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The Arizona State University Sun Devils had another tough break today when Head Coach Dennis Erickson announced that redshirt freshman cornerback Devan Spann has likely been lost for the season due to a shoulder injury he sustained in practice Monday. This is the third time this month that Spann has left practice with a shoulder problem, and the lingering nature of this injury likely means surgery will be required.
Spann was second on Arizona State's depth chart behind Osahon Irabor for one of the cornerback spots and likely fourth overall on the depth chart at cornerback. This leaves the Sun Devils with three solid cornerbacks and freshman Rashad Wadood, as pointed out by Doug Haller. Depth there is now an issue.
On his twitter account, Devan Spann conceded, "Man all it takes is one play for something like this to happen." As pointed out earlier here, Spann had redshirted last year and has worked hard over the offseason, earning the Hard Hat award for his effort during ASU's offseason strength and conditioning.
The Arizona State University Sun Devils have had a tough time with injuries this offseason, with injuries to players such as cornerback Omar Bolden, linebacker Brandon Magee and wide receiver T.J. Simpson. It seems that they will have to continue dealing with injuries even as Thursday's season opener approaches, though perhaps not as serious in nature as those aforementioned. Reserve cornerback Devan Spann left Monday's practice with a shoulder injury, according to Doug Haller.
Spann has had shoulder issues for a while now, with this incident being his third case of shoulder aggravation within the past month. He redshirted last year and has worked hard since, earning the Hard Hat award for his effort during ASU's offseason strength and conditioning.
No report is out yet about what type of injury Spann suffered or how much time he will miss. The Sun Devils don't have the depth at corner that they were hoping to have at the end of last season. Hopefully Spann can return and contribute soon enough.
Brock Osweiler is ready to lead the Arizona St. Sun Devils at quarterback. Mike Bercovici is apparently ready to take over in case something goes wrong--or at the very least, he's the second best signal-caller on the team, regardless of how drastic the drop-off could be between the starting and backup QB positions.
Three days ago though, Erickson had this to say about the backup QB position battle between Bercovici and Kelly.
"I'm waiting for somebody to take the horn,'' Erickson said. "Nobody's stepping up and taking it. That's kind of disappointing to me. You would think if you have a chance, you'd take it, and neither one of them have."
Bercovici was a decently rated quarterback from Woodland Hills, but he was not highly touted, so one would think that ASU is in a very delicate situation when it comes to quarterback depth in 2011. So let's just say this for now that this position battle is far from over, and that the Sun Devils better hope that Osweiler stays healthy all season long.
For more on ASU football, check House of Sparky.
Since Rudy Carpenter graduated after the 2008 season, the starting quarterback position at ASU has been a proverbial clown car -- many have tried to step into the spot, but few have succeeded.
Danny Sullivan led the team to a 4-8 record in 2009. A combination of Brock Osweiler and Samson Szakacsy was employed at several junctures during that miserable season, forcing the freshman out of Kalispell, Montana into duty before he was ready, wasting his redshirt in the process.
2010 brought the arrival of Steven Threet, but his impressive campaign was brought to an untimely end due to a severe concussion incurred against UCLA in late November.
The constant turmoil under center has been a large part of the Sun Devils' downward spiral since their 10-3 record in 2007. Fall camps rife with quarterback competitions failed to inspire the confidence of ASU fans, and it showed at the turnstiles over the past few years.
You can't blame it all on the quarterbacks, of course. The offensive style was vanilla, the offensive line was injury-prone and thin to begin with, and the lack of talent at the skill positions became more evident throughout the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Last year brought Deantre Lewis, Kyle Middlebrooks and Aaron Pflugrad, among others. The O-line developed chemistry and improved steadily. Noel Mazzone was hired as the offensive coordinator and has brandished flair since his arrival. All of these things amounted to incremental gains, but a 6-6 record has hidden the team's bigger success -- the confidence and swagger of the team.
In 2011, a clearer picture has emerged. Osweiler, now a junior, is confident, composed and mature. He handles the media well and has set high expectations for himself and the players around him.
Coach Erickson speaks highly of Osweiler's leadership qualities, and his teammates agree: Eddie Elder called him a "big time leader" at ASU media day, adding that "his actions speak louder than his words, and it shows on the field."
At 6'8", Osweiler has a huge frame and is an imposing figure to tackle when he scrambles out of the pocket. Despite the weight on his shoulders, he is willing to accept the challenge ahead -- make the Sun Devils into a Pac-12 championship contender. With just six days until the season kicks off, we're about to find out if it was worth the wait.
Brandon Magee squeaked his way inside the Dickey Dome Wednesday for about half of ASU's football practice.
The four-wheeled contraption he was on allows him to keep his injured left leg, which is in a boot, elevated while he pushes off with his right leg to move forward on the push scooter.
Magee stopped to chat with reporters, 11 days after rupturing an Achilles tendon at a scrimmage. He's out for the season but by his account, fully intends to return for spring football.
On the day he was injured, Magee's mother happened to be there. Magee was man enough to admit he cried -- as in tears -- about his situation. Now he's back to making jokes the way he always has, and being positive.
