August 16, 2008

Tontozona scrimmage notes

The Sun Devils got an impressive overall effort from their defense in the annual Camp Tontozona scrimmage on Saturday, limiting the offense to just two touchdowns on the afternoon. Here is a look at some assorted notes from the game.

O-line issues

The Sun Devils' lackluster rushing performance in Saturday's scrimmage at Camp Tontozona said more about the offensive line than the running backs.

Throughout the afternoon as soon as the rushers were handed the ball they were swarmed by the defense and had nowhere to go - the offensive front wasn't opening up any holes.
And that wasn't the offensive lines' only woes.

In all there were six false start penalties called on the offense, four by linemen. Jon Hargis committed two of them.

But overall, it wasn't the No. 1 offensive line that was causing a majority of the problems, it was the reserves. The top group was respectable and borderline good in pass protection.

The same couldn't be said for the younger group.

The backups were getting pushed back all afternoon, which in part Erickson said was due to inconsistency in the personnel.

"You have to look at what (each) group did," Erickson said. "It's easy to sit on the sideline and see penetration, and I agree with you, there was penetration, there's no question about it. I think what happens in the offensive line when you mix and match sometimes that happens.

"But there's no question about it, we've got to get better on the offensive front. We're not near where we need to be."

Big runs

Despite the offensive line problems, probably the two most exciting plays of the afternoon came from a pair of true freshman running backs.

Ryan Bass broke off a 44-yard run and James Morrison took a rushing attempt 45 yards down the field. Both were run down by Grant Crunkleton inside the red zone.

On Bass' run, it was his nimble footwork and incredibly quick first two steps that allowed him to hit a small before finding open field. Once into the second level, he exploded past would-be tacklers for another 30-plus yards, only to be brought down by Crunkleton, who seemed to have a bit of an angle on him.

On Morrison's run, the big tailback appeared to have nowhere to go when the offensive line failed to open a hole before making a quick cutback and racing down the middle of the field.

Then on the next play, Morrison shook off a massive hit from Oliver Aaron before being taken down by Morris Wooten. Aaron probably learned two things from the play: Tackle Morrison lower and wrap him up.

Morrison drew praise from Erickson for his performance, but the coach said he is strongly considering redshirting the walk-on.

"Probably not," was Erickson's response to whether Morrison would crack the rotation this season. "I don't think I would want to waste a redshirt year because we still have (Shaun) DeWitty that's going to come back.

"But speaking of him (Morrison), obviously, he's a shining light. He's playing really well. He's strong, he's big, he's tough and as I said last week we're fortunate to have the guy."

Backup QBs

Other than Rudy Carpenter, none of ASU's quarterbacks had a particularly good day, though of course, that also was due in large part to the play of the line.

Danny Sullivan went 8-19 for 72 yards and threw an interception, and was noticeably upset with the protection he was receiving from the No. 2 offensive line.

Earlier this week Erickson said the battle for the No. 3 quarterback spot between Samson Szakacsy and Chasen Stangel was still ongoing. However, neither redshirt freshman made any strides toward earning that spot Saturday.

Stangel missed his first seven pass attempts and finished just 2-11 for five yards.

Szakacsy still seems unsure of himself in the pocket and often unnecessarily rolls out trying to make a play with his feet rather than with his arm when there is little to no room to run. He finished 2-4 for 37 yards.

Jack Elway, who Erickson said will redshirt, went 3-7 for 40 yards and a touchdown.

Position battles

There are still three starting positions still up for grabs after two weeks of fall camp, although only two still appear to be in serious debate.

Probably the tightest battle is between Pierre Singfield and Terell Carr at the cornerback position opposite of Omar Bolden.

Carr got the start Saturday but both had solid outings.

At center, Thomas Altieri was back in the lineup today after missing most of the past week with a concussion and took reps with the No. 1 offense, moving Garth Gerhart to the second team.

And as it has been all week, Ryan McFoy was lined up with the No. 1 defense at weak-side linebacker. It's appearing more and more likely McFoy will at least enter the season as the starter.

Erickson, however, said none of these starting spots have been secured and that he would need to watch the scrimmage film to make any further assessment.

Second team

Several players who had previously been taking reps primarily with the third team defense saw some action with the second team Saturday.

Josh Jordan was lined up at the left cornerback spot, which had previously been occupied by Travis Smith. Jordan saw some limited second-team reps with the base defense and had been backup at the nickel position. Now it appears he's the top reserve at both spots.

Lawrence Guy split time with James Brooks at left defensive end, and he turned in an impressive performance with one credited sack and two quarterback hurries. He easily could have been awarded sacks on either of the hurries.

Freshmen linebackers Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee both saw time with the second unit. Each made impressive plays coming up against the run and each earned a sack as blitzers.

Getting their kicks

In the field goal game, Thomas Weber didn't quite perform how you would expect the reigning Lou Groza Award winner to, but still had an all right day.

The sophomore went 3-5, making attempts from 32, 42 and 47 yards out. He missed a 37 and 52-yarder wide left.

Weber's punting however was very strong.

In the first punting period of the day, Weber had punts of 46, 60 and 35 yards. The last of which landed at the 3-yard line then bounced away from the end zone.

"What I'm really excited about is how he's punting the ball," Erickson said. "You look us punting us last year compared to this year, him punting I should say. He's punting the ball extremely well."

Zach Richards was 1-2 on his field goal attempts making a 37-yarder and missing a 47-yarder wide right.

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