try to prepare as hard as we can to get ready for the next opponent. Obviously there are some ramifications on this one, but you know when you think back on it, every game we play there's ramifications on it, so we attack every week the same way.
The young offensive line continues to be a topic of conversation. Mazzone was asked if the youth limited the options available to him, specifically with regard to rolling Hundley out and changing the launch point
Those are the guys who have really I think have really grown so much in the last three weeks is that offensive line with the three freshmen in there. I'm really happy with the way they've been playing. No, the only thing that prevents us from rolling Hundley out is me, because I don't call those plays.
Mazzone said that last part with a big grin and laugh. He has always been good at self-depricating humor, as he knows what his critics are saying about his play-calling and he's willing to joke about it, so this may have just been a little dig at that. However, I think it brings up a good point about the game plan for this week. We really haven't seen many (any?) moving pockets or designed rollouts by Hundley this year. Given his mobility, this would seem like a great opportunity to give him running options and keep the defense from aiming to the same spot seven to nine yards behind center on every play. It's especially key this weekend as ASU has a pretty impressive defensive line anchored by Will Sutton. Like Anthony Barr, Sutton's numbers may be down this year but also like Barr, that's in part because the numbers that offenses are blocking him with are going up, which leaves more room for the other guys on the D line. The Bruins were fortunate last season to miss Sutton as he was out with an injury, but that won't be the case this Saturday. Being creative and moving the pocket around could be an effective way from keeping the ASU D line from teeing off on obvious passing downs. We'll see.
Mazzone also had high praise for ASU QB Taylor Kelly who started his ASU career during Mazzone's two years in Tempe before he came to Westwood. The scout teamer and backup that Mazzone last saw has become a scary dual threat QB and the Bruins will have to work on containing him the same way they've had to focus on players like Nevada's Cody Fajardo, Nebraska's Tyler Martinez, and Oregon's Marcus Mariota this year.
Over on the defensive side, DC Lou Spanos was asked about the Bruins' secondary and what sort of coverage schemes the team has been using lately.
We've been mixing up the coverages. We've been playing a little bit of man, little bit of zone, some pressure, some forms of zone pressures, too, so we're trying to change it up a little bit and trying to get the offense off balance. Still need to work on our assignments.
The secondary had some struggles last week against some really gifted athletes on the Husky offense. This week, the secondary will face a bit of a different challenge with really diverse offense and a variety of good skill players coming at them. I think the Bruins might have a better matchup this week however, as they can put out a number of good athletes on defense, as long as they aren't physically overwhelmed by bigger and faster players on the ASU side. The key will be maintaining assignments and accounting for all their passing options.
One of those players the defense will be counting on is true freshman (what else, right?) Tahaan Goodman, who really had a good game against Washington. His hit caused the UW fumble at the goal line and he had more playing time last week than any other game this season. Spanos agreed that Goodman was a factor.
He did a really nice job. He went on the field and made a really big play at the beginning of the game. He had a good game. Still need time. Still need more reps and more experience, but the more time he's on the field the better he gets.
Spanos said that the biggest threat to the defense this week is ASU's high tempo offense. He also had high praise for the ASU QB and his ability to run the Sun Devil offense at such a high tempo, noting that he has really improved since last year with his decision making and control of the offense. It helps that he is surrounded by so many weapons, too, and ASU does a good job spreading the ball around.
You have to go in the game plan knowing that, that you gotta account for everyone, because there's all weapons there. They got the 5 skill players there, plus the quarterback, so they got six guys. We gotta figure out how to cover them all.
To wit, QB Kelly is their second leading rusher, and running back DJ Foster is their second leading receiver.
In an interesting contrast to Mazzone, who doesn't really change his approach much from week to week, Spanos admits that he changes the defense to whatever is best suited for each opponent, regardless of whether it fits with his own defensive philosophy. Known for an aggressive attacking defense in the NFL when he was directing the Pittsburgh Steelers, he noted that they have played more of a contain defense against the various mobile QB's the Bruins have faced.
That was best for our defense to be successful on our team. We just adjust for it each week. We knew what the offense's strengths were and tried to slow them down.
UC Berkeley alum Jack Wang has a great compilation of notes on this Saturday's matchup at his InsideUCLA column today and is definitely worth checking out. One interesting item that surprised me is that the Bruins and Sun Devils haven't met as ranked opponents since my freshman year at U.C.L.A.
This is the first time UCLA and ASU have both played each other as AP top-25 teams since Oct. 4, 1986. The 16th-ranked Sun Devils beat the No. 15 Bruins, 16-9, en route to their only Rose Bowl Game victory.
On the injury front, Wang noted that Jordon James is expected to play on Saturday, which is welcome news for the Bruins. After that, the RB depth is pretty questionable. Steven Manfro practiced in pads today, and Malcolm Jones was at practice but in a red non-contact jersey. Wang listed Jones' injury as "head", but there were no details on whether it was a concussion or where he is in terms of being evaluated and cleared. There was no mention of Damien Thigpen. Look for James and Paul Perkins to share the load, and Myes Jack to get some carries in short yardage situations.
My very favorite factoid in Wang's column today:
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, Kristina Pink)