"I knew I was done right when it happened," Magee said, adding, "I live my life to the fullest every day."
The senior linebacker from Corona, Calif., plans to petition for a redshirt year this season. For now?
"I'll be in the weight room getting my upper body tight, come back looking Ray Lewis out here, you know?" Magee cracked. "Might as well do something good for myself."
Magee (seen above pushing himself out of practice) is no longer on the ASU baseball roster and that doesn't seem to be in his plans. He considered signing a pro baseball contract with the Oakland Athletics this summer before football camp but returned to the Sun Devils to be with his teammates.
"I'm happy I came back," he said.
The boot comes off his leg next week, then he will get used to walking on the leg and then rehab. It's a six-month recovery time, he was told. "But I'm different," Magee said, "so I think it will be like, four. I hope for four, because I train hard and I have high hopes."
Magee vowed to be ready for spring football practice in 2012. He's commiserated with teammate Omar Bolden, who himself suffered a major injury in the spring and is trying to come back from it.
Bolden offered words of encouragement.
The plan was for Nos. 6, 7 and 8 -- Shelley Lyons, Vontaze Burfict and Magee -- to terrorize Pac-12 opponents this season. But Magee won't be there; Senior Colin Parker worked with the first-team defense Wednesday at Magee's outside linebacker spot.
"I try not to think about it, really, but I'm excited to watch them play," Magee said. "How can you not be?"
Magee is doing what he can to help, attending meetings and imparting senior wisdom to teammates. So does he try to convince Burfict to return for another season after this fall?
"Whatever the best opportunity is for Vontaze, I'm just going to support him," Magee said. "It's his life. One of us has got to make it, man, so if he's the first one to do it, then I'll be the one celebrating with him."
Teammates swarmed around Magee to say hello and check out his new "ride."
"For him to be out here supporting the team, that means he's got our back and we just have to make sure we go out here and win these games for him," wide receiver Gerell Robinson said.
Notes: CB Deveron Carr is expected to be at "full speed" for ASU soon, and if he returns to that by Sunday, coach Dennis Erickson said Carr could be ready for the season opener... Previously injured RB Cameron Marshall took part in all of practice... Erickson is waiting for someone -- Mike Bercovici or Taylor Kelly -- to step up and take a firm grasp of the backup QB spot. A decision could be made by Friday, he said.
With the season just one season away, the Arizona State Sun Devils are still searching for a back-up quarterback. The Sun Devils have four other quarterbacks on their roster behind starting quarterback Brock Osweiler: Mike Bercovici, Michael Eubank, Taylor Kelly and Danny Lewis.
Bercovici and Kelly figure to be the two contenders for the back-up gig. Neither one, though, is swaying Coach Dennis Erickson. Erickson responded as follows when asked about the ongoing competition between Mike Bercovici and Taylor Kelly for the back-up gig: "Nobody's stepping up and taking it. That's disappointing."
Bercovici is a freshman out of California who was impressive early on in camp. He drew strong reviews from coaches and reporters alike but has dipped off since then. If Bercovici can recapture his performance from a few weeks ago, he should move past Kelly and secure the back-up job.
Taylor Kelly, meanwhile, hails from Idaho and was rated the top quarterback in the state by Scouts.com when he signed with ASU. He spent last season with the Sun Devil scout team and is working his way up the rotation this year as he eyes the No. 2 spot.
Whichever of these two QBs can come up big in practice over the next week will likely become the team's back-up QB entering the 2011 season. Whether it be Bercovici or Kelly, let's hope that one of them impresses so that Coach Erickson can enter the season confident in his No. 2 signal-caller.
College football season is just around the corner, and that means that the Arizona State University Sun Devils are very close to taking the field for first time in the season opener of their highly anticipated 2011 season. The team's first game, scheduled for Sept. 1st against University of California- Davis, is just over one week away.
The team has had a good week so far. Monday saw the return of running back Cameron Marshall, who fought off a sore ankle and is working his way back into the rotation. The offense looked good on Tuesday, as quarterbacks and receivers connected on several occasions for touchdowns. Starting quarterback Brock Osweiler threw two touchdowns and ran for another one during Tuesday's practice.
The team also chose captains earlier this week. Osweiler, linebacker Colin Parker, center Garth Gerhart, injured cornerback Omar Bolden and injured wide receiver T.J. Simpson were selected to lead the team. Bolden and Simpson are both dealing with torn ACLs and are likely out for the season. The two seniors should, however, still contribute from the sidelines with their leadership.
The Sun Devils are now down to their final week of practice before next Thursday's season opener. The team will look to make the most out of this coming week, whether that means perfecting certain drills or getting injured players (such as Marshall) back into the mix. The team is slated to play its "Mock Game" at Sun Devil Stadium on Thursday.
The Sun Devils are ready for the upcoming season to begin. Are you?
If for some reason you aren't ready for the tailgating madness, packed stadiums and fourth quarter drives, maybe this video will. ASU has released a promo video for Fox Sports Arizona, acting as a tease of sorts for the upcoming year. It's a little cheesy, but hey, a little cheesy video is appropriate.
