Sluggish Practice Preludes Scrimmage

Head coach Dirk Koetter said that out of 18 practices, only two haven't been quality ones. Thursday night, 24 hours before the camp ending scrimmage, was one of them.

"Compared to last night it was warm and the heat got us a little bit," said Koetter. "The second day down from camp Tontozona, I think all these guys have a little bit of a jet lag feeling about them…..we've got days like that, which I don't like but we've got a big night tomorrow night and we've got to worry about that."

One position battle that isn't being talked about like the rest is the punting one. The ASU head coach said that incumbent Jesse Ainsworth hasn't done anything to relinquish his role to JC transfer Jonathan Johnson. "I think Jessie's ahead right now and he's been a little bit more consistent," stated Koetter. "Jonathan does some good things, but right now Jessie's a little bit ahead and tomorrow will be a big night for both of those guys under the lights." Koetter added that unless it's clear cut that Johnson is outperforming Ainsworth, that he will redshirt so he can play two years after Ainsworth has exhausted his eligibility.

Tight end Brent Miller was evaluated by the team's doctor today following his knee injury last night. The Sun Devil skipper reported on the doctor's decision. "Semi-good news today," said Koetter, "Dr. Cummings decided not to scope him. They think it's something a little different than they may have originally thought and that it could probably heal on its own in a short amount of time. They drained Brent's knee today and that's why he wasn't out here tonight and we'll watch it over the next three days, and see where he's at on Tuesday. It was a better diagnosis today than it was yesterday."

Aside from Brent Miller the following players will miss the scrimmage as well:

Jamaal Lewis (shoulder), Berg (personal), Jeff Gray (shoulder injury – out a week), Preston Jones (ankle), Mike Jones (foot), Loren Howard (quadriceps), Dane Guthrie (ribs), and Josh Barrett (Knee). Robert James had to attend to his sick child and didn't practice tonight, but is expected to be available on Friday. Tranell Morant's status is questionable.

Miller's injury opened the door wide open for Brady Conrad, who started fall camp as a walk-on, awarded a scholarship on Wednesday and is now a starter. "Brady has played his way into the rotation," remarked Koetter, "and since were a two tight-end offensive the fact that Brent and Dane are out, Brady is playing and we can move some other guys around." Lewis will continue to move back and forth between tight end and a receiver.

The team handed out camp awards, and Koetter discussed the various winners. "As far as the newcomers a lot of choices," he stated. "Ryan Torain - Ryan is the real deal out here and he has made his mark quickly. Justin Tryon was here in the spring and the thing about him is he practices real hard real fast everyday for all 18 practices. As far as the most improved David Smith a defensive tackle, Paul Fanaika offensive guard - those two guys have come a long way, there were a lot of nominees for most improved and a lot of guys have improved."

"MVP on offense is tough to not give it to Zach Miller, he does so many things so well, he's such a complete football player," continued Koetter. "Brandon Rodd had a good camp and he doesn't get the recognition he deserves. And Josh Barrett who tweaked his knee last night has been great on defense. Zach Catanese on special teams - he can start on every single special team."

Friday's scrimmage will be similar in many regards to last Saturday's scrimmage, with the biggