ASU Football: Nickel Package Could Play Bigger Role; Erickson Responds To Burfict Rumor

The Arizona State Sun Devil football team practiced Monday morning on the outside fields wearing their white helmets. It was hot and a bit muggy and the boys were gulping down the water, and in the case of one player we won't name, dowsing his face and head with Gatorade when he grabbed the wrong bottle.

It was a typical mix of individual and position drills, kicking and a couple of Maroon (offense) vs. White (defense) scrimmages.

One change noticed by an astute media member was the addition of more nickel defense. Coach Dennis Erickson agreed that he'd like to be able to use that defensive alignment more this season and that he's started implementing it earlier in camp than in years past.

"It depends on if we can stay healthy and where we're at," ASU's head coach said Monday morning, "(Cornerback Alden) Darby's playing nickel right now so depth-wise we're in pretty good shape as far as that goes. We'd like to play more (nickel) with so many teams that play that spread stuff like ourselves. You can get out there and get matched up with a corner like Darby on an inside receiver as opposed to a linebacker."

With the loss of talented cornerback Omar Bolden to a knee injury, Erickson will have to rely on more of his lesser experienced defensive backs. In addition to Darby, the talented sophomore who just moved to corner from safety, Osahon Irabor (SO), Devron Carr (JR), Devan Spann (FR) and Rashad Wadood (FR) will need to step up.

It's early yet, but in this practice quarterback Brock Osweiler was able to complete numerous big plays down field to his big (6-4) target, Gerrell Robinson.

Erickson was asked about last week's fight involved star linebacker Vontaze Burfict and receiver Kevin Ozier. The long-time coach downplayed the incident.

"I've been in 38 or 40 camps in my coaching career. Things like that happen on the field -- tempers. Sometimes, unfortunately, they carry off the field. Not very often, but that happens. That's not anything unusual. In my opinion, it wasn't all that big of thing. Because it was Vontaze, it was reported the way it was reported."

A team official also pointed out a several portions of the original story that he felt were incorrect. While, the team acknowledges there was a scuffle on the field that continued later in the locker room, the notion that Ozier was "knocked out" didn't match the facts.

If such an injury had occurred, standard post-concussion screening would have been required extensive medical examination and clearance and Ozier likely would have missed practice time. Neither happened according to the official team source. 

As for Burfict being "held out" of media day, we were reminded that the media-shy linebacker hasn't attended in the past two years and rarely agrees to give interviews.

Whatever happened, it appears to be over and not nearly as serious as originally reported. It's possible the team is covering up for their star player, but if the incident had been as severe as first rumored, there almost certainly would have been additional signs.

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