April 10, 2008

Football Notebook

After a lethargic practice on Tuesday, the Sun Devils came back with more intensity on Wednesday in their 10th practice of the spring, which also signifies being 2/3 of the way to completion. Perhaps as a result of the increased energy, several players were dinged up, including Dane Guthrie (shoulder), Jonathan Clark (shoulder) and Chris McGaha (unspecified).

None of the players appear to be seriously injured, but they join a growing number of players who have missed workouts of late due to minor physical ailments. David Smith has been out about a week with a concussion, Nate Kimbrough has spent the majority of spring ball on the shelf due to a hamstring strain, and Luis Vasquez has a minor ankle sprain. Tom Njunge is practicing with a minior ankle sprain.

All of the aforementioned could potentially participate by the team's scrimmage on Saturday, with the possible exception of Clark, who is scheduled to have an x-ray on Thursday to determine the extent of his shoulder injury.

"Not anything you can do about injuries," coach Dennis Erickson said following practice Wednesday. "Just have to try to develop some depth. The thing you've got to realize and sometimes it's hard to in the spring, is that it's the spring. Guys get hurt in the spring. I've had trouble doing that over the years because you're so competitive, you want to do this and do that and these guys get hurt and you get upset. And really the reality of it is, as the older I get: it's the spring. You want to learn, you want to get better, you want to improve but there are going to be guys who are going to get hurt. You just can't worry about it."

Of course, Erickson did also add, "If you want to play you better survive."

Weakside Linebacker up for grabs

Coming into spring ball, there had been talk amongst those in and around the program that Oliver Aaron could be the guy to step up and replace Robert James at the WILL position. But through Wednesday, the position seemed as unsettled as on Day 1.

Ryan McFoy has been listed with the first group and he has spend a majority of his time on the field there, with Aaron second team and Colin Parker third team. In an effort to get all three snaps with the first unit, they have rotated, but none has really stood out from the others.

Although he is not listed at the WILL position on the official depth chart, Mike Nixon is often playing with the first-team at the position. It's the spot he played last year when James was out of the lineup, and he may see time at the spot again this year, in addition to the MIKE position, where he is second team behind Gerald Munns.

"It depends on where we feel we need him to play but he can play all of 'em," Erickson said of Nixon. "Right now somebody's got to step up at WILL. Our MIKEs are playing pretty good and we've got some depth. We've got to have somebody step up at WILL."

Nixon had a nice interception of a ball thrown by Danny Sullivan on Wednesday, while Munns let two possible interceptions go through his hands. Both have played well throughout the spring, but it may be Munns who has been most impressive.

"There are guys that are football players. If you put them on a field and you time them in a 40 (yard dash) or things like that you say, 'Well maybe that's not exactly what we want.' But then when the lights go on he's better than what you want. That's what happened with Gerald," Erickson said. "Early in the [2007 season] he was damn near starting and playing a lot but he got hurt (against San Diego State) so he missed three or four games, then he came back and played quite a bit.

"He just jumped out in the spring. He's smart, he knows what's going on, he gets to the football. When you watch him play on tape he looks like he can run 4.4 (in the 40 yard dash). That's how fast he gets to the ball because he knows what he's doing. I don't think he runs 4.4, but he plays like he runs 4.4. That's what it's all about anyway."

Miami staff takes in practice

Randy Shannon, second-year coach of the Miami Hurricanes and a former graduate assistant under Erickson at the school in 1991, was at practice on Wednesday, along with members of his offensive staff.

"They wanted to come down and visit and exchange ideas," Erickson said. "So they're here. They'll be here today, tomorrow and Friday. We'll sit down and talk and so forth."

Erickson said his defensive staff got together with four or five different coaching staffs around the country in the last year in an effort to continue to work on defending certain things.

"Offensively we haven't done too much this year but we have over the years," Erickson said. "The other thing is that you spend a lot of time looking at tape, looking at some of the new stuff that's going on and I've been around so long that it it's all revolved around. So everything that's new now I did 25 years ago. You've just got to recycle it."

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