Queue the epic music...
You're pumped up now, am I right? Those flames and the Lord of the Rings music can get a fan fired up.
Opening kickoff is just eleven days away. Arizona State will take on UC Davis with the game set to begin at 8pm.
The Arizona State Sun Devils have been rocked by the injury bug this offseason, losing several key cogs on both offense and defense. Players dropped sporadically, and several important guys- such as Omar Bolden, T.J. Simpson and Brandon Magee- will be out for the season. With the opener just a little over one week away, though, it seems that the Sun Devils are finally getting healthy.
Running back Deantre Lewis returned to the team late last week after a gun shot incident sidelined him last season. He is working his way back into the running back rotation, which is good news for Sun Devil fans who saw him bust out explosive runs last year (including a huge touchdown run against Oregon).
A few other key players should be back soon after dealing with minor injuries. Running back Cameron Marhsall dealt with an ankle issue and is slated to return to practice. Meanwhile, receiver Gerell Robinson, who has missed over a week with a knee sprain, plans to return to the team sometime this week.
More important than these reports is the fact that no other Sun Devil has hurt himself significantly over the past week. The team is finally starting to get healthy, which bodes well as their Sept. 1st season opener against UC-Davis draws closer.
On Saturday after a short, but spirited open scrimmage for the Arizona State University Sun Devil Football Team, we spoke with one of the team's defensive stars, sophomore DE Junior Onyeali. Onyeali earned recognition as a freshman and is looking forward to another great season.
"Life is more important than money."
Words to live by, especially if the meaning of your name is those very words. Such is the case with Nduka Onyeali, Jr., a sophomore pass-rushing specialist Sun Devils and Pac-12 fans know as Junior Onyeali.
He's named for his father and is of Nigerian descent. So does Onyeali live by his name?
"I have to," he said, right after signing every autograph and posing for every photo that time allowed despite the heat on the field of Sun Devil Stadium following ASU's football scrimmage Saturday morning.
Onyeali isn't the tallest or most imposing defensive end, but he's built at 5-foot-11, 241 pounds. And his quickness helped the true sophomore record 6.5 sacks in 2010, with 11.5 of his 18 tackles going for loss. Those numbers went a long way in earning Onyeali the award for the Pac-10's Defensive Freshman of the Year.
Onyeali also forced two fumbles and recovered one, all while just a part-time starter last season. His 2011 fall campaign got off to a slow start with a pulled hamstring that has limited him in practice this month, but Onyeali says he's now 100 percent and figures to start full-time when the Sun Devils start the regular season.
That's good news for ASU, which has already lost starting linebacker Brandon Magee and is without top cornerback Omar Bolden, among various other absences on defense. The Devils need as many playmakers to join star linebacker Vontaze Burfict as possible.
Onyeali plays with a high motor that helps make up for any deficiency in size. His goals for this season? "Get a lot more pressure on the QB and get better in the run this year."
Onyeali said good coaching and his strong desire to be a starter and get a lot of playing time as a freshman were what led to his success.
"Nothing was given to me," he said.
Onyeali sees a defense that will be very stout against the run -- if it plays to its potential this season. He's got the Colorado game on Oct. 29 at home circled on his calendar, since the Buffaloes are as close to a hometown team as Onyeali has.
"Can't wait," he said. "They didn't really recruit me, but you know, it is what it is."
Onyeali is a student of the game. He watches NFL pass rushers and their sacks and tries to learn from what he observes. ASU has him switching off between the strong and weak sides in its defensive scheme.
The sack numbers won't matter as much to Onyeali if the Devils do one thing this season.
"Win a championship," he said.
The Arizona State University Sun Devils held an open scrimmage for their fans on the main Frank Kush Football Field on Saturday morning. It was a great chance for the several thousand fans who attended to see their 2011 Sun Devil team in full pads. After the practice the fans were allowed on the field and meet the players and get autographs.
From a football standpoint, it's always going to be a mixed bag when the offense plays the defense in such a public setting. There's really no way to come out of that with winner. If the offense looks good, it means the defense was bad. If the defense steps up, you worry about the offense's ability to move the ball. In other words, don't read too much into what you see.
And yet, here's what we, and more importantly head coach Dennis Erickson, saw.
"Mixed bag. We've got a lot of work to do," Erickson said. "If we want to compete for the (Pac-12) South Championship we (need to be) better than we were today in a lot of areas."
While Erickson stresses the work that his team needs to do, he also said he wouldn't be able to fully evaluate the squad until after their first real game which comes on September 1 against UC Davis.
Quarterbacks / Offense
Erickson was pleased with the play from starting quarterback Brock Osweiler who had a few bad passes but overall was very consistent. In the battle to back up Brock, freshman Mike Bercovici got the first rep but it was fellow freshman Taylor Kelly who performed better on the day.
Erickson said earlier in the week that a decision was coming soon naming the QB2. He wasn't ready to make that call immediately following the Saturday scrimmage. He did give the edge to Kelly in this session but had also said that it will come down to much more than one scrimmage.
