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October 12, 2010Arizona State left Husky Stadium in Seattle Saturday wet, cold and victorious.
Now the Sun Devils have a prolonged chance to warm up and dry off with the start of a bye week that precedes an Oct. 23 date at California. Most importantly, the team gets two weeks to prepare without the feeling that its season has already slipped away, a notion a loss to Washington would have almost assuredly generated.
"Guys are a lot more into practice and a lot more excited now that we have a win," said senior wide receiver Kerry Taylor, who caught four passes for 53 yards in the win over Washington, which pushed ASU's record to 3-3 and 1-2 in the Pac-10. "It adds to the excitement of practice and just the whole spirit of things."
The bye week will also allow reps for some players who haven't seen many since the end of fall camp. Sophomore Brock Osweiler and junior Samson Szakacsy split most of the snaps at quarterback during Tuesday's session as players on the second- and third-team units were the benefactors of an increased workload.
"Number one, we just want to keep improving and build on the success that we had last week," coach Dennis Erickson said. "We're adding a little bit here and there and moving some people around."
One of those changes was moving Dan Knapp to second-team right tackle "just to see how he does there this week." The switch put junior Brice Schwab at second-team left tackle.
The bye week is also giving some players a chance to rest their ailments. Junior wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad (turf toe) and junior tight end Trevor Kohl (hamstring) sat out practice along with junior safety Clint Floyd, who had dental work done earlier in the day. Sophomore running back Cameron Marshall (flu) also missed Tuesday's session.
The added break between games is allowing the players some peace of mind without having to worry about rushing back too quickly.
"The bye week is just used to get guys healthy and heal up some of the bangs and whatnot," Taylor said. "We let some of the first-string guys sit back and become teachers instead of taking all the reps."
Junior quarterback Steven Threet noted that a week between games is also a time to get back to the basics.
"For me, mechanically, I try to make some improvements," said Threet, currently the Pac-10's second leading passer at 286.5 yards per game. "It's just a chance to really focus on yourself instead of an opponent so much."
Erickson said the team will ratchet up the intensity on Wednesday and the Sun Devils will have an abbreviated scrimmage following Thursday's practice.
With 25 receptions for 363 yards, Taylor is nearly on pace to double career highs in both categories that he set in 2008.
So what's with the big spike in production, Kerry?
"The biggest thing is they actually throw the ball to me this year," the senior said with a laugh. "I'm getting routes and getting the ball thrown to me, and when I get the ball thrown to me I can make plays."
Sun Devil wide receivers were licking their chops when offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone strolled into town with a quick-hit spread scheme, and now they are seeing the results they were pining for.
And Taylor is far from the only one benefitting. Through six games, six different receivers have double-digit receptions (junior Mike Willie is second to Taylor with 24 catches), including 13 grabs for sophomore running back Jamal Miles. To compare, only five receivers finished with double-digit receptions through an entire season in 2009.
"Just the whole system of what we're trying to do on offense is a lot better," Taylor said.
Added Threet: "Anytime the receivers or the backs, the skill guys, can get the ball more often in the games, it just helps them become more comfortable."