Oliver Sidelined for the Year; Banks Back in Pads

Tuesday's night practice brought terrible news with the loss of cornerback R.J. Oliver to foot injury. On the other hand, defensive tackle Connor Banks practiced for the first time in full pads, and continues his process of coming back to the team following a jail sentence given to him after his extreme DUI arrest.

Last Friday, during the team's final scrimmage at Camp Tontozona, the cornerback suffered his season-ending injury. "I jumped up to intercept the ball," Oliver recalled. "The wide receiver pushed off. I was on my toes and I just rolled up to the top of my foot." Consequently, he fractured a joint in the middle of his foot, and tore the ligaments connected to it.

On Thursday the senior will undergo surgery to repair tendons in his foot, and will be in cast for 12 weeks. "A couple of my toes are off line, so I'm gonna get some screws put in it," said Oliver.

The cornerback admitted that he initially suspected his injury to be serious, but the extent of it wasn't known until the news was broken to him on Tuesday afternoon. "I knew something was wrong, but I wasn't sure how severe it was," he commented. "When I got the results, I was devastated at first. But I looked at the bright and said ‘it could be worse.' I have to stay strong."

"It sucks coming in as a senior," Oliver continued, "especially in your fifth year, working hard in the spring and summer, and in the last day of camp – a freak accident. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I was injury free for the first two or three years, and in the last couple of years things came up. But it's football and it's part of the game." Oliver said that it was too early to determine if he will petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility, and that it was unrealistic to think that he could play this year. The cornerback is on track to graduate in May.

Oliver believes that his cornerbacks unit will do quite well without him. "They're gonna be strong," he said. "They're progressing, and coach Carrier is a great coach, who's motivating and pushing them every day. They should hold up well." The cornerback also had a rosy outlook concerning the team as a whole. "We haven't faced adversity yet, but every day we face a little, but not extremely because the games haven't started yet. Everyone's positive. The defense is senior dominated – there's a lot of leadership going on there. Offense is playing well…the team is gonna be fine."

Defensive tackle Conor Banks is on the road to being part of the team once again, after serving his jail sentence for his extreme DUI offense in late June. Tuesday wasn't his first practice back, but it did mark his inaugural practice in pads.

As traumatic as the whole ordeal has been to him, his family, and his team, the senior said that moving past the issue may not be the prudent thing to do. "That's not necessarily something I want to put behind me and forget all about it," said Banks. "You always want to learn from your mistakes, go forward, and make sure that you never do it again. Don't repeat your mistakes – that's the biggest lesson I've learned."

During the days and weeks following his arrest, Banks received tremendous support from his coaches and teammates. Was he taken aback by it? "I didn't expect it," he commented, "but I wasn't surprised either. People like Andrew (Walter), Drew Hodgdon, Riccardo (Stewart), and R.J. (Oliver) were behind me the whole time. It's nice to have that support. My family was also there, and they came out and were with me here."

Serving 14 days in jail was and will be arguably the worst punishment that Banks will go through. He described how he coped with that harsh environment during. "When you're in that situation," he explained, "you try to take your mind out of the situation, and find a better place within your mind. I don't necessarily want to relive that night, but the consequences are what I want to remember. When I was in the tents (where he served his jail time), I was reading a book or just doing anything else to help you go through the situation." Banks is also scheduled to partake in some community services, but he still didn't know what the exact nature of those activities will be.

Banks acknowledged that the lack of practice has set him back both from a football and a conditioning standpoint. He was confident that he will catch up quickly, and join what is in his opinion a stout defensive line unit. "Honestly, we do have a good group," he said. "Once we get Gabe (Reininger) healthy…Jimmy (Verdon) has been killing everyone out there. He's been playing with the enthusiasm that he has. Kyle (Caldwell) and Ish (Thrower) are great ends. I'll be happy to get back in that rotation. I think we'll surprise a lot of people and show how good this defensive line is."

As part of his punishment, the defensive tackle will miss the season opener against UTEP. Nevertheless, Banks is content with whatever role and participation he will have the rest of the season. "You need me at linebacker, you need me at defensive tackle - I'll be there. It's never been an issue what position I'm gonna play, as long as I'm playing. One thing I know, wherever I'll play I'll play my hardest."

Overall, Banks portrays his extreme DUI as an experience, which has shown him a valuable lesson. "It thought me a lot," he explained. "It did mature me, and just realize to think before you act, and realize the consequences of your action. You can't be selfish, and you have to see how that action will affect other people, not just yourself. Whatever you do, can affect your teammates, coaches, and reflect on ASU."

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