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August 12, 2009

Sun Devils working to return from knee injuries

Multiple Arizona State players are attempting to return to action from major knee injuries which prematurely ended their respective 2008 seasons.

Junior defensive tackle Jonathan English (Nov. 28 vs. UCLA), junior safety Max Tabach (Oct. 4 at Cal), sophomore tight end Dan Knapp (Oct. 11 at USC), and sophomore offensive guard Zach Schlink (Nov. 28 at Washington) had major knee surgeries after being knocked out of action last year.

All except Schlink had dreaded anterior cruciate ligament tears, which typically require a seven or eight month rehabilitation process before players are medically cleared to resume practice.

Though the surgical and rehabilitation process has improved dramatically in recent years, there is no telling when players coming back from such injuries will return to full speed, or even if it will happen at all.

In addition to the aforementioned players, sophomore offensive lineman Matt Hustad has yet to play in a game for the Sun Devils. He's had multiple knee surgeries since he arrived in Tempe, the first of which was to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament that had already been operated on once, and the second to clean up the same joint.

Tabach has practiced every day thus far without a hint of lingering trouble his knee.

English initially appeared to have a green light for full practice, but he's been held out of contact drills in recent days and been asked to do extra conditioning. Still, he appears healthy.

Knapp was working with the first-team immediately at the start of camp, but looked to still be favoring the knee at times and Wednesday he did not dress for practice.

"As of right now I don't feel like I did a year ago but I feel like it's coming back very fast," Knapp said Saturday. "I'm just trying to get the feel of it right now and slowly but surely I'm getting the feel of it back to where I want it to be."

Schlink worked without restriction through Tuesday's practice and looked effective, but he did not suit up Wednesday.

"We're going to give Schlink a couple days off and the same with Knapp and then we'll have them back," coach Dennis Erickson said Wednesday. "Hopefully they'll be able to go Saturday for the scrimmage. With Schlink, his knee swelled up a little bit so we kept him out. Knapp was sore so we're going to keep him out a couple practices and he'll be back. That's just how you have to deal with those knee injuries."

Hustad has practiced without limitation or signs of trouble since camp started last week.

"I've been through this once before but I think for me the main thing is just knocking the rust off now and getting things going again," Hustad said. "My knee feels fine now. I think it's more about getting used to the speed of the game again but I'm making good progress with that and I know it'll get there."

Irabor out for the season

Freshman cornerback Osahon Irabor will have surgery to repair a broken scaphoid (also known as a navicular) bone at the base of his right thumb, an injury that is believed to have occurred Saturday. Junior Kicker/punter Thomas Weber played with hand wrist in a cast for the bulk of last season after suffering a similar injury against Georgia.

"He's going to have to get a screw put in and we'll do it in the next week or two and he'll be out for the whole year," Erickson said.

The news is perhaps not particularly damaging for a defense that has good depth at the cornerback spot, though Irabor was reportedly pushing sophomore Josh Jordan for a spot on the two-deep prior to the injury.

Weber to continue punting duties

Erickson was pleased with how true freshman punter/kicker Bobby Wenzig practiced Wednesday, but apparently not enough to open his mind to the possibility of using the walk-on from San Diego as the team's punter this season.

"Right now Thomas Weber is our punter," Erickson said. "Thomas is punting the ball better than he ever has and he'll end up doing both for us."

Wenzig had numerous punts over 45 yards and made all three of his field goal attempts Wednesday, two of which were from over 40 yards.

"Actually he's kicking the ball a lot better," Erickson said of Wenzig. "And he's not just punting it but he's kicking the ball pretty good too. Young guy who is going to be able to redshirt and he'll get bigger and strong and hopefully he'll have a future here."


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