October 24, 2008

Herring set to start against Oregon

When the Arizona State football team ended practice Thursday, the players and coaches headed toward the 50-yard line for its customary end-of-practice meeting.

This meeting usually takes less than a minute, but Thursday's was different.

Coach Dennis Erickson kept the team at midfield for several minutes and the words "pride," "execute" and "make plays" could be heard from the south end zone.

Erickson said he was pleased with the way his team practiced all week, and that the purpose of his speech was to get his players fired up for Saturday's game against Oregon.

But Erickson has been around college football and he knows it takes much more than some spirited words to get pumped up for a game.

"We talked a little bit about the game and some other things," Erickson said. "It's about getting ready to play. You have to do it yourself, you have to do it all week. There isn't any speech in the world that gets them ready to play. You have to do it on your own."

And linebacker Mike Nixon agreed with his coach.

He said Erickson's long post-practice speech was inspiring, but speeches aside, all the players know how big this upcoming game is.

"Each individual has to get them self ready to play and we know that," Nixon said. "Come Saturday we have to be ready to roll."

Erickson's mantra following the USC loss on Oct. 20 has been "this is a new season," meaning that the Sun Devils must start over, forget their first six games and solely focus on the second half of the schedule.

And after hearing the coaches preach that philosophy for two weeks, Nixon said all of the players have completely bought in.

"We don't want to look at the first half of the season and repeat that," he said. "We feel if we come out and play great football we can win. So we're going to start on Saturday with Game 1."

Herring to start

Erickson said Thursday that running back Keegan Herring will start this weekend.

Herring has had lingering hamstring issues the past several weeks, but Erickson said the coaching staff feels Herring is "healthy enough and ready to go."

Although Herring will be the starter, Erickson said that does not necessarily mean he will receive the majority of the carries.

Dimitri Nance, Shaun DeWitty and Ryan Bass will all take some handoffs too.

"[Herring] is going to start the game, but that doesn't mean much because we're going to use them all," Erickson said. "[Herring] will get more carries than he's gotten.

"We try to get different things from different backs, so we have a plan for all four of them. We'll use them in different situations."

Seen the spread

Over the past several seasons, ASU has had some issues defending against the spread offense and mobile quarterbacks, and it appears Jeremiah Masoli, who is averaging more than 40 rushing yards per game, will start behind center for the Ducks.

But Nixon said he isn't worried.

He knows how much the Sun Devils have struggled against this type of quarterback and system, but ASU has seen the spread a lot recently and it has a better feel on how to defend it.

"Playing some of those teams earlier in the year kind of got us prepared for [the spread]," he said. "Especially a UNLV-type and even NAU, they spread us out. We have a lot of experience against the spread the last couple of years and we just have to go out and play solid football and tackle well."

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