Bercovici had a few nice completions to running back Marcus Washington and wide receiver Jarrid Bryant. Kelly connected with Ozier as well and had two nice plays to Kevin Anderson. Anderson had the play of the day with a long side line catch that was a bit under-thrown. He turned and jumped over the defender to make the grab.
Erickson called out the play of running backs R.J. Robinson and Marcus Washington who got extra time with starter Cameron Marshall sitting out with a minor injury. The coach thought his offense ran the ball well but they certainly didn't dominate by any means.
Defense / Special Teams
"I'm sick and tired of seeing field goals blocked. First kick of the game and Vontaze (Burfict) runs right through and blocks it. How many games are we going to have to lose to figure that out as a football team. That's disappointing."
This quote from Erickson was the first thing he talked about after the scrimmage. Clearly, it was on his mind.
The secondary was without cornerback Alden Darby or linebacker Anthony Jones and the starters played very little overall. When the first unit was in the game they performed much better than the reserves who, for the most part, got picked apart through the air.
The linebackers did better, including Collin Parker who's now starting in place of the injured Brandon Magee who's lost for the season. Erickson was also pleased with middle linebacker Kipeli Koniseti who will be called on to spell Burfict at times.
While it was a full tackle scrimmage, that didn't apply to the quarterback. The defense did register a few called sacks, however, with William Sutton getting special praise for his pass rush.
Here's a few pictures from the day:
Vontaze Burfict after the scrimmage -- Photo by Jose Romer, SB Nation Arizona
Catch by Angelo Magee, No. 16, during scrimmage. --- Photo by Alex Ryan, ASU Media Relations
Fans (Sam Pollack center) on the field after ASU football scrimmage. -- Photo by Seth Pollack, SB Nation Arizona
A week ago, an observer to Arizona State football practice couldn't help but notice how easily the offense picked apart the Sun Devil defense through the air. The secondary was shaky as they adjusted to life without their vocal leader and star player, Omar Bolden.
Now, the story is a bit different. Brock Osweiler was still able to complete passes out of the spread offense but those that connected were contested (with limited hitting allowed) and many were batted down. Coach Dennis Erickson was impressed with the improvement in his secondary as well and singled out cornerback Irabor Osahon and converted safety Alden Darby for extra praise.
Bolden was a very active and vocal sideline participant in the practice. He had a brace on his left knee which didn't stop him from making a diving catch on a ball that sailed his way. He hopped back up with both the ball and smile.
Erickson was also pleased with the way the linebackers have filled in for injured teammates. "In football, that's what happens," he explained but, "That can be just talk, but they're doing it too."
Jones left practice at one point with a knee injury that initially looked bad but he apparently was only kicked in the leg and returned to practice after receiving treatment.
The first unit secondary included Osahon and Darby on the corners and Eddie Elder and Clint Floyd as safeties. Backing them up were Devan Spann and Rashad Wadood at corner and Keelan Johnson and Ezekiel Bishop at safety.
The Sun Devils will have a light practice on Friday and then a public scrimmage at Tempe Stadium on Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m.
Running back Cameron Marshall and receiver Jamal Miles were back on the field after missing some practice time earlier in the week. Receiver Gerell Robinson was not. He's expected to be ready for the opening game. Cornerback Deveron Carr also sat out.
The Sun Devils have had to deal with multiple injuries on the field during training camp, but one they had no control over was the random shooting of running back Deantre Lewis over six months ago. Fortunately for Lewis and his Arizona State teammates and coaches, he plans to play this upcoming season and forgo a redshirt.
Lewis made a welcome appearance at Sun Devil's practice on Thursday. He spoke to the media and talked about how good it felt to be back among his team and updated us on his status.
"I feel good. I feel like 85, 90 percent. The 10 percent is my stamina right now. That's the only thing I feel like I'm missing...I'll be back very soon," Lewis said.
He admitted being ready by the first game on September 1 might be a bit soon but he fully intends to play this season.
The recover from a gun shot wound has been difficult. It took hard work six days a week and mentally was difficult as well. There was a point recently in July when he thought he might not ever make it back.
"It was getting over that last hump and getting my speed back. People kept telling me it was going to take hard work and it was going to be the hardest thing I ever did in my life. I somehow fought through it and every time I went to sleep I prayed that I would be better the next day and come back stronger than I was before."
Lewis feels that in the long run this experience will make him a better player. He feels like he will now be able to add more mental toughness to his considerable physical talents.
This is great news for Deantre and he is a kid eager to get back to playing the game he loves. The soon-to-be junior rushed for 539 yards on 92 attempts last season. He also recorded four rushing touchdowns along with two receiving touchdowns out of the backfield. He will battle for playing time in the upcoming season.
For more on the Sun Devils, be sure to check out House of Sparky.
Arizona State University football coach Dennis Erickson has been around the NCAA block a few times. He coached at the University of Miami from 1989-94 and won two national titles with the Hurricanes but was also wrapped up in a scandal from his time in Florida. Miami, of course, is now deep in the middle of scandal involving a booster and improper benefits given to players. Some think this one is bad enough to earn Miami the "death penalty".
