August 3, 2011

Arizona State wastes no time getting serious

With the NCAA's rule that players can wear no pads or shells for the first two practices of fall camp, the sessions often more closely resemble a dog and pony show than football practice. With not much contact taking place, onlookers are reduced to talking about how players look on the hoof, an idiom that somehow found its way into the football lexicon.

This, however, wasn't exactly that sort of a camp opener for Arizona State, with an intense 11-on-11 segment and about as much hooting, hollering and physical contact as one could imagine reasonably sane with such restrictions.

It was also clearly within the comfort zone of a team that prides itself on being all of those things. And oh, by the way, they also look pretty good on the hoof.

Gone are the days of returning players entering camp in less than ideal shape and unathletic, succeed-only-by-overachieving types littering the roster. This is a lean and mean -- literally -- group and if you were able to step into the Dickey Dome Tuesday evening, you knew they also mean business.

"This team really has been talking about this football season and this fall camp since January," junior quarterback Brock Osweiler said. "I think that's why everybody was so excited to get out here and start working toward all our goals for this team."

That excitement was palpable, with junior linebacker Vontaze Burfict and sophomore defensive tackle William Sutton indoctrinating new teammates with intense screams, some of which were directed at nobody in particular, and others that let the fresh faces know they're now playing a game that isn't one.

"It's great, great enthusiasm, and the great thing about it is a lot of guys have been around so everything we have done last year is there particularly offensively, with Brock and the receivers, and that was good to see, there wasn't a lot of mental mistakes. But as you can see there is a lot of enthusiasm probably six or seven days for now the enthusiasm will go down. This is a group that wants to win and work hard to do it."

Play wasn't always sharp on Day 1, with the secondary giving up too many big plays over the top and running backs dropping too many balls on short swing passes -- a bugaboo for coordinator Noel Mazzone to be sure -- but those things are to be expected to some degree early in a camp, and weren't the major stories of the day.

Roll call

Sophomore running back Deantre Lewis was not in attendance as he continues to recover from being shot earlier this year. Erickson has said his status is uncertain; he may miss a few games or may redshirt.

Other injuries players, senior cornerback Omar Bolden and senior receiver T.J. Simpson were in attendance and working on the side. Simpson said his goal is to be back by midseason, though he admits that's an aggressive timetable.

Senior offensive guard Adam Tello is recovering from offseason back surgery and will be ready to practice in another three weeks, Erickson estimated. Sophomore tight end Max Smith had surgery last week for appendicitis and did not practice.

Incoming recruits Kevin Ayers, Devin Goodman, Karl Holmes and Mo Latu haven't been cleared to practice yet by Arizona State. Once they are, they get 15 practices while their NCAA Clearinghouse status is being determined.

Notes

  • Senior Shelly Lyons worked primarily with the first-team at linebacker ahead of classmate Colin Parker. That's one of the position battles anticipated to be fierce in camp. Another is right tackle, where seniors Aderious Simmons and Dan Knapp split time.

  • Special teams will have prominent new faces with junior college transfer Josh Hubner and redshirt freshman kicker Alex Garoutte. Hubner has a huge leg -- he continuously hit the roof of the Dickey Dome Tuesday, which kept returners from getting opportunities -- and looks to be an upgrade or comparable at worst. Garoutte is more of an unknown. He hit from close but missed a majority of his intermediate and longer attempts Tuesday after showing improved leg strength in the spring.

  • ASU will wear all four of its helmet colors at time in camp to break the helmets in. Tuesday they were their traditional gold, many of which were marked with the new pitchfork design, albeit in unusual locations. Burfict was one of the few teammates who wore one in its proper location.

  • The quarterback depth chart had no surprises with Osweiler backed by sophomore Taylor Kelly -- who showed his zone read skill and also completed some impressive deep throws -- and freshman Michael Bercovici and Michael Eubank in that order.



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