Tuesday, August 14, 2007


The injury bug strikes

Ow, somethin' bit me!

This will be a recurring post as an easy to digest way of looking at the Sun Devils' health, and it'll be a lot easier now that Dirk Koetter and his no-injury-info-policy are in Jax-Vegas. Listed in order of importance:

Luis Vazquez, DE: High ankle sprain, out 2-4 weeks.
Troy Nolan, S: Shoulder strain, currently practicing (non-contact).
Saia Falahola, backup DT: partial triceps tear, out for the first four games.
Tranell Morant, backup DL: Knee (cartilege tear), out 2 months.
Eric Tanner, backup DL: bruised knee bone, out for one week.
Omar Bolden, CB: sprained ankle, day to day.
Jeremy Payton, S/CB: sprained ankle, day to day.
Brandon Smith, WR: sprained ankle, day to day.

Bolden, Smith, and Payton are already taking limited reps at practice, even though they're not at 100%. Rudy Burgess also fell victim to a sprained ankle but is back practcing at full speed. A huge gasp swept over Camp Tontozona when the highly-touted Bolden went down, but luckily it was a minor injury. Smith's injury was almost inconsequential because of the developing depth at wide receiver and the emergence of true freshman and rising superstar Kerry Taylor, who Coach Erickson said "will definitely play and may start."

Nolan practing this week is a huge surprise after a minimum prognosis of a two-week absence. Nolan was one of the stars of spring practice and caused Jeremy Payton to switch to corner, even though he'll probably be backing up both positions once the season begins. He's wearing a non-contact jersey for now, but should probably let it heal a bit more before really getting after it.

The injuries to Falahola, Morant, and Tanner would be low on the threat level pole if only one occurred at a time, but all three together plus the loss of projected starter Vasquez really hurts an already thin defensive line. Luis Vasquez was looking like he was going to be an anchor at defensive end opposite Dexter Davis, so hopefully he won't miss more than a game or two. Falahola has played well since switching over from the offense and looked like he was ready to contribute with the 2nd stringers, so his loss is probably the biggest ofthe three. Morant and Tanner have yet to show their value, but D-line is one place ASU can't afford to lose what little depth exists.

It's very disheartening to see so many of these injuries occurring on the defensive side of the ball where there is little room for error, even with everyone healthy. Coach E noted that this is the most ankle sprains he's seen in such a short period of time in his career, but would not aknowledge the Camp T turf as the cause, even though Rudy Carpenter pointed out that there are holes-a-plenty on the field- and he's not referring to the defense, either.

Someone who is referring to the defense is Coordinator Craig Bray, who let his guys have it in Scott Bordow's Friday column in the EVT. A few quotes from Bray, first on last year's much improved Devil D:
“I saw a lack of overall athleticism and speed, especially in the front seven. I was disappointed. As you visualize a place like this you would assume the one thing you can recruit is speed because speed likes warm weather and we get plenty of warm weather. So I was disappointed in that.”
Here's what I hear: Y'all suck, and you're slow. The fact that you won seven games with this bunch is pushing miracle status. And it's fucking hot out here.

On the D-line:
“We’re not big and we’re not quick. Probably the only legitimate guy up front where you could say he’s a Pac-10 guy is (tackle Michael) Marquardt.”
Davis is too small, Smith is too slow, and Vasquez still plays like a JuCo. The rest are too young.

On the #2 corner spot:
“We need a guy like Chris Baloney to finally say, 'Hey, I want to be the guy.’ That’s something he hasn’t done. I don’t know if he’s going to.”
Not solely an attack on Baloney. It sounds like it speaks to the level of hunger and desire of the position group as a whole, something that may be related to the previous coaching staff. Funny that CB coach Al Simmons was retained from Koetter's staff. Hmmm.

And finally on how long it will take for ASU's defense to improve:
“I think we’re a couple of recruiting classes away.”
This basically says to me that these guys suck and that they're not physically up to the challenge presented by USC and the other big boys of the Pac-10, but maybe they'll get lucky. It's also an indictment of Koetter's offense-heavy recruiting and the toll that Brent Guy took on the Sun Devil defense, although the new staff has been fairly polite when it comes to that sort of thing. Some would argue that he did it to motivate his guys before the Saturday scrimmage- which the defense dominated, oh by the way.

Coach Bray ain't takin' no shit from nobody.

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My Dad ran into Frank Kush a couple of weeks ago and asked him what he thought of Coach Erickson and the team's chances this year. Kush said that he likes Erickson but had the same assessment of the defense -- just not enough talent on that side of the ball.
Ugh, that's depressing after Bray's comments. There is a bright spot on the defense, however, according to today's AZ Republic.
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