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August 12, 2009Last year, they probably got too much time off. This year, they don't get enough. Either way, it seems the Sun Devils can't get a break from the NCAA schedule makers.
Sure, playing at Georgia and at Oregon will be tough, but no task may be more daunting than the 11-week stretch of bye-free football that the ASU football team will face this season.
"I don't like it," coach Dennis Erickson said of his 2009 schedule. "But I don't have anything to do with it. It is what it is, but that's what happens to a lot of teams. The way scheduling is anymore, getting games is very difficult. You just got to play when you have a chance."
ASU has one bye week this season, which isn't too bad. The fact that it takes place after the season opener against Idaho State is, though. After the bye week, ASU will host Louisiana-Monroe then travel to Athens, Ga. before starting its conference schedule.
It sounds like an unenviable position for any team to be in, but that hasn't stopped senior quarterback Danny Sullivan from looking for a silver lining.
"It doesn't really bother me," Sullivan said. "It just brings me back to the high school days where you don't ever have a bye and you just play continuously. Maybe this year we can use the continuous schedule to help us get in a rhythm."
Not only that, but the Sun Devils' non-conference strength of schedule was made weaker when Brigham Young University backed out of its agreement to play against ASU earlier this year. BYU has since been replaced by Louisiana-Monroe and the game will be played on Sept. 5 instead of Sept. 12.
Making matters worse is the fact that the injuries are already starting to pile up during training camp.
Erickson said senior wide receiver Brandon Smith tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and that the team will try and petition for Smith to receive a sixth year of eligibility.
Freshman tight end Christopher Coyle will be out for six weeks with a broken bone in his right foot and as of Tuesday, two players were sporting casts on their right arms.
Freshman defensive tackle William Sutton (sprained thumb) and freshman cornerback Osahon Irabor (sprained wrist) played with black casts that nearly went up to their elbows on Tuesday.
"[Wearing casts is] just kind of a fad," Erickson joked with reporters after practice.
Given the difficulty of the upcoming schedule and the inevitability of players wearing down physically, these early-season practices in the bubble could pay huge dividends down the road.
"When we're in the bubble it seems like the intensity stays up throughout the whole practice," sophomore linebacker Shelly Lyons said. "When we're outside we're energized at the beginning of practice, but sometimes the heat kind of wears on us I'm not going to lie."
Tuesday afternoon's practice was held inside the bubble and featured the offense running its two-minute drill for the first time. Let's put it this way: had the drill been full-contact, ASU's quarterbacks would have spent plenty of time on their backs.
"Two minute went OK," Erickson said. "We've got to get better at it. We didn't move it very far with the first group, but really the purpose of it is not who goes down [the field] as it is to try and get the timing of what's going on."
The main reason the offense couldn't get anything going was because of a dominating effort from the defensive line and sophomore defensive tackle Lawrence Guy in particular.
"They are a lot quicker and have a lot more depth too," Sullivan said of the defensive line. "And Lawrence Guy is a pain to deal with I'm sorry for the other teams that got to play us because he's a big deal. He knows he's a big deal and he uses that swagger to propel his game. He's willing to go get 15-20 sacks this year and he talks about it he's not afraid to. In one word, he's a beast."