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August 15, 2009

Camp standouts shine in scrimmage

There was anguish, uncertainty and even some good old fashion helmet tossing. Not to mention a heavy dose of Gerell Robinson. Yes, the bubble was filled with plenty of emotion on Saturday afternoon, as the ASU football team scrimmaged for the first time.

"It's tough to go against this defense every single day," senior quarterback Danny Sullivan said. "They're very good, they know it and they got that swagger. We just got to keep matching their intensity every single day."

The first-team offense -- and the o-line in particular -- looked good on the first drive, one that ended in a Dimitri Nance touchdown.

Nance took a counter handoff behind the right guard, getting a great block from senior Thomas Altieri, before scoring from 14 yards out.

That's when things got a little scary.

On the initial play of the second drive, sophomore linebacker Shelly Lyons went down to the turf clutching his right knee. Lyons made the tackle on a screen to wide receiver sophomore T.J. Simpson near the line of scrimmage before collapsing.

With the aid of two others, Lyons left the field and made his way over to the training table where the medical staff looked at his right knee. About a half hour later, Lyons was able to make his way around the sidelines under his own power.

While Lyons grimaced on the training table, Robinson made the first of many plays on the very next snap. After grabbing a pass near the left hash mark, Robinson avoided a few defenders and made a nice lunge for first down yardage before being brought down.

"It's finally coming together in a game-time situation," Robinson said. "Everything's working for me."

Robinson also supplied some fireworks near the end of practice with a superb run after the catch. He caught the ball on the left side of the field and weaved all the way back to right sideline before being knocked out of bounds about 45 yards later.

He was by far the afternoon's marquee performer, totaling seven catches.

"Unbelievable," Erickson said of Robinson's progress. "When he came a year ago he hadn't played receiver all that much. That was a position we moved him to. Last year was a learning process. He's lost weight, he's down to about 215 pounds. He's faster, he understands the position better. He's a lot better than he was a year ago."

The entire offense as a whole, for that matter, looked better than it had in recent days and scored four touchdowns in about 90 plays. And though it is pretty much a forgone conclusion at this point, Sullivan played turnover-free football and didn't loosen his grip on the starting job. He also connected with senior wide receiver Chris McGaha on a touchdown from about 15 yards out.

Sophomore quarterback Samson Szakacsy, meanwhile, may have hurt his stock in the race for the backup position. Sczakacsy threw a couple of poor interceptions during the scrimmage, one to redshirt freshman safety Keelan Johnson and one to senior Jarrell Holman.

"Danny had a great day," Erickson said. "He did what he had to do he made throws, he has great command of what's going on. Sam threw a couple of interceptions that he'll learn from and I thought Brock had a good day too, he made plays too."

Other offensive highlights included a couple of the afternoon's best runs from freshman running back Cameron Marshall. The second of which, a 10-yard sweep behind left tackle, set up a goal-line touchdown on the following play.

Freshman wide receiver Jamal Miles looks like he's acclimating to his new position well and contributed a pair of quick screens that he turned into 10-yard gains.

"We put Jamal in the slot and that's why we made that move," Erickson said. "Jamal's a guy that -- as time goes on -- you throw the bubble screen to him because he's got outstanding hands. He did some good things today."

Senior running back Jarrell Woods capped the off scrimmage by running into the end zone untouched from about 10 yards out.

Take all the offensive success with a grain of salt, though, as the defense could have had around 7-10 sacks on the afternoon if quarterbacks were in play. Sophomore defensive tackle Lawrence Guy continued his stellar training camp and was wreaking his usual havoc in the backfield. Ditto for senior defensive end Dexter Davis.

The defensive line also suffered an injury scare when starting defensive tackle Saia Falahola went down with a left knee injury. Falahola was held out for the rest of the scrimmage, but was able to walk around with an ice pack on his left knee.

Falahola's absence allowed for more opportunities for freshman William Sutton, who looks like he's playing himself into the starting lineup. Not only was he winning battles at the line of scrimmage, but also he made a nice play on a screen to sophomore James Morrison.

"The guy that jumps out at you is Will Sutton," Erickson said. "You look around and there it is."

The defensive line wasn't the only thing getting in the offensive backfield, as blitzing linebackers also broke through on several occasions. Freshman linebacker Vontaze Burfict provided the afternoon's most memorable hit when he tackled Woods near the line of scrimmage, dislodging Woods' helmet. The hit was big enough as it is, but Burfict picked up Woods' helmet and tossed it a few yards for good measure.

"It's a violent game you've got to have violent people to play it," Erickson said. "He's like that. He makes plays all the time. He's that kind of a football player. We've got some linebackers. Brandon Magee made some plays. Shelly was making some plays 'till he nicked his knee. I feel pretty good about that position right now. But Vontaze, yeah. All you had to do is watch him play in high school. He's got tremendous instincts to start out with but once he knows the defense he'll get better and better all the time."

If Saturday was any indication, senior safety Ryan McFoy may be losing ground to Holman, who started along sophomore Clint Floyd at safety. Senior cornerbacks Pierre Singfield and Terell Carr completed the starting defensive backfield.


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