Effort, Tempo & Perfection: Malzahn ready to lead Red Wolves to another conference title

By Zach Lott
On August 27, 2012

The fall semester is here, and Gus Malzahn is ready to lead his team in its quest for another conference championship.

ASU football returns Sept. 1 with a match up against the fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks, and the team has spent the last month in fall camp.

ASU is predicted to finish second in the conference behind Florida International. Quarterback Ryan Aplin, wide receiver Josh Jarboe, offensive lineman Zack McKnight, and cornerback Don Jones, all seniors, are All-Sun Belt selections.

Except for David Gunn, who served as interim coach in Januarys GoDaddy.com Bowl, the team sports an all-new coaching staff responsible for teaching its players new schemes on both sides of the ball.

Malzahn said he feels fortunate to have extra time to prepare for the Ducks and adds the team has avoided major injuries so far.

[Were] pretty healthy for fall camp. Weve got a couple of guys limping but thats to be expected. Weve got to do a good job, especially this last week, Malzahn said.

Malzahns fast-paced, no-huddle offense, coordinated by offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, returns six starters but only two on the offensive line. J.B. Grimes, who has coached for over 20 years at schools such as Arkansas, Virginia Tech, and Kansas, is in charge of rebuilding the unit, a task freshman lineman Bryce Giddens from Moultrie, Ga. says is going well.

Coach Grimes is doing a heck of a job teaching us and teaching everybody. Everybodys having to learn, said Giddens.

As in the spring, Malzahn continues to stress being the fastest offense in the nation, a goal echoed by Aplin.

[The] biggest thing is tempo. Like weve always said weve got to be as fast as possible. Thats one of the advantages of this offense, Aplin said.

Aplin returns with four of his top five receivers from 2011, including seniors Allen Muse and Taylor Stockemer. I think from fall camp and summer I feel very comfortable. I just need to get the gameplan down enough to know what everybodys doing, Aplin said. Lashlee was complimentary of the work put in by the offense during fall camp and praised Aplins effort.

He demands perfection of him[self] just like we do. Thats what practice is for. My philosophy has always been to coach them extremely hard in practice. I want practice to be harder than a game, Lashlee said.

Defensive coordinator John Thompson must rebuild a group returning four starters, but he can fill open positions with players who didnt start last year but played significant minutes, such as senior corner Chaz Scales from Franklin, Tenn. and sophomore linebacker Qushaun Lee of Hot Springs, Ark.

Thompson says his players are putting the time to master his scheme, which resembles former defensive coordinator Dave Wommack.

They come in and watch tape, they come in and pick up where we left off the day before. We start [practice] and say heres their run concepts, their pass concepts, he said. They come back and repeat them the next day. So Im really happy with our guys and how their focus. They come in hungry every day.

The season will begin Saturday, Sept 1 at 9:30 p.m. as the Red Wolves take on Oregon. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

ASU will play Memphis for its home opener and travel to Nebraska and Alcorn State in two of six home games next month before beginning conference play against Western Kentucky on Sept. 29.

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