After the Sun Devils afternoon practice on Wednesday, Erickson took questions about the situation at UM and the overall state of the NCAA.
"I've been away from there 18 years, I haven't really paid much attention to be honest with you," Erickson said, but then later he did talk about the matter.
"A lot of times it's difficult to see what boosters are doing. It's hard. We haven't had any issues here, but at some of those places it's difficult. Sometimes you don't know. It's not just Miami, it's all the other things that have happened at other places."
Erickson pointed out the NCAA, in his opinion, is doing what it can to get control of the situation and that 95 percent of the programs were "doing very, very well."
Other practice notes
Training camp has been rough on Arizona State's defensive unit and linebacker Brandon Magee and head coach Dennis Erickson have announced he will redshirt this upcoming season after rupturing his achilles during Saturday's scrimmage.
Jeff Metcalfe of AZ Central has the story:
"That's what his mindset is," Erickson said (of Magee coming back for Spring Camp next year). "That thing will heal. They do wonders with those. He could be back for spring football. He's got to have a year of football," before trying to make it in the NFL.
"When you have injuries like that, you've got to have a goal. What am I going to do? It's to Omar (Bolden) and T.J. (Simpson), their goal is to possibly get back and help this team at the end of the year or if not go to the NFL. That's the same thing with Brandon. He's a very positive guy."
The injury is a tough blow for Magee, but hopefully he will make a full-recovery and be back on the field to prepare for the 2012 season. Coach Erickson said he "couldn't tell you" who would start in place of Magee and hinted multiple players could see time at the position. Everything will work itself out in the end.
Stay tuned to SB Nation Arizona for complete ASU football coverage. For more good stuff on the Devils, check out the good guys at House of Sparky.
TEMPE -- Eddie Elder is a busy guy at football practice these days.
Injuries in the Arizona State defensive backfield have Elder, a senior safety, taking not only his customary first-team reps, but a few with the second unit as well.
Elder's not complaining. He's also not buying into the prevalent opinion that ASU's secondary will be the weak link on an otherwise pretty strong football team, despite the Sun Devils' growing rash of injuries overall.
"It's kind of a personal thing, because if you're a part of the group, you don't want to feel like you're the weak spot even though it may be obvious that we need the most help," Elder said. "We're going to try to better each other, try to help the defense out as much as we can. We're going to try to progress throughout the camp."
Elder feels the ASU defense has more chemistry than last year, and that will be key. He's even got a nickname for the three linebackers in front of him that honors Elder's place of birth, Oakland -- the Bash Brothers.
The 1988 Oakland A's had the original Bash Brothers with McGwire and Canseco. The Sun Devils' version was Vontaze Burfict, Shelley Lyons and Brandon Magee until Magee went down with a season-ending Achilles injury Saturday.
"They're going to get after it," Elder said. "That energizes everybody else on defense and especially the offense, that makes them go down and score. We come back on the field and do our thing."
Elder, a thoughtful guy majoring in sociology who looked up to the late Sean Taylor for his playing style in the NFL, enjoyed his best day as a Sun Devil to date when ASU beat Arizona last fall in Tucson. He's got one last season to try to top that.
"I have to take on the leadership role in the secondary because of the loss of Omar Bolden," Elder said. "It's hard being out, I know that firsthand from experience."
Speaking of experience, Elder has learned from his elders -- he's close with his family -- and wants to one day be the guy who imparts his wisdom to youngsters. He grew up in Sacramento and wants to return there when his playing days are over and mentor and coach kids.
"That's what people did with me and several other people back home, and it was a success, this little program we had back home," he said.
The injuries continue to pour in for Arizona State. The Sun Devils, who have already seen significant injuries to the likes of cornerback Omar Bolden and wide receiver T.J. Simpson this offseason, will not have senior Brandon Magee for the upcoming 2011 football season. Magee tore his Achilles tendon during practice on Saturday and will miss the entire season.
Magee was a solid linebacker for the Sun Devils last year, playing in all 12 games (with 11 starts) while posting 75 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He ranked second on the team in tackles behind only Vontaze Burficit. His presence was instrumental in ASU's Territorial Cup over Arizona last season when he had a team-high 13 tackles in the game.
Now, things look much tougher for the Sun Devils. The ASU defense, which has been the team's strong point for the past few seasons, will have to rely a little more on Burficit. Burficit alone, however, cannot carry this team. The new first-team Sun Devils- those players replacing the likes of Boldin, Simpson and Magee- will have to step up in a big way to keep ASU's goal of a Pac-12 championship in sight this season.
Arizona State was without No. 1 running back Cameron Marshall Thursday at the Dickey Dome.
Marshall, coach Dennis Erickson said, has a sore ankle but is expected to practice Friday. James Morrison, a junior, stepped in with the first team Thursday.
Coyle, a special teams player last season, will back up Gerell Robinson as a slot receiver, Erickson said, and will play in the two-tight end set.
"He's going to play," Erickson said of Coyle. "With the offense we run, everything's going real fast, we've got to make sure we've got guys who can go in and out and he's really improved."
