October 22, 2008
Defensive line making solid impression
The silver lining of the Arizona State football team's four-game losing streak has been the emergence of its defensive line which has played extremely well as of late. Defensive end Dexter Davis was limited in practice due to an illness.
Coach Dennis Erickson said that in his mind, the defensive front has played as well as any position group on the team.
The biggest reason for the improvement, Erickson said, is depth.
"It's not just the [starting] four, it's all seven or eight of them that have played pretty well," he said.
No fewer than nine defensive linemen have seen considerable playing time this season, which has helped keep all of them fresh during games.
"There are times when players aren't in there for more than three plays," defensive end James Brooks said. "It's nice to be able to go in there, go hard, then come to the sideline and get some rest and get ready to go hard again."
Erickson said in order for ASU's defense to be one of the best in the conference it must continue to be deep up front.
"As this program continues to get better and better, we'll have that kind of depth because you have to be consistently really good on defense," Erickson said.
Three of the defensive linemen who have seen significant playing time are freshmen.
Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy (true freshman) has earned a starting spot while Brooks (redshirt freshman) and Jamaar Jarrett (true freshman) have become staples with the second team at defensive end.
"We're getting so much experience as young guys, myself included, that we're going to be great for a long time," Brooks said. "We have the potential to be the best D-line in the country."
But those young guys don't feel like freshmen. In their mind they are just part of the team regardless of age.
"I really don't look at it [like I'm a freshman]," Guy said. "I just look at it like I'm another player on the team."
Brooks and Guy in particular have practiced and played extremely well over the past several weeks.
Brooks has recorded three interceptions during team drills over the past two weeks and Guy, who came to Tempe with expectations of playing on the outside, is becoming better at defensive tackle with every practice.
"We're just learning more," Brooks said, "and as you learn more, you get more comfortable in your role on the team and you start to get a little swagger and you start playing better."
Part of the reason for the success of the young guys has been the help they have received from veterans like Luis Vasquez, Dexter Davis and David Smith.
"Ever since I first got here last summer, those guys have been taking me under their wing and teaching me everything I need to know," Brooks said. "In the future when they're gone, I can look back at what they told me and it will really help out."
Freshman running back James Morrison was in attendance at practice for the first time since breaking his ankle in late August.
Morrison had a boot covering his injured right ankle and was doing his best Ryan Torain impression, getting around with the aid of a wheeled leg rest. It's the same device Torain used as he recovered from surgery to repair a lisfranc injury last year, and allows the user to move around easily without having the use the injured lower leg at all.
Erickson said Morrison will not be able to put any weight on his foot for at least three weeks but he said Morrison could potentially be ready for spring practices.
Safety Clint Floyd was also at practice Tuesday for the first time since he suffered a lacerated kidney against USC on Oct. 11. There still is no definitive timetable for his return.
Linebacker Brandon Magee was in full pads and practiced Tuesday; he was taking some reps with the No. 2 defense at strong-side linebacker.
Erickson said Magee's status for Saturday's game is still up in the air.
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