August 5, 2008

ASU starts fast, goes long in first practice

It was only the first day of practice, but Coach Dennis Erickson already likes what he sees.

The Sun Devils seemed to pick up right where they left off in the spring as far as assignments and timing were concerned, and a lot of that, Erickson said, was because of the extra effort the team put in all summer.

"When you have leaders on your football team who are out here all summer coaching everybody up to retain things from what you learned in the spring, obviously it makes a big difference," Erickson said. "This team has a great work ethic and they'll continue to come out and work hard all the time."

Monday's practice was not what you might typically expect to see at the first practice of the season.

Almost everybody appeared to be in exceptional shape -- they all looked very lean and nobody was doubled over gasping for air.

The timing in the pass game was exceptional; there were very few miscommunications between the quarterbacks and wide receivers, a product of the many extra hours put in during the off-season.

There was even a small scuffle during 11-on-11 drills, but nothing more than a good show of fiery competitiveness you'd expect at this time of year.

Also, practice lasted nearly three hours, but the players didn't mind - they know that at times, that's what it will take to be among the nation's elite teams.

"I guess it was long, but hey, if that's what it takes to get over that hump I know we're all ready to do it," junior linebacker Gerald Munns said. "We want to get to the top and we're willing to do whatever it takes."

Defensive depth

There weren't any surprises as to who was taking reps with the No. 1 defense Monday. Heading into camp there are really only two spots seemingly up for grabs, at cornerback opposite Omar Bolden and at defensive tackle next to David Smith. Terell Carr and David Bertrand filled those spots, respectively.

The No. 2 defense rotated a lot of players, but frequently had Jamarr Robinson and James Brooks at defensive end with Spencer Gasu and Saia Falahola at tackle. At the linebacking positions, Chad Lindsey was in the middle with Ryan McFoy at weakside and Shelly Lyons on the strong side. Lyons also saw some action in the middle. Travis Smith and Pierre Singfield were lined up at cornerback and Max Tabach and true freshman Clint Floyd were at the safety slots.

Missing on Monday

Matt Hustad, Steven Figueroa, Keelan Johnson and Tony Simmons were all just spectators at practice, but should be back soon.

Hustad, who sat out all of last fall coming off knee surgery, has mono.

Figueroa and Johnson have issues with the NCAA clearinghouse but both should be able to practice soon, perhaps even tomorrow, Erickson said.

And Simmons, a transfer from the University of San Diego, is having issues with his transcripts transferring, but he should be ready to go later this week.

First impression

Of all the true freshman on the field Monday, linebackers Brandyn Magee and Lyons looked the most impressive.

Magee and Lyons, who were high school teammates at Centennial High School in Corona Calif., look to be in great physical shape (Magee is listed at 6-foot, 230-pounds, and Lyons at 6-foot-2, 225) and were making some pretty good plays during 7-on-9 and 11-on-11 drills.

"That's why we recruited them," Erickson said. "They can run and they're big and very athletic.

"I think they can help us. Now whether that's this year or not I don't know, I won't know that for a couple weeks."

Walk-ons

The biggest guy on the field Monday wasn't a name Sun Devil fans have heard before. That's because all 6-foot-8 of Isaiah Williams is a walk on junior college transfer trying to make inroads at right tackle. He's currently unlisted on the roster, but that doesn't mean he didn't have a presence.

Another impressive walk on was running back James Morrison from Phoenix Saint Mary's High School. Morrison is a large back, he looks about 220-pounds, but with the depth ASU has at the position, he will likely find himself on the scout team.

Number change

In all, 13 players have reportedly changed their jersey number since last season.

Some of the most notable include: Luis Vasquez, 49; Omar Bolden, 3; Brandon Smith, 2; Samson Szakacsy, 10; Jamarr Robinson, 55; Saia Falahola, 77.


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