WR Mike Willie made a great adjustment on a pass from Brock Osweiler when the first teams on offense and defense faced each other in team drills. Willie fought off physical coverage from CB Osahon Irabor, then turned to bring in a deep ball from Osweiler.
He doesn't say much, but he certainly does quite a bit.
That's Jamal Miles, a junior wide receiver for Arizona State. Or so says his listed position. Miles is coach Dennis Erickson's and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's jack-of-all-trades, a multi-purpose player who plays in the slot at receiver, returns punts and kicks has been used as a ball carrier.
Miles is slated to be a big part of what ASU does on offense this season, and now he could get even more touches through at least the first two games of the season after receiver J.J. Holliday suffered a broken collarbone and will miss a month, the Arizona Republic reported Wednesday night.
"The next step for me is just playing a bigger role, playing a little bit more running back and wide receiver, now that I got a starting (WR) position," said Miles, who rushed for 85 yards and two scores and caught 25 passes for 203 yards and four TDs in 2010. Miles also returned three kickoffs, one for a 99-yard touchdown against UCLA.
"As long as I can be on the field and be out there, whatever they want me to do, I'll do it."
Miles (No. 32 above) came to ASU from nearby Peoria as a running back, but was soon moved to receiver. He has yet to use his redshirt season.
In 2011, Miles will be part of a unit that features a number of potential playmakers. There's featured running back Cameron Marshall, who will get the brunt of the carries. There's receivers Mike Willie, Gerell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad and another back, Deantre Lewis, who has yet to practice in camp as he recovers from injury.
"We've got a lot of weapons out there," Miles said, "so it's not like there's just one person that they (opponents) have to worry about. Basically, it's the whole offense."
Miles was fine with sharing touches with Marshall and Lewis and the receivers last season. One of those receivers was cousin T.J. Simpson, who helped Miles choose ASU. Unfortunately, Simpson isn't expected to play this season with a torn ACL.
"Just go out there and do my best and fill his spot, do what he's supposed to do," Miles said of Simpson. "He's one of our top players and he was going to play a big role this year."
Miles, a Pac-10 honorable mention performer last season, is on the watch list for the annual Paul Hornung Award, given to the top all-purpose player in major college football. The list includes 50 candidates from around the country.
It's a new season for Miles, which includes a new look for the Devils. Miles digs the new uniforms and helmets.
"It's something new," he said. "We don't have to wear the same thing over and over."The black jerseys, which will debut next month, are most popular among his teammates, he said.
Miles just wants to be a contributor this season and hopes that leads to a title or two for his team.
"We have high expectations for ourselves," he said of the Sun Devils.
The Arizona State Sun Devils just keep piling on more and more injuries as the season grows closer. Add sophomore wide receiver JJ Holliday to the list. Holliday broke his collarbone on Wednesday and is expected to miss a month of action, according to Doug Haller.
Holliday, a native of Arizona who played for Santa Rita High School in Tucson, was ranked as the fourth best wide receiver prospect out of Arizona by Scouts.com. He redshirted in 2009- becoming the first Tucson high school prospect to sign with the Sun Devils since 2002- before emerging as a contributor on special teams in 2010. He played in seven games, including the last four of the season, and will look to secure a niche for himself in the team's passing offense. He has plenty of speed and big-play potential to contribute, and he could turn into a huge asset for the Sun Devils as they look to surround quarterback Brock Osweiler with a strong receiving unit.
Unfortunately, he will be sidelined for a month with a collarbone injury. The Sun Devils will have to look to other players in the time being as Holliday begins rehabilitating his broken collarbone.
The pads were cracking, bodies were flying and players were limping out of the pile Wednesday morning in the longest period of full-contact practice to date for Arizona State football.
The roughly two-hour practice went by pretty quickly. ASU has a lot of returning players on both sides of the ball so being at practice this year is a lot like being at practice last season, with a couple of notable exceptions:
1. QB Brock Osweiler, firmly in charge as the No. 1 guy, is a rah-rah guy who is upbeat for every new drill, every new series in team drills. Before those started Wednesday morning, he was hopping around high-fiving anyone he could.
2. OL Kyle Johnson looks a lot like actor Russell Brand, the guy married to pop star Katy Perry. Same long hair, facial hair, etc. only Johnson is 6-7, 282 pounds.
4. The new face at DE is sophomore Davon Coleman, until Junior Onyeali is at full strength. Onyeali did get a series with the first team defense Wednesday.
5. ASU coaches are taking a long look at sophomore WR Chris Coyle, who is a big target at 6-3, 227 pounds. Coyle was used mainly on special teams last season.
6. CB Omar Bolden is rehabbing his torn ACL with enthusiam. It makes one think he could be back at some point this year. Bolden was moving pretty well in rehab; it's been four months since the injury.
Now let's move on to the hitting.
The No. 1 linebackers are all back and it seemed like they couldn't wait for this day. Rap music got the defense fired up and it set the tone as scrimmaging began.
DE Jamaar Jarrett stopped RB Cameron Marshall for a loss with a big hit, and LB Brandon Magee wrestled down a receiver for a short gain. Then DT Corey Adams overpowered his blocker and would have had a sack.
