Both offensive coordinator Rob Likens and defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales each gave their thoughts on Monday about the past, present and future of the 2019 season. These are the most important parts from the pair’s press conferences in our opinion.
Protecting Jayden Daniels and the play of the offensive line
Rob Likens joked he’d throw 12 players on the field to protect quarterback Jayden Daniels. He kept the emphasis of his game plans follow the attempt to keep Daniels upright because he’s the future of the program and he’s seen schools demoralize quarterbacks by putting them into the fire and he won’t do that.
It also helps when the line itself plays better. Likens had huge praise for starting right guard Dohnovan West because in Likens’ opinion, West looked like a multi-year starter on the field against Colorado.
“It looked more smooth,” said Likens on the offensive line play. “We just have to work on staying on our blocks a little longer...Very pleased with the effort they gave. Dohnovan West, I continue to sing his praises.”
He also spoke about the confidence West and other true freshman LaDarius Henderson have acting as if they can take on the world.
Opponent-to-opponent game plans
The trigger to Likens’ comment about putting a 12-man protection on the field, came from Likens describing making game plans based more on opponents. Yes, everyone’s game plan has a bit of influence based on opponent. His description involved more the idea of with Daniels and the other handfuls of freshmen, he can’t base his plans on previous experiences against an opponent.
Leading into Colorado, he and the rest of the staff knew they’d be able to consistently protect and allow time for large chunk plays against the Buffs. Cal on the other hand, will most likely be tougher to drop back and throw a bunch.
“You can’t put the young guy in that position right now,” Likens said. “...Our second year when I was at Cal, we didn’t even look at the film of the other team’s defense. We didn’t care, we were running these plays and we were going to run it as fast as we could..
“But here it’s more structural specifics because you’re trying to get the young guys into the right situation.”
Willie Harts starting at safety against Cal
Starting safety Cam Phillips had to be attended to late in the game against Colorado. It’s not confirmed, Danny Gonzales left the door open for the chance Cam Phillips will play on Friday, but Gonzales considered it unlikely because Phillips dislocated his elbow. . In Monday’s practice, he wore an arm brace on his left arm and worked off to the side with the training staff.
With that Gonzales is confident that Phillips’ possible replacement, true freshman Willie Harts, will be viable for the Sun Devils. Plus, he thinks being in Berkeley, around 30 miles away from Harts’ hometown of Pittsburgh, California, will factor in.
“Willie Harts is equally as talented as Cam Phillips,” Gonzales said. “He hasn’t played. In the first four games, he probably has 60 snaps total. (Phillips) has played at a really high level in play. He’s probably been, play-for-play our most productive player as far as tackles, pass breakups, being in coverage, doing the right things. So, it’ll definitely hurt not having him out there on Saturday. Willie is very talented and smart so he’ll be in a lot of the same places. So can he perform under the light? We’ll find out.”
Too much preparation
Gonzales listed multiple things for reasons behind the Sun Devil defense struggles on Saturday. Poor second-down-play leading to easier third downs, lack of aggressiveness and confidence.
The top blame went to himself for not preparing his guys correctly because he believes he might have overloaded his players with information like a computer being fired from too much data.
“Did we do too much? Were we so detailed that we turned them into robots?,” Gonzales said. “If you put too much information on their plate they’re like these computers that they built. They blow up on you and you have to buy news ones. We do that stuff to our kids we overload their system and it explodes and now they don’t play worth a darn.”