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March 16, 2012Midway through the onslaught, running backs coach Larry Porter excitedly jumped up and down in front of Arizona State's offensive line, a bouncing exclamation mark in human form.
Porter had just watched the group open a hole that enabled yet another in a seemingly endless string of touchdown runs in red zone work against an increasingly chagrined defensive front.
"Come on, d-side," senior linebacker Brandon Magee implored his mates from the sidelines. "Somebody stand up and make a play right here. Nobody scores down here."
Alas, even Magee's spirited attempt at propping up a defense he was unable to physically support -- Magee is still unable to participate in 7-on-7 and team periods as he recovers from a torn Achilles suffered last year -- proved fruitless. It just wasn't the defense's day.
Even though the Sun Devils were only running inside zone and the defense largely knew was coming on any given play, it was seemingly powerless to stop it, as junior Kyle Middlebrooks and senior Cameron Marshall spent nearly as much time in the end zone as their own backfield.
One hole after another was opened by senior guard Andrew Sampson, junior tackle Evan Finkenberg and the rest of the team's offensive line, and time and again, the running backs squeezed through, as sure a sign as any that the team's instillation of its inside zone run blocking had taken hold.
"We were really pleased today," Sun Devil coach Todd Graham said. "I'll tell you I was really pleased with the offensive line. Middlebrooks really stuck out to me today, Cam stuck out to me. The guys were being physical, getting after it."
On the flip side, defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Paul Randolph, working with an undersized, somewhat short-handed group, wasn't pleased.
Randolph spent part of Thursday's first padded practice making his players explode out of their stance, violently punching thin air as they provided their best Superman impression, if ever so briefly, diving forward and onto bags on the ground which broke their fall.
"When you trust me, and start getting off the football, we can stop doing this," Randolph said of the drill. "Explode off the (snap of the) ball."
The ASU staff will take the good with the bad though, and certainly prefer to talk about the good. That's what their "Speaking Victory" mantra is all about, after all.
"Obviously we've got to do a better job stopping the run but I think a lot of it had to do with how well we attacked it today offensively," Graham said. "And up front I'm really proud of those guys. Samson, Fink, those guys are anchoring that group up there and they flat got after it today."
Graham was also pleased by his quarterback play. After an opening practice that saw multiple interceptions from two of the team's scholarship players at the position, there was just one overall Wednesday and none on Thursday.
I was really pleased two days in a row with our quarterback play, not turning the football over; guys getting it done, managing the game," Graham said.
Now, the coaches will have a week and a half to fully absorb everything before they resume practice on March 27, following a week and a half off for spring break.
"It gives us a long time as a coach to really go back and evaluate," Graham said. "We video every single thing that we do and obviously three days in a row like this, we've been up there a lot of hours and haven't been able to watch everything. So it gives us time to watch everything, re-evaluate, make sure we're getting the guys in the right spots and we're adapting the scheme to them. I think that's one of the most important things."