August 9, 2008

Sun Devils get physical in first pads practice

Arizona State had its first practice in pads of fall camp and toward the end of the workout, in the 11-on-11 segment, it was clear guys were wanting to mix it up a little bit. Coach Dennis Erickson alluded to the physical play in his session with media members.

"We did some good things. We're improving all the time. First day in pads obviously there were some collisions out there for supposedly not scrimmaging," Erickson said. "But we'll do a little bit of scrimmaging tomorrow morning and our first big one will probably be Tuesday, I haven't decided. We're making progress, every day it seems we're getting better."

There is a quick turnaround from Friday night's practice to Saturday morning's workout and both are in pads, an anomaly created by the transition to two-a-days.

"It was good, a good practice," Erickson said of Friday's workout. "Of course we get in to two-a-days tomorrow so we'll go back-to-back pad practices so we'll be interested to see how they perform tomorrow morning. Then we'll get into our normal schedule."

The offensive skill positions continue to be ahead of most other spots on the roster due to the experience at those areas of the squad. Multiple receivers have received high praise from their head coach through the first week, and on Friday it was Kerry Taylor's turn.

"He's been our most consistent receiver," Erickson said of Taylor, referring to the receiver's work product through the entire year. "You go through spring and you go through summer and what he's done is been very consistent. He can play inside, he can play outside, that's what's great about it. He's really worked to become better and he has, you can tell it."

Erickson said he also felt good about the other group of potential pass catchers, the tight ends. The group's two most veteran players have set a strong example and a newcomer has provided a strong work ethic to match.

"(Andrew) Pettes and Jovon (Williams), they've played quite a bit (in the past)," Erickson said. "It's not like they haven't played. They've played quite a bit. I feel good about it. Our junior college (transfer) Stanley Malamala is playing very well for us, Danny Knapp, Pettes and Jovon Williams at ones and twos. It's a good group. We're talking about four wides what I've seen with our [receivers] group, now we can go to into two and three tight ends too."

In particular, Pettes has made great strides, starting with the 20-25 pounds he lost in the off-season in order to get leaner and become more of a versatile player.

"He's running routes better, he's more physical, he's better on his feet and a lot of it had to do with what (Sports Performance coach) Ben (Hilgart) did with him this summer," Erickson said.

Through the first week, Erickson said he and his staff are beginning to get confirmation that the recruiting class they signed in February is very good, as anticipated.

"Our newcomers, it's a good group," he said. "You can go top to bottom. We talked about it today and we think it's a heck of a class and they've proven it. They proved it without pads and I thought today showed the same thing. Again, we'll just see how it continues to go. But it's a very athletic group and a group that likes to play football."

Player availability update

Nate Kimbrough attended practice a day after Erickson said the wide receiver would need surgery to repair an orbital bone near his eye, which was broken during a freak accident Wednesday. Another player was doing dumbbell flies when he brought the weight up and accidentally caught Kimbrough in the face. He is scheduled to have surgery next week.
Running back Keegan Herring returned to jersey wearing a non-contact orange jersey after missing several days due to a slight shoulder sprain.

Matt Hustad participated, sans pads, for the first time in camp. The offensive lineman is recovering from mononucleosis.

Wide receiver Brandon Smith was running on the side and appeared close to returning to action after tweaking a hamstring several days earlier while making an attempt on a ball downfield.

Running back Shaun DeWitty tweaked a hamstring while running toward the sideline 30 yards downfield after a big gain in a team segment. He is day-to-day.

Defensive tackle Spencer Gasu is also day-to-day with a slight hamstring strain.

Athlete Keelan Johnson was cleared to practice for the first time Friday, and worked at receiver.

Recruits in attendance

2009 tight end commit Chris Coyle was in attendance Friday, spending a lot of time watching the workout with Steven Figueroa, who still hasn't been cleared to participate. Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral offensive tackle Taylor Lewan was also in attendance, along with several high school teamamtes.

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