Magee and Vontaze Burfict were especially physical, not surprisingly. Magee drilled J.J. Holliday after a catch and Jarrett dropped Marshall again for a loss. Burfict dropped a would-be interception over the middle.
As scrimmaging went on, however, the offense began to make plays. Marshall had a long run off left tackle, Osweiler completed a play action pass to Aaron Pflugrad for a long touchdown and connected with Gerell Robinson, who'd limped after trying to block near a pile earlier, for a deep pass just before LB Shelley Lyons limped off the field.
"First couple of series, our No. 1 defense pretty much dominated it," coach Dennis Erickson said. "Then the offense came back and made some big plays, which obviously we're capable of doing offensively. The consistency on offense wasn't there like I'd hoped but again, that's the first time we went 40 plays (full contact). We'll know a heck of a lot more Saturday when we go for a long period of time."
The Arizona St. Sun Devils were projected as Pac-12 South favorites because of their supposedly ferocious defense. They would use their front seven to shut down offenses in a relatively weak division in 2011 to offset the loss of star cornerback Omar Bolden.
At the rate fall camp is going though, they're going to have to hope the second unit defense is the second best defense in the Pac-12 if they want to keep those dreams alive.
Defensive end Nduka (Junior) Onyeali and cornerback Deveron Carr both suffered injuries that sidelined them from Tuesday's practice. Of their top two cover corners, ASU has one player who's constantly getting banged up and another who will be reading brooding Russian novels on the sidelines this fall. Onyeali's injury only adds to the nicks and cuts of this squad.
For more on ASU fall practice, go to House of Sparky.
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.
"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.
Rumors have flown left and right surrounding Vontaze Burfict the last few days and it's sounding more and more like a poorly reported story that was originally thought to be much worse than it actually is.
SB Nation Arizona reported over the weekend that Burfict did not "assault" anyone. Instead, it sounds like a couple of teammates got into a heated argument and a scuffle ensued. That happens from time to time in preseason camp; it's hot, teammates are getting adjusted to their new teammates and the stress level is high with everyone battling for playing time. It is best for everyone to get their differences out of the way and move forward.
As far as how the story is now perceived in the media, Mike Jack Bauer tweeted and had this to say:
Burfict story really reads like a smear piece. As far as I'm concerned, it's a #nonstory. Wonder if Kerry Taylor wrote the original blog!
A smear piece? Big words.
Hopefully this is the last Arizona State hears of problems between players in the locker room. The season is right around the corner.
According to Brooks, Burfict "suckerpunched" wide receiver Kevin Ozier in the locker room after practice on Wednesday. Brooks went so far as to say that it was an "assault" and that head coach Dennis Erickson was "hiding" the story from the media.
These allegations are quite serious, and if true would have dealt a huge blow to Burfict's credibility as the defensive leader of the Sun Devils football team in 2011.
Fortunately for ASU fans, this story was overblown, according to a source familiar with the situation.
While it is true that Burfict was absent from ASU media day on Saturday, it was his personal choice to not take part. Generally a subdued young man off the field, Burfict rarely (if ever) spoke to the media in his first two seasons in Tempe.
This offseason has been a different story, as Burfict has done interviews with several media outlets who were looking to tout his immense abilities.
Burfict has a reputation as a loose cannon on the field, drawing ire for his propensity to draw flags and personal fouls. Often times, he's referred to as a "cheap" player by opposing teams' fans.
So what really happened on Wednesday?
During practice, Burfict and Ozier were involved in a scuffle. After practice, the two had to be separated in the locker room by teammates who were nearby. According to the source, there was no "suckerpunch," but there was an altercation between the two parties. UPDATE, 6:00 PM: The Arizona Republic confirmed that there were punches thrown during the fight by both players.
While no one should be pleased by Burfict's immaturity in this situation, it has been confirmed that he did not commit the strongly worded "assault" that was initially reported.
Warning: This is not an official report. Sports By Brooks is at that edge of the news-o-sphere that blurs between journalistic reporting and muckraking, and this is pretty much sheer muckraking here. However, Brooks is at that point where if he says something wrong, it pretty much discredits him. So we will proceed as if this is a rumor and not just an unsubstantiated claim.
Brooks has learned (I'm guessing not at summer school for Journalism 101, since he doesn't specify how he learned about it or who he learned it from) that star Arizona St. Sun Devils linebacker Vontaze Burfict got in a fight with teammate/wide receiver Kevin Ozier, and eventually sucker-punched him to the ground. Ozier was reportedly rendered unresponsive immediately after the punch, but did recover.
While this is still a rumor, it does jive with some current events. Burfict was a non-participant in ASU media day activities according to Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic. However, why would head coach Dennis Erickson continue to practice Burfict if this report was true? Very strange story that will probably only grow if it's confirmed.
For more on ASU football fall camp, go to House of Sparky.
The following video was taken at media day for the Arizona State Football team. As you will see, this is a confident bunch.
William Boor of House Of Sparky breaks down Brandon Magee's busy summer in an exclusive interview and article.
