September 18, 2008
'Wake up call' has ASU feeling ready
Following last week's upset loss to UNLV, the ASU coaching staff has seemingly gone to great lengths to make sure the football team is ready to go against No. 3 Georgia. Running back Dimitri Nance was not wearing a cast covering his right thumb Thursday. Nance tore ligaments in the thumb against UNLV.
There have been live hitting drills for the first time in weeks, an increased intensity throughout the week and Coach Dennis Erickson has let several guys battle for starting spots.
The tightest position battles have been at right tackle and left cornerback.
Erickson said Tom Njunge will play, as will Adam Tello at the tackle spot, and that Terell Carr will see action along with with Pierre Singfield at cornerback.
"We've got to get our best guys out there," Erickson said, "and we've got to start doing it right now."
Erickson added that tight end Stanley Malamala will start seeing more playing time too, citing his ability as a blocker as a main reason.
Erickson said he will continue to leave several positions open throughout the year because position battles keep the intensity right where he wants it.
"The good teams, they have competition," Erickson said. "You don't know if you're playing or not. You better stay at a high level or you're to be standing next to me, and that's eventually where we'd like to get.
"There might be a lot of those competitions before it's all said and done."
Carr is excited about the opportunity to get out on the field after not seeing any playing time last week.
He knows how big of a stage this game is, and just wants to go out and showcase what he can do.
"It does feel good because from the looks of it I am going to get my opportunity this weekend," Carr said. "I've just got to make the most of it against the No. 3 ranked team in the country. I'm looking forward to it."
Erickson said Carr has been playing much better as of late and that, "he's playing too good not to get in."
But at 5-foot-9, Carr will literally have a tall task ahead of him when he lines up against Georgia's wide receivers.
The Bulldogs' starting wide outs, Mohamed Massaquoi and AJ Green, are 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-4 respectively.
But Carr isn't concerned - he has faced tall wide receivers before.
"I've been 5-9 as long as I can remember," he said. "I've been going against 6-foot-plus receivers since I've been playing, There's really no extra special technique that you do. You just lock in and stay focused and play defense no matter if he is 6-4 or 5-10."
Erickson still unsure
Although Erickson was pleased with the way his team practiced all week, he said the extra energy doesn't necessarily mean a team will play better in a game environment.
"We're executing well, we'll see if it carries over to Saturday night," he said. "I've practiced good sometimes and played good. I've practiced bad sometimes and played good. Sometimes we did what we did last week."
But linebacker Mike Nixon said the extra effort in practice all week will pay dividends this weekend.
He said the loss to UNLV was a "wake-up call" and the team realized it simply can't go through the motions and expect to perform at its best on Saturday.
"We've brought it all week and I think it will be obvious when we go out there against Georgia," Nixon said. "We know we're playing a top-5 team and we've prepared accordingly."
Running back Keegan Herring is still questionable for the Georgia game, but Erickson said he would be "surprised" if Herring played.
"His hamstring is pretty close, but he hasn't practiced," Erickson said. "We've got four other guys that practiced pretty well this week.
"There's a lot of things we've got to do with our backs, and you have to be around to do it."
Herring was in shells with the rest of the team Thursday, but did not participate. He spent practice running on the side and doing agility drills.
Instead, the injured thumb appeared to be heavily taped and he was wearing a glove under the tape.
Offensive tackle Adam Tello, who seemingly missed his assignment on the blocked overtime field goal against UNLV, was not on the first-team field goal unit in practice this week.
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