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April 22, 2011

Players take Spring Game seriously

During the last practice before the annual Arizona State spring game, senior wide receiver Gerell Robinson yelled from the sidelines what coverage the defense was running during an 11-on-11 segment Thursday.

Junior linebacker Vontaze Burfict laughed. He told Robinson it wouldn't make a difference on Saturday.

The 45-minute practice without pads was shorter than the other 13 sessions this spring, but the lighter mood couldn't hold back the sibling rivalry between the offense and the defense.

"It's is pretty big," senior safety Clint Floyd said. "As you've been here, the offense and defense have gotten into fights. We take this very serious. We try to come out here and practice like we're in a game so we go at it 100 percent all the time."

Primarily dominated by the defense in recent years, the offense's ability to move the ball down the field this spring has created a more balanced match up between the two sides.

"I think the main thing is our [offensive line] is playing really well," senior wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad said. "They're not getting through as fast so that's helping us out quite a bit."

Head coach Dennis Erickson complimented the efforts of his players, stressing the overall improvement of the team despite the number of injuries suffered including torn ACL's by senior cornerback Omar Bolden and senior wide receiver T.J. Simpson. The competition between "O-side" and "D-side," as the players call it, has plenty to do with the team's progress.

"They challenge each other," Erickson said. "That's what it's all about. The only way to improve is to challenge each other on the field, and offensively and defensively we've made each other better. That makes a huge difference."

One of the rare opportunities where the offense and defense can play against each other under a scoring system, the spring game also gives coaches one last look at certain players before the offseason begins. Erickson treated Thursday's practice like one before a game Saturday in the fall. With plenty of young players getting their first opportunity to have a significant role, the seniors know Saturday's spring game isn't like the three scrimmages before it.

"I basically tell them to play like it's a regular game," Floyd said. "That's what it is, a regular game. Some of them think it's just a practice but it's really not. It's a game. It's getting you focused, getting you ready for September and also getting you ready for fall camp."

"It's the closest thing you can get to a game and it's the last time you're going to be playing in pads for a while," Pflugrad said. "You got to make the most of it."

Search for a cornerback

With the injury suffered by Bolden, cornerback is a very thin position for the Sun Devils, who will possibly turn to their incoming freshman class to fill the fourth cornerback spot.

Sophomore walk-on Harrison Evens has played admirably in the role since Bolden's injury and will have a shot, but could be pushed by freshmen Rashad Wadood and Joe Eason and junior college wide receiver recruit Rashad Ross, who played cornerback his freshman year, will also get a look.

"Every year we've been here we've been looking for a fourth corner," Erickson said. "That's just kind of how it is but we have a couple good freshmen coming in so we'll see what happens."


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