August 5, 2007
Intensity ramps up
Arizona State had its first practice in shells on Saturday and there seemed to be greater intensity from the coaches. There were several interesting exchanges between coaches and players and several of the team's newest additions had strong performances. The defense seemed to get the best of the offense, with several interceptions in 11-on-11s, and there was at least one position switch on the day as well. Here is a review. As the team went to shells, some of the coaches picked up their vocal intensity and it resulted in some funny exchanges with players. Linebackers coach Craig Bray was unhappy with the physicality of Ryan McFoy at the point of attack ("I don't want you to tap him, I want you to PUNCH" him) so he asked (actually demanded) McFoy take his rep again and when he did, the hit jarred McFoy's helmet loose. Bray then said, "You see, you didn't even know your helmet wasn't on tight." It drew several laughs from onlookers and provided a moment of levity. Another similar moment came later when, in wide receiver drills, coach Eric Yarber was having players essentially swim off him while acting as a defensive presence. When Chris McGaha went through with his rep, he made contact with Yarber's face and the coach said, "You scared me for a second there. I thought you took my teeth with you."
Running back Keegan Herring started the workout on an exercise bike (as did Brandon Smith, who did not practice due to a mild right ankle sprain). As Herring loosened up he ran by me to join a portion of the workout and he said, "My muscles got too big" as the mock reason he needed to spend time on the bike. Herring is probably good for more laughs on the field than any other player.
Monsoon storms in the area did not bring rain the to the practice facility on Saturday but it did cool things off a reasonable amount and make for a windy second-half of the workout. The field goal kickers were seeing their 40-ish yard kicks bend 20 or more yards from east to west with the wind, as they were kicking to the north.
In defensive line position drills, the foot speed of Dexter Davis and Luis Vasquez was noticeably quicker than all others. While it's still early, those two have -- in our opinion -- separated themselves from the rest of the defensive ends though as we mentioned yesterday, Eric Tanner seems to have made a substantial improvement from the spring. Additionally, Dennis Erickson said that he believed late JUCO addition Paul Unga would also be able to make his mark on the team, be it at end or tackle.
We mentioned in Friday's Sights and Sounds that the cornerbacks played well and that continued to be the case on Saturday. Playing as the first-team nickel back, Jeremy Payton had an interception of Rudy Carpenter and he made several other nice plays. Grant Crunkleton also had a pick and he generally played well. Jarrell Holman was working with the safeties on Saturday.
The quarterback play was noticeably down from where it was the last couple of days and a lot of that probably could be attributed to the windy conditions which affected play in 11-ons late in the workout. The most accurate thrower was probably Samson Szakacsy, who has shown very good poise and doesn't force balls into places where he shouldn't. He's very accurate and throws a consistent ball.
One of the most impressive freshmen in our viewings thus far has been receiver Kerry Taylor, who was earned rave reviews from both Erickson and Yarber, whom we spoke with after practice Saturday and will have an interview with posted at some point on Sunday. Taylor has a terrific understanding of the game for a freshman, knows all of the positions inside and out already and is technically very sound in additional to being a very good athlete. He hooked up with Danny Sullivan on one of the longest receptions of the day in 11 on 11.
It was obvious on Saturday that players are looking forward to putting on the pads and hitting. Numerous times coach Bray was heard yelling at defensive players to not take offensive players to the ground.
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