August 14, 2008

Defense dominates live practice segment

Thursday morning was almost a tale of two practices for the offense and defense.

While the ASU defense was hitting on all cylinders throughout practice and making plays during live 11-on-11 drills, the offense had a lackluster performance.

Defensively, guys were forcing fumbles, breaking up passes and getting to the quarterback while on the offensive side of the ball passes were being dropped, blocks were missed and nobody seemed enthused to be practicing.

The biggest difference, Coach Dennis Erickson said, was the mental focus.

"Defensively we came out and we were mentally ready to go," Erickson said. "That's what it's all about. Every football game, every practice, everything that you do to get better you have to be mentally ready to play. It's hard sometimes when it's hot, but you've got to come out focused or you might as well not even practice.

"Defensively we came out, we were ready to go; we were focused on what we had to get done and totally dominated the scrimmage. Offensively, no. And we are not good enough any place on this football team to not be ready to play."

Defensively, James Brooks continued to shine. The sophomore was putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback and recorded two sacks.

He once again drew praise from Erickson.

"He's getting better and better all the time," Erickson said of Brooks. "(Offensive line coach) Grady (Stretz) has done a great job with him teaching him technique and how to stay low and things that he's getting better and better. Because athletically he's really good, and he wants to be good. He's working hard to be good so there's huge improvement with him."

And Brooks wasn't the only defensive end who shined Thursday.

Luis Vasquez spent a lot of time disrupting the quarterback and recorded one sack on the morning.

Keegan Herring participated in full-pad, live team scrimmage drills for the first time since injuring his shoulder last week and looked like the he hasn't missed a step, although he did drop a swing pass from Rudy Carpenter early on in the period.

Walk-on running back James Morrison continues to impress the coaches with both his size and his footwork, even though there wasn't much run game success to speak of on Thursday.

Erickson said he almost offered Morrison a scholarship last spring and that he's glad nobody else did.

"James is a big, strong guy that so far has looked good," Erickson said. "That's a big back and he's got good feet and we'll just see how he continues to improve."

Hands team

Early on in Thursday's practice, the team practiced recovering on-side kicks.

The front line (so-called "hands team" as some call it) from left to right included Andrew Pettes, Shaun DeWitty (although he was not wearing pads), Ryan McFoy, Jovon Williams and Kerry Taylor. The next line had Nate Kimbrough (also not wearing pads), Troy Nolan, Kyle Williams (orange jersey) and Mike Jones (not in pads).

Omar Bolden and Herring were lined up deep.

No. 3 QB

Erickson said he will redshirt Jack Elway, so the battle for the third string quarterback will come down to Chasen Stangel and Samson Szakacsy. As of yet no decision has been made.

"They go back and forth," Erickson said of Stangel and Szakacsy. "I haven't made that decision. We have to get more looks (in the scrimmages) here Saturday, next Thursday. We have to get them some action because we do have to make that decision."

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