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August 5, 2011

Aaron goes down; defense steps up

He would have rather taken his first-team opportunity and ran with it. Instead, senior Oliver Aaron hobbled.

The senior linebacker came off the field prematurely after suffering a sprained left ankle on the second play of 11-on-11s in Thursday's Arizona State practice.

With the boundary side linebacker spot figuring to be closely contested in camp between seniors Colin Parker and Shelly Lyons, Aaron got an opportunity to work with the top group as the Sun Devils practiced in shells for the first time, but it was short-lived.

"He's got a high ankle sprain," Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson said. "We thought it might have been broken but he'll be back in a couple weeks."

Tuesday's opening practice saw nobody using the two conditioning bikes just inside the entrance to the Dickey Dome and coaches always hope it stays that way, but almost invariably line begins to form as time goes on as players get dinged up.

Junior defensive end Corey Adams also left practice early Wednesday, with a hamstring strain, and sophomore linebacker Kipeli Koniseti came off early with a right shoulder issue.

Add those three to the ankle sprain that had sophomore running back Kyle Middlebrooks out of action Thursday and those bikes may soon get to see a little action.

The injury to Middlebrooks, believed to be minor, coupled with the absence of sophomore running back Deantre Lewis as he recovers from being shot earlier this year, led to a heavy workload day for the team's starter at the position, junior Cameron Marshall.

Deeper reserves James Morrison, a junior, and Marcus Washington, a redshirt freshman, also got more opportunities than would typically be the case, but there wasn't much room for them to run on their carries due to a swarming ASU run defense.

The edges of the field were also locked up pretty tight due to strong cornerback play, which kept the intermediate middle of the field as the softest spot of the day.

"It wasn't as spirited as yesterday but defense stepped up today and that was great to see," Erickson said. "I thought coverage was good, Deveron (Carr) and Osahon (Irabor) played really well today and (Alden) Darby played good when we had him at corner. (There are) Things we're looking at and it changes just about every day. And I thought there were some good things offensively but it wasn't like yesterday."

Brining pressure

The Sun Devils gave serious consideration to some zone blitz concepts Wednesday and especially Thursday. They worked on some of these defensive looks last season in practice but rarely put them on display in games because of some difficulty managing the assignments.

With the defense largely being a veteran group in 2011, there is greater fluency with the base concepts and as a result of that and some personnel advancements, fans will likely see more unique and varied pressures this season.

"It kind of depends on who we play," Erickson said. "We've got a couple other zone blitzes that we're putting in that will work well with the [first-team] we had last year even though we didn't do it. A lot of it depends on what our secondary is like. We're gong to have to play some zone and if we do we'll need 5-man or 6-man pressure and we've been doing that a lot the last two days and a lot today."

Flipping sides

Junior college transfer Rashad Ross spent the first two practices looking a bit out of his element at cornerback, a position he wasn't recruited to play but given a look at due to depth issues being more of a concern there than at receiver, where he played last season at Butte College in Oroville, Calif.

Walk-on showing well

Redshirt sophomore defensive end walk-on Gannon Conway has received a lot of looks backing senior Jamaar Jarrett at srongside end.

Conway showed potential in the spring as a deep reserve after returning from a two-year LDS Mission, which followed a stint at Mesa Community College.

"We thought he did some good things (in the spring) and he had a really good summer," Erickson said. "He's one of the guys that could end up playing, when though I don't know, but he will."

Kicking it up a notch

Redshirt freshman kicker Alex Garoutte had perhaps his best career practice, connecting on 5 of 6 attempts including his only attempt from 47 yards and only attempt from 52 yards, the latter coming with another five or so yards to spare.


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