ASU Football Camp Update: Mike Bercovici Named Backup QB, Devan Spann Hurts Shoulder

The Sun Devils are primed to make a run at the Pac-12 South. Full coverage of their preseason camp.

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Brock Osweiler Ready To Bring ASU Football Back To Glory

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.


Crying Time Over For Brandon Magee, Now Devils LB Is Upbeat

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.  


ASU Sun Devil Secondary Starting To Perform; Injury Update

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."

Colin Parker got the reps at outside linebacker with the starting unit along with Shelly Lyons and Vontaze Burfict. Backing them up were Anthony Jones, Kipeli Koniseti, and Isreal Marshall

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.

Injury Updates

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.


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.


ASU Football Media Day: Brock Osweiler, Gerell Robinson Talk About BCS Championship Game Aspirations

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.

The day began with Brock Osweiler and Gerell Robinson taking the podium.

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.

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