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September 4, 2012

Illinois game holds extra significance for Rogers

With Illinois starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase's status for Saturday's game against Arizona State up in the air, the Illini might need to turn to their second and third string signal-callers in Tempe.

Believe it or not, there was a time when that could've been current ASU junior tight end Darwin Rogers.

Recruited out of high school in Chicago as a quarterback, Rogers signed with Illinois before taking the junior college route and playing at Arizona Western.

During his two seasons in Yuma, the 6-foot-4, 243 pound Rogers switched from quarterback to tight end, still hoping to return to Illinois for his junior and senior seasons.

That all changed when the Illini lost their final six games last year and fired the coach who recruited Rogers, Ron Zook, opening the door for the Illinois native to sign with ASU.

"They were still recruiting me, they still wanted me to come there but unfortunately they got fired so my options became open," Rogers said. "It was a nice program, but I'm here now, I'm in a new chapter and I'm ready to get this thing rolling. It's my job to go out there and help this team beat Illinois."

With plenty of remaining connections to Illinois, Rogers circled this week's game as one with a little more meaning to him than the others for personal reasons.

"It's going to be a big rivalry game for me, I have a lot family coming down to watch the game and a lot of friends on their team," Rogers said. "I talk to all of them. We still have that relationship and most of them are from Illinois and we hang out together when I'm back home."

That friendship is especially strong with Illinois junior defensive lineman Akeem Spence, who has been chatting with Rogers leading up to the matchup.

"There's trash talking, he told me to tell the quarterback he's coming for them," Rogers said. "I'm not going to let that happen. We're going to get the push and let Cameron Marshall run all over."

Rogers saw limited action in ASU's season opener against Northern Arizona but is looking forward to playing a bigger role come Saturday.

"I felt comfortable, I was ready to play more but it was a blowout," he said. "I felt excited and I felt like I was at home. I want to go against their best player and see who comes out on top. That's the best thing about playing."

Wadood out for the season

Hampered by a shoulder injury throughout fall camp, ASU sophomore defensive back Rashad Wadood will have surgery to fix a torn labrum and miss the remainder of the season.

He will likely be granted a medical redshirt season after playing mostly on special teams as a true freshman in 2011, collecting six tackles in 10 games.

Wadood's absence creates more of a depth issue for the Sun Devils in the secondary. He was competing for the fourth corner position but wore a non-contact jersey throughout August.

Former wide receiver, sophomore Kevin Anderson, will likely receive more looks at the boundary corner behind junior Osahon Irabor with Wadood sidelined.

Linebacker reshuffling possible

A day after Graham called junior linebacker Anthony Jones one of his best 11 defensive players, the Sun Devils worked the junior with the first team unit at the SAM linebacker position.

"We think SAM is probably his best position to play," Graham said. "He's one of our best 11 guys physically, we just have to get him ready mentally and in the right spot. He can play bandit, spur and SAM."

Currently listed as the starter at SAM, junior linebacker Steffon Martin moved to the devil spot for the first time Tuesday with the first-team. Sophomore Carl Bradford started at the devil against Northern Arizona last week and has been atop the depth chart at the position since the start of camp.

"We're teaching Steffon devil to help depth, he looked really good there today," Graham said. "We're starting to develop some depth, now we're working to develop it in the secondary more."

Graham gets voice in coaches' poll

Taking over Southern California coach Lane Kiffin's spot, Graham turned in his first top 25 ballot this week for the USA Today Coaches' poll.

The ASU coach will vote for the remainder of the season for the poll that counts for one-third of the BCS formula.

"Obviously it's an honor for them to ask me, it's something I take great responsibility in," Graham said. "The integrity of that poll is very important. We have to make sure we cast solid votes based on merit. We do our research, we have to look throughout the whole country and make sure we do it well. We wouldn't have taken it upon ourselves if we didn't think we could do a great job at it."

The Sun Devils received no top 25 votes this week.


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