"We've had a good week of practice and we practiced really good last week, too. We'll just see what happens. We're excited to go up there and play them, play in the Coliseum. We have a lot of kids from southern California so it'll be interesting to see what happens."
Erickson wasn't lying about the offense increasing productivity when darkness falls. In the last drill portion of team drills the offense collected seven touchdowns in about twenty plays against the scout team defense.
To beat USC this Saturday the Sun Devils are going to need to continue building on the success the offense has found at practice this week and last weekend against Washington State. Last year ASU hung close with the Trojans but ultimately came up short for the eleventh consecutive time.
Over the last decade the Sun Devils have struggled mightily against their Southern California nemeses and have fared even worse on the road. Coach Erickson isn't concerned with the past though and believes his team has enough to stick right with the Trojans.
"We're different than any other team that's played down there in the last 10 years whether I was the coach or Coach Koetter or whoever was the coach," Erickson analyzed. "It's a different team, different program now. I feel good about our football team. I'm interested to get out there and play and I know our players are too. It's a pretty good setting, playing in the coliseum at night. They've had such a storied program for years and years."
If Erickson and Co. are going to have offensive success in Los Angeles they might have to turn to junior wide receiver TJ Simpson to move the ball vertically. Simpson has exploded on to the scene the last two weeks hauling in ten catches for 167 yards. Simpson is a burner and a local product who had totaled only 106 yards on seven catches in his previous two seasons. He continued his steady progression with another solid week of practice. Simpson caught three touchdowns during Wednesday's session.
Coach Erickson believes Simpson's success is more of a result of Simpson running his routes correctly and being in the right place at the right time.
"With this offense it's kind of who is wherever you're supposed to throw it," Observed Erickson. "It's not that we've tried to get him in there anymore than we have with the other games. He's made some plays and he's got open. It wasn't like we we're saying ‘Hey, we have to get TJ the ball.'"
With Shelly Lyons now sidelined for the rest of the year with a broken foot, the enviable depth the Sun Devils once boasted at linebacker has now thinned out a bit. Erickson claims he still has five linebackers he is confident putting on the field but the thought of losing another is tough to swallow.
"With (Lyons) going down it's kind of skinned us up a little bit." Admitted Erickson. "We're alright, we've got five guys. That's better than some. If we get (Mike) Callahan back that's six guys. That'll probably be next week. Shelly is obviously a loss and we can't afford to lose anymore."
One noticeable change at practice on Wednesday was James Brooks taking some first team reps away from Jamaar Jarrett at defensive end. Erickson said Jarrett hasn't lost his spot and that Brooks will commonly rotate with him.
"Him and Jarrett will alternate in there all the time. There is no real difference between the two but Jarrett will be the starter."