Saturday's scrimmage raises concerns for ASU

Even for the eternal optimist, it's getting more and more difficult to remain hopeful about the upcoming season if you're a Sun Devils fan. Injuries and poor play plagued what many hoped would be a snapshot of things to come this season. Instead, many coaches, players and fans left Kajikawa Field Saturday wondering just what's next for this team.

Saturday's scrimmage, the first official one for the Sun Devils so far this fall, was marred by the injury of senior linebacker Brandon Magee, who went down early in the session on what appeared to be a non-contact incident. Magee's injury is just another in an ever-mounting list for this team, which has seen its share of returning starters now sidelined for the upcoming year.

"Well, to start out, Brandon tore his Achilles," said head coach Dennis Erickson. "So he's out for the year, unfortunately. Like all Achilles, nobody hits you; he was just trying to cut.

"It tore, so I feel extremely bad for him," he added. "Obviously our football has got to step up. We do have some help there (linebacker). The guy's a good football player. You lose somebody like that, that's damaging to your football team. We'll find out what we're about, that's what it's all about."

For Magee, he had been coming off a breakout 2010 campaign and strong offseason, earning praise from many of the coaches on the staff. His absence now creates a void the staff must fill. Fortunately for the Sun Devils, linebacker is a position that the team is quite deep in, with many reserve players chomping at the bit to earn the playing time.

"Well, we just have to come out and practice," said Erickson. "Our football team's, you know, they're tough. But you have those injuries, that's football.

"Every year we lose guys, so that's why guys have got to step up," he continued. "Again, you've just got to come out Monday when we practice next and just continue on. You know, we got guys who need to step in here. We got Colin (Parker), Oliver (Aaron), Shelly Lyons, Anthony Jones, so it's not like we can't play."

As for the scrimmage itself, the Sun Devil defense looked dominant, forcing turnovers and causing the quarterback quartet into a number of mistakes throughout the morning. Despite their shortcomings on the depth chart today, the defense as a group was very active and displayed that game changing speed and toughness that Sun Devil fans have come to know and admire in Tempe.

"I thought defensively we played extremely well, particularly the first unit," commented the coach. "We made a lot of plays when we had to. We had some picks, some interceptions, turnovers that we really haven't had so far in camp, so that very, very encouraging."

A particular bright spot for the defense on Saturday was the play of the secondary, in particular a couple of newcomers. Both freshmen Ezekiel Bishop and Joe Eason came away with interceptions on the day, Bishop's most likely a return for a score had the play not been whistled dead.

Aiding them were safety Eddie Elder, who also corralled himself an interception off starting quarterback Brock Osweiler, and the always-improving Alden Darby, who is quickly finding success at his cornerback position.

"I think our corners are rising to the occasion," remarked Erickson. "We've had a couple guys go down, I'm not even talking about Omar (Bolden), and we had some young guys step up. We moved Darby over there and he's playing real well.

"Guys have got to step up, that's football," he added. "I mean it's happening all over, just read the newspaper. You can't not have them (injuries). The only way I know not to get injured is just not to practice."

For the Sun Devil offense, it was a day to learn from mistakes and move on. Despite having more success in this year's fall camp than the previous couple of years, the offense sputtered and underperformed for most of the morning.

"I thought offensively, as far as the first group is concerned, I thought they weren't very good," said Erickson. "I guess that's the easiest way to out it. They didn't execute like they've been executing. I was very disappointed in their performance.

"I don't think Brock had the greatest day of his career by any means," he continued. "So you've got to learn from that. And that's the kind of guy he is. Sometimes when you think you're pretty good, maybe you're not so good. I learned that a long time ago."

The offense had a few bright spots though, namely reserve running R.J. Robinson, who ran for 62 yards and a score on eight carries and sophomore quarterback Mike Bercovici, who completed 4-5 passes and had two scores.

"I thought at times we ran the football pretty good," commented Erickson. "A lot of them were with that second group. And then I thought (Alex) Garoutte kicked it pretty good. You know, he did miss that one. That's about what I thought."

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