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October 19, 2011

ASU hopes to get healthier during bye week

Arizona State worked for less than 90 minutes in its first bye week practice, with much of the time dedicated to coaches taking their first look in weeks at freshmen in 11-on-11 work wearing white and maroon jerseys instead of the gold scout team ones they've grown accustomed to.

"We're beat up a little bit like most teams are," head coach Dennis Erickson said. "It's good for us to get a chance to look at our freshmen some and still do some things and you have a chance to get the injuries taken care of plus get our legs back. We're a little tired. We made it this long. I kept thinking we'd have it sooner but it's working out about right, right now."

The best news for the Sun Devils is that sophomore defensive end Junior Onyeali participated fully and is a go for the team's next opponent, Colorado, on Oct. 29.

"Without a doubt," coach Dennis Erickson said. "We're just trying to work him in right now. How much he'll play, we don't know. We'll see as the week goes on, but he was pretty much full speed it looked like to me."

Onyeali was hurt on the first defensive play from scrimmage at Illinois Sept, 17 after tallying two tackles for loss and one sack through the team's first two games. Last season he earned Rivals.comFreshman All-American honors after collecting 11.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.

Onlookers also got their first glimpse at senior cornerback Omar Bolden in full dress. Bolden, who earned all Pac-10 honors last season, hasn't put a timetable on his return, but looked comfortable in position drills while participating at full speed.

"We're just working him in," Erickson said. "He did some individual stuff, some [7-on-7] stuff, just to see how he feels when he gets done with this thing. It's is a mental thing, too, getting confidence in your knee."

Sophomore offensive tackle Evan Finkenberg conditioned and appears to be nearing a return to pads after having surgery to repair torn meniscus following ASU's win over USC on Sept. 24. Erickson said Finkenberg wasn't likely to play against Colorado but would "for sure" return for a critical Pac-12 South game at UCLA Nov. 5.

Others who didn't participate include junior running back Cameron Marshall, senior center Garth Gerhart, senior tight end Trevor Kohl and sophomore defensive end Gannon Conway, all of whom would be able to play if not for the bye week.

Backing up

Reflecting on a 41-27 loss to Oregon Saturday, which included eight penalties for 95 yards, Erickson said he reiterated to his team the importance of not getting it its own way. It currently ranks 119th out of 120 FBS teams in penalty yards per game.

"It's been an interesting message," he said. "The bottom line as far as our game against the University of Oregon is we had so many chances. We came out, we did some good things. I thought we played very, very well…Then we made some mistakes that were costly and got behind, fought back. I'm disappointed in the outcome, disappointed in some of the penalties that we had, but I'm not disappointed in the effort, how hard they played. It showed me we can beat anybody we play if we do the right things.

"When you're playing a top team on the road, you need to be very disciplined, and we weren't. You can make all the plays you want, but if you're not disciplined, it's going to cost you at some point."


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