Just when Rudy Carpenter was becoming familiar and comfortable with Dirk Koetter's offense, Koetter…
Q&A with Rudy Carpenter
Rudy Carpenter: "It looks like organized mayhem (laughs). To be honest, I didn't think that there would be this many people here, but it's been fun. It's exciting to see so many people and talk football with them. You know that the season is getting close and everybody here is in football mode, and I'm very excited for that."
DD: Can you talk about the off-season you personally had as well as the team workouts.
RC: "Personally it's the best off-season that I had at ASU. Last year I played at 205 lbs. and this year I'm at 225 lbs. and just working out real hard. These wideouts that we have, and the tight ends, have had just an unbelievable off-season as well and doing very well. I'm just very excited for the season to start."
DD :You talked about the tight ends, and it's a group that looks vastly different than last year. However, in the off-season it appears that Jovon Williams has really stepped up into the starting role at that position…
RC: "Jovon is very talented and he can be a good tight end for us. As long as he keeps on working and progressing…he's very athletic and versatile, does a great job catching the ball and I'm excited to see what he can do for us this season." DD: Your performance, as well as the team's, improved greatly from 2006 to 2007. How will you and the team build on those improvements and make 2008 even better?
RC: "We had a lot of tough games, a lot of big games last year. So we had a lot of good experiences and if we can carry that big game experience to this year to when we play the Georgia's and USC's of the world – that can really benefit us."
DD : It would be harsh to call a 10-3 season disappointing, but did 2007 for you personally leave maybe a feeling that there could have been so much more accomplished?
RC: "I would say that I was highly disappointed with how the season ended. I was real upset that we got our butts kicked by Texas. That left a real bad taste in our mouths and I hope we can just redeem ourselves. But we still overall had a great season, and I hope we can build on it."
DD: Granted, the spread offense isn't fully installed yet, but what is your current comfort level, as well as the team's, with this scheme?
RC: "We've been doing real well in our off-season (informal) workouts. Our offense is awesome, we have a lot of good skill players and we're very deep. That's why we have to use the spread and four wideouts, because you just can't have some of those players sit on the bench."
DD: How do you compare this year's group of wide receivers, likely to be one of the deepest in the Pac-10, to the unit in 2005 that was one of the nation's best, which included Hagan, Matt and Zach Miller and Moey Mutz? Can you really compare both groups since obviously the spread calls for a greater number of talented WR's?
RC: "I think you can make that comparison, and this year we're obviously a lot deeper. We have a lot of speed and a lot of skill, with Kerry Taylor, Gerell Robinson, Mike Jones, Chris McGaha, Nate Kimbrough, Kyle Williams…we have a lot of good wide receivers this year."
DD:It's often said that a good running back is a quarterback's biggest ally. How do you envision the running game complementing the spread offense?
RC: "I think we'll be very similar to last year. We want to throw the ball, but we want to run it as well. We have Keegan Herring who can hit ‘home runs' and we have Dimitri Nance who can be an every down back. Our running backs are good and they'll continue to do well this year. Usually the better of a year the running back has the better of a season the team has. I think that can happen to us too."
DD: This is the first year that the team won't go up to Camp T for a week. There has been so much talk about the value of team chemistry up there. What are your thoughts and as a team leader how do you compensate for that chemistry being in Tempe longer than you've ever been for a fall camp?
RC: "I think our team chemistry and camaraderie is already unbelievable. You come to our informal workouts and there were 70-80 guys there. The guys on our team genuinely like each other and get along. We have a strong bond. I think staying in Tempe will be better than camp since we'll still be together, doing a bunch of stuff and we won't be on top of each other like we are in camp."
DD: There's no denying that the 2008 schedule is daunting, especially compared to 2007 where you had eight home games. What are your thoughts on the matter?
RC: "We haven't spent a lot of time yet talking to the coaches about the 2008 schedule, but I spent a lot of time talking about it with our players as a motivation factor. I told the players that we have to put a lot of work in the off-season and camp because we do have a rough schedule. Essentially, those four games against Georgia, USC, Cal and Oregon are games we can all lose. You can lose every game, but those four are toss-up games. We have to win those if we want a chance at a Rose Bowl or a BCS bowl and do all the things we want to do. And we have those four tough games early, so we don't have time to mess around. So we have to come out right away at the NAU game playing our best. That's what our plan is to do."
DD: You talk about the BCS and the Rose Bowl, and the team got snubbed from the later in 2007. From a player's perspective, do you feel a playoff format for the championship would be a good thing for college football?
RC: "I think a playoff could have helped us last year, but the season is already very long. I guess I understand both sides. But all I know right now is that there's no playoff format and we have to just win some games."
DD: What single area do you feel this team has the potential to surprise some people with?
RC: "I think our defensive line will be great, but I will say our offensive line will be a surprise this year. Those guys really work hard and really want to be good. They're young but they want to be good and I think they will be good this year."
DD: When coach Erickson did talk about the offensive line, he mentioned that the spread offense with the three-step drops you're going to take are really going to help that group…
RC: "It's really gonna take the pressure off of them, and hopefully we can get to a point where we can throw it and throw it well and take advantage of defenses trying to bring heat on us and have them back off a little, and then we can start running it. It's just common sense."
DD: As the saying goes, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. Just like any BCS team signal caller, you've had your fair share of scrutiny. Have your experiences during your ASU career strengthened you as an athlete and a person? Did those experiences perhaps happen for a reason and made you into the player you are right now?
RC: "To be honest with you, I think it goes back to high school (where Carpenter transferred to another school prior to his senior year). Nothing really has ever come easy to me. There's always some scrutiny, some controversary happening…and I used to feel upset about it thinking ‘why is this happening to me?' But as I look back at it, it has made me a stronger person, a better player and it will prime me for a better season."
DD: When you first arrived at ASU some five years ago, what goals did you set for your career and now that you enter your senior year, how have you matched up with those goals?
RC: "I'm not complacent but I'm very pleased, because I never would have thought I would have started for 31 straight games. I've been basically a four-year starter having a chance to do some great things. I'm thankful and grateful for everything, but I know there's still a lot of work to do and I want to end my Arizona State career on an awesome note."
DD: You've never been a player that talks a lot about stats, but you're in the position to overtake many of ASU's career passing records this season. Aside from statistics, how do you want to be remembered for your career as a Sun Devil?
RC: "I obviously can't lie and say that I don't know what records I have a chance to break. I have a chance at the all-time Pac-10 touchdown passes record and that's an awesome record when you look at all the players that accomplished it and now are in the NFL. But I want my legacy to be that I was known for being a competitor, helped the team win a lot of games and started a lot of games."
"The number one thing for me is winning that Arizona game. I can't even say how important that is for me to go 4-0 against them. Starting every game is important to me. Being the all-time leader in wins at ASU is extremely important to me. Those three accomplishments are really important to me."
Thanks to Stacey Price and Joe Healey for assisting in questions for this interview.
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