A throng of media members filled the Carson Center Dutson Theater on Saturday afternoon to take part in ASU football media day, and SB Nation Arizona was on hand to ask the big questions about the 2011 Sun Devils.
Osweiler spoke highly of the team chemistry so far in camp, noting that the hard work the team put into offseason workouts really helped develop team unity early on.
Confident in his role as the starting quarterback of the Sun Devils, Osweiler was eager to come forward as the key leader of the team.
"It's my offense now," Osweiler said. "I need to be the leader of it, and I need to perform on a daily basis."
With this confidence comes an important question: can Osweiler live up to the expectations of the media, who have chalked ASU up as the dark horse of the Pac-12 South?
"When that game's on the line, I want to be the person out there making the decision," Osweiler said. "I trust myself, but more importantly, it's my teammates around me. I'll take that pressure any day, I'll take these guys into battle anywhere, any team in this country."
Clearly, Osweiler believes the Sun Devils are ready for prime time. Robinson, a senior wide receiver, also thinks highly of ASU's chances in 2011.
"As much as everybody wants to go to the Rose Bowl, I mean, I've been to California. I haven't been to New Orleans yet... that's our mindset, to be honest with you," Robinson said, drawing a few chuckles from the media.
While all this talk sounds a bit unrealistic from a team that went 6-6 in 2010 and has failed to qualify for a bowl game since the 2007 season, there's no doubting that they have put in the effort necessary to find success in the Pac-12.
"If you guys have been in this building since we started our winter workouts from day one to the end of summer conditioning, you guys would all understand why we're saying what we are," Osweiler said. "This team has worked harder than any team I've ever been a part of in my life.
"The mindset of this team is unbelievable right now. The confidence we have, the energy, the family atmosphere that we've created around the building -- there's a lot of really special things going on around here. We're not destined for a 6-6 bowl game. We're not destined for a 7-5 bowl game. We know this team can do bigger things."
For the first time in years, Sun Devils fans might start to believe the hype.
There will be a lot more ASU media day coverage coming up over the next week. Check out House Of Sparky for more, and keep coming to SB Nation Arizona for your Sun Devils news.
It's the wildest time in sports these days, across the country and right here in Arizona, and joining the fun is Dennis Erickson's ASU Sun Devil football team.
The NFL free agency frenzy is under way and teams are reporting to training camps as soon as Wednesday, and in Arizona, the Cardinals are close to getting their next quarterback. The major-league baseball trade deadline is fast approaching and yes, the Arizona Diamondbacks, as competitors for the postseason, will make news whether they make a move or stand pat.
The Pac-12 Conference, too, is getting attention. After Football Media Day No. 1 in L.A. on Tuesday, Commissioner Larry Scott's blitz moved all the way to New York and the ESPN studios of Bristol, Conn., for the second phase.
That's where Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson flashed this bad boy from his earlier days in college coaching, saying on SportsCenter: "We're going to get one of these at Arizona State."
Well, you gotta love Erickson's confidence on the one hand. And it's not like he said "this year." Really, the comment was open-ended. But Erickson probably has one season -- this one -- to field a winning team, or perhaps be jettisoned from Tempe.
That said, Erickson must really feel good about what he has. The media kinda digs the Diablos, too, voting them second place in the Pac-12 South behind the University of Sanction Collectors, USC. And since USC is not eligible for a postseason game because of those NCAA sanctions, should the Devils take second in the division, they're off to play for the conference title.
See what Erickson had to say about that here. Of course, the Devils could bypass the backing-in route and just win the six-team division, which it has the talent to do. All of that without the NCAA investigations or players popping up on TMZ.
ASU hosts the Trojans on Sept. 24 on ESPN.
Before looking too far ahead, Arizona State has preseason camp to kick things off. It starts Aug. 2 at the Dickey Dome. The team will practice daily except for three days off and two days for scrimmages Aug. 13 and 20. The season opener is Sept. 1 against UC-Davis at home, when the Devils (winners of their last eight openers) will debut their new uniforms.
ASU (6-6 overall, 4-5 in conference) ended the 2010 season on a high note with a wild win at Arizona. With so much underclassman talent back from last season, hopes and expectations are high for more wins in 2011.
Eleven players with starting experience are back on offense and nine on defense. The offense is led by 6-8 quarterback Brock Osweiler, running back Cameron Marshall and receivers Mike Willie, Gerell Robinson and Aaron Pflugrad, plus an offensive line that goes nine deep with game experience and all-purpose player Jamal Mies.
Defensively, Vontaze Burfict is back at linebacker (and hopefully has his penchant for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in check), plus co-starters Shelly Lyons and Brandon Magee. Defensive end Junior Onyeali is back after a Pac-10 Freshman of the Year campaign with 6.5 sacks.
The Devils could have some questions in the secondary, with cornerback Omar Bolden's return this season due to a torn ACL in doubt and in the kicking game, where Thomas Weber is headed to an NFL training camp.
There's no doubt the team has plenty of playmakers, more than just the ones listed above. The offense should be electric with a good balance between the running and passing game; the defense will be challenged to hold up its end.
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