October 20, 2008

McGaha practicing closer to full speed

Arizona State's offensive output had taken a step backward from 2007, with a contributing factor being injuries to several key skill position players, including wide receiver Chris McGaha, who had surgery on his left big toe in April.

After hauling in a team-best 61receptions (4.7 per game) for 830 yards (63.8 per game) last season, McGaha has caught 19 balls (3.1 per game) for 265 yards (44.2 yards per game) this season, and he's played at far less than full strength through ASU's first six games.

McGaha sat out most of the recent bye week, and he received a cortisone shot in the toe recently. On Sunday, the junior returned to practice and looked as explosive as he has all season.

"I felt like a new man today," McGaha said. "It hurts a little bit but nothing to what it was. We'll see how long this lasts though. It seems like every day it varies. Hopefully tomorrow it's still as good as today. I went to (Head Trainer) Gary (Johnson) and told him it's holding up pretty well. He said, 'Don't say that because you'll jinx it.' I've told him that before and the next day I've been sore to the point where I can't even walk. But this is the best it's felt during a practice.

"I think the shot will help me. I definitely felt a lot faster today. I've got to adjust to getting out of my breaks because I'm a little faster now."

After suffering the injury during spring football, McGaha had a screw inserted in April. He was expected to be at full strength by the start of the season, but there have been lingering effects.

"At first, my joint (at the base of the toe) started to hurt so that's where I got the first (cortisone) shot right before the season started," McGaha said. "That was feeling better and I was running for a while and then the bottom started feeling worse. Now they put [the second shot] on the side of my toe where my incision is because apparently that's the best way to get to the bottom.

"The thing is, I have full range of motion and the screw, you can't even tell there is a fracture there. It just seemed like everything around the screw was getting sore and irritated and inflamed and that what was to blame."

McGaha has been frustrated by how the season has unfolded, due in part to the injury, but primarily by the lack of consistent production from the ASU offense.

"We've just got to make plays, myself included," McGaha said. "I had a chance to score against USC and I fall down in the middle of the field. We've just got to take advantage of the opportunities we get. I think we had a great game plan against USC and our defense played extremely well. As an offense, as a group we just need to make plays and I think once we start doing that obviously the wins will come."

Quarterbacking

Senior signal-caller Rudy Carpenter (ankle) practiced without any noticeable trouble in the light, hour-long workout Sunday.

"He moved around pretty well," coach Dennis Erickson said. "It looked better than before the SC game. That helps. He had a lot of trouble stepping and throwing in that game as you could tell. But that's what happens. I think he'll be pretty close to 100 percent on Saturday (against Oregon)."

Safety watch

Second-team safety Jarrell Holman missed his return flight to Tempe after spending the weekend out-of-town (ASU did not practice Friday or Saturday).

The Sun Devils are particularly thin at the position, with Max Tabach (knee) out for the season and Clint Floyd (lacerated kidney) and Jonathan Clark unavailable for the foreseeable future.

Angelo Fobbs-Valentino (knee) has returned to practice but probably isn't quite at full strength according to Erickson.

"We'll obviously use him on special teams because he was playing real well there," Erickson said of Fobbs-Valentino. "We'll see how healthy he is. I don't think he's totally 100 percent."

Last week, Erickson moved freshman Keelan Johnson to safety from wide receiver, and he's practiced well at the position, with multiple interceptions. But the plan for now, is to keep Johnson on the redshirt list unless there are additional injuries.

Troy Nolan and Rodney Cox will be the starters against Oregon, with Holman and Ryan McFoy, who was moved from linebacker last week, as the primary backups.

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