August 19, 2008

Erickson targeting game week for injured Sun Devils

Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson said Tuesday he'd like to get most of his injured players back into the fold early next week, in advance of the team's opener against NAU on Aug. 30th.

Running back Shaun DeWitty and Brandon Smith have been working on the side during recent practices. Smith appears closer to return than DeWitty, but both may be available for NAU.

"I'd like to have both back by (next) Tuesday," Erickson said. "A lot of these injuries you're shooting for game week and that's obviously a week away."

The key player currently sitting out practice is of course starting receiver Chris McGaha, who has missed about a week as he continues to recover from off-season toe surgery.

"Hopefully we get him back next week and get him ready for the game," Erickson said. "I think the timetable is have him ready for Northern Arizona which means he has to practice next week."

The status of offensive linemen Matt Hustad (knee) and Garth Gerhart (ankle), and defensive end James Brooks (ankle) is also uncertain. Gerhart and Brooks may be back by next Tuesday, while Hustad may take more time according to the coach.

"With these injuries it's kind of hard to tell you," Erickson said. "It's so hard. It goes from day-to-day, treatment. Sometimes all of a sudden it gets well, sometimes it gets painful. I wish I could figure that out. If I could I'd be a trainer."

Third tackle

With Hustad out, Erickson has declared Tom Njunge the team's third tackle. Njunge, the junior college transfer from Pasadena, has exclusively worked on the left side of the offensive line until Monday, when he began to take second reps on the right said.

"What we're trying to do is get Njunge backing up on both sides so if our right tackle goes down he can go play right tackle," Erickson said. "He's our third tackle and he hasn't played any [there] so he'll be over there this week. (Mike) Marcisz has played right (tackle) from the spring."

Starting WILL

There may not be an official starting weakside linebacker this season, according to Erickson. Mike Nixon and Ryan McFoy will both play a lot at the position, and they are both with the first-team nickel defense on the field together.

"They're both going to play," Erickson said. "I don't think you can say any of them lead. They both bring a lot to the table. Nixon can not only play WILL, he plays MIKE, plays everyplace. So I wouldn't say I'd announce any one of them as a starter ever this year."

Quarterbacking

On Monday, Erickson said Samson Szakacsy would be the third-string quarterback ahead of fellow redshirt freshman Chasen Stangel. When asked by a reporter how Stangel was handling the decision, Erickson had the following to say:

"[Stangel is] not happy. I wouldn't want him to be happy. He's a competitor, he's a warrior. And the thing about that is, that's where it's at right now. Next spring, now you're competing for a whole different thing. So we'll see what happens. It's not the end of the world but that's what our decision is right now. As you guys can see it out here, it's pretty obvious, Samson is -- the RPMs on that ball have increased about 100 percent. He's very athletic…That's how it is right now. If it changes in the spring, it changes in the spring."

Defensive line opening

Three of the four starting defensive line positions were pretty much nailed down coming into camp with Dexter Davis and Luis Vasquez at ends and David Smith at right tackle. Several players have spent time at the first-team left tackle spot, and as of now, Saia Falahola has the lead on that position.

"Right now Saia would be the starter," Erickson said. "Again, that could change. Jonathan has really come along in the last week or so. Guy that's come along and played well is Bo Moos. He's done some awfully good things in there. There's a pretty good battle there, we've got five or six guys. We feel pretty good about rotating them. On the front four you'd like to be able to have eight guys and rotate them through."

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