Carr's play vital for cornerbacks' success

As the Sun Devils prepare for the season ahead, one of the main question marks surrounding the team is the inexperience of the defensive secondary. While the loss of senior playmaker Omar Bolden will undoubtedly be felt, the return of junior ball hawk Deveron Carr should provide an inexperienced cornerbacks' unit with a little reassurance as they look to contend in the Pac-12 South this year.

Deveron Carr returns to Sun Devil lineup this season after missing the last seven games of the 2010 campaign with a shoulder injury. Given the loss of Bolden, the 5-11 188-popund Carr has been immediately looked upon as being the anchor of the Arizona State secondary.

While replacing the void left by an All-Conference performer like Bolden may intimidate some, Carr looks forward to the challenge.

"The first thought I had (upon hearing about Bolden's injury) was 'Man, I've got to get back healthy, work hard and try to fill his footsteps,'" said Carr. "Omar is a great player to me. Over the summer, he was like my workout partner. It kind of hurt me, but at the same time, like I said, I had to get on my grind, work hard, and be the best corner I can be this year."

Even with the return of Carr though, skeptics have been quick to point out the glaring need for more playmakers in the Sun Devil secondary. Some critics believe it may be the squad's biggest shortcoming and one that could prevent this team from reaching its full potential, a notion Carr scoffs at.

"I mean, that's just media talk," he said. "We work hard just like everybody else works hard. I guess we'll just see what happens."

Nevertheless, the talented defensive back is aware of the work that needs to be done to be ready by September 1st.

"We need to do a little more studying. We're shaking the rust off our bones," he said after Thursday's session. "Our movement as corners, with our hips and feet, is poor. But we're here everyday working on that as individuals with (cornerbacks) coach Burns."

"Knowledge, ball skills, movement; that's what we need to perfect," he added, "And that's a lot, as a corner, being that we have to cover great receivers that we have on the offensive side of the ball. There's a lot that we need to work on, as well as the offense too."

For this Sun Devil defense, a great preparation tool will be the experience they gain from playing against their own offense. Now in the second year of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's quick-strike attack, the Devils defense knows it will be tested daily and vigorously this fall.

"Well, our offense, they do a lot of motion stuff," stated Carr. "We have big, fast receivers; quick-twitch receivers. They also have a great ability to catch the football.

"You look at a player like Mike Willie; fast, big, strong, pretty quick. His range all around just catching the ball is great. So that gives us a big advantage working with him because we probably won't see a receiver this year in the Pac-12 as long as him."

Despite missing most of last season and all of Spring practice, Carr has been an instrumental piece of the Sun Devil defense, mentoring the younger players as he rehabilitated his injured shoulder. The Scottsdale native serves as an extra coach when he's out on the field, instructing his teammates on how to get better while also providing encouragement. For him, helping others is just a part of the game.

"I think about that everyday," Carr remarked. "I feel I can do so much more to be a bigger leader and to be vocal out here to the younger players. I'm always thinking of new ways to get that accomplished."

This Fall, Carr will be asked to help bring along several new Sun Devils as the team tries to establish some depth before the season starts. The extra workload doesn't seem to faze him though, and he welcomes the new members to his defensive backfield.

"We actually have a few pretty cool freshmen," commented Carr. "They're coming in here and learning pretty fast. Guys like Ezekiel Bishop, Rashad Wadood and Joe Eason are coming in here, learning and working real hard.

"Playing corner or safety is not any easy position. It's actually one of the harder positions to play, so it takes a lot of work and a lot of time."

For Carr, the toughest part about getting back into the swing of practice and live play has been conditioning. After nearly 10 months without participating in contact drills, the defensive specialist says feels a bit behind physically right now.

"Conditioning and staying in shape (have been the hardest)," he said. "I had what you'd call a flat tire, or a leg cramp, doing A Mountain this summer after like just the third time up. But I've fought through all that.

"I'm just trying to be the best corner that I can be, both physically and just being as smart as I can possibly be out on the field. That's exactly the kind of stuff I'm working on right now. And to be in the best condition I've ever been in."

Despite his concerns over his own conditioning, Carr registered another impressive outing Thursday. The talented back was able to lock up receivers during one on one drills and showcased some power on a couple hits during scrimmage sessions. Less than a week into the Fall camp, he's already earning the praises of his head coach.

"I'll tell you what, he had a tremendous day today," said head coach Dennis Erickson, "and really he's just working back into it. This is his third practice and he's getting better all the time.

"Next to Omar (Bolden), he was probably our best corner last year before he got hurt. Now he's healthy and feels more comfortable with his shoulder so he can play without having to worry about things."

With less than a month to go until the new season, excitement continues to surround this Sun Devil team. Despite going three consecutive years without a bowl appearance, optimism remains high in Tempe. To that, Carr credits the entire unit for embracing the team concept while all competing for the same goals.

"I can honestly say that nobody sees the team as 'I' or as themselves," he said" "Everybody sees the team as one whole. We're like a family; it's like a brotherhood out here.

"Nobody is just like 'Oh I did this, or I did that,' or 'I want to be this, or I want to be that,' it's more like 'we need to do this, or we need to be more like that.' And that's the whole team's state of mind and that's what's huge about this year."

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