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September 16, 2009Not even 367 days and nights can erase the memory of that dreadful loss to UNLV. Arizona State senior quarterback Danny Sullivan admitted he and his teammates still talk about it in the locker room. Coach Dennis Erickson alluded to it in his Monday press conference.
It appears the days of overlooking competition are over, though.
Listening to Erickson and his players and its clear they aren't looking ahead to next week's matchup at Georgia.
"We don't even discuss Georgia," Sullivan said. "We don't even have Georgia in our minds right now."
That's because the University of Louisiana at Monroe and its unorthodox 3-3-5 defense is coming to town.
ULM suffered a 59-20 loss to Texas in its season opener, a game the Sun Devils are sure to have studied closely. Erickson, of course, spent time with Texas coach Mack Brown this offseason, presumably to discuss offensive strategy.
Sullivan said he is confident in his team's ability to perform well against ULM, but noted the team must be deft at picking up ULM's blitzes from both the linebackers and the secondary.
"It's just a matter of making sure your protections are solid," Sullivan said. "They can move guys around and change where you're going. It's just a matter of being sharp in that aspect and I think in the last week or so we've been pretty good with that."
Sophomore Garth Gerhart (turf toe) was still out of pads Tuesday, but he did some individual work on the sideline and on the exercise bike. Even if Gerhart was able to suit up Saturday, Erickson said he probably wouldn't start at this point.
So it looks like senior tackle Tom Njunge and sophomore guard Matt Hustad will be holding down the right side of the line on Saturday. Both Erickson and Sullivan noted, however, the running backs will be leaned on heavily in pass protection on Saturday.
ULM forced two fumbles against Texas and picked off Colt McCoy once, but allowed 562 yards of offense.
ULM is anchored by its leading tackler Cardia Jackson, a 6-2, 230-pound middle linebacker. Defensive end Aaron Morgan is the team's most disruptive force up front, as he has recorded three sacks and five tackles-for-loss so far this season.
The ULM secondary features free safety Greg James, whose 13 career interceptions coming into the season were tops in the NCAA.
"They've got a bunch of athletes that can move around and get across the field and make plays," Sullivan said. "You know, they struggled against Texas but played pretty well against Texas Southern But we have a pretty good idea of what we're trying to do and what we're trying to get done."
Erickson said he was pleased with the team's effort on Tuesday, but said it feels like his team is starting its season all over again.
Freshman linebacker Vontaze Burfict received reps with the No. 1s at middle linebacker flanked by seniors Mike Nixon and Travis Goethel.
Erickson and his staff also gave some first-team reps to freshman Gregory Smith at defensive end, but Erickson said he still hasn't decided whether he will redshirt Smith.
"[Smith] is a guy that didn't really play defense all that much [in high school]," Erickson said. "But he's our type of guy that you can put out at the end who can run like heck."
Smith played defense during his junior year of high school but played at tight end for Citrus Hill (Perris, Calif.) as senior. Erickson said Smith currently weighs about 250 pounds but said he expects Smith to weigh about 270 by next season.
Sophomore Lawrence Guy (biceps) fully participated in practice and is expected to make his season debut on Saturday.
"I don't think he's quite 100 percent yet but he's close," Erickson said.
Guy was joined by senior defensive tackle Saia Falahola on the first-team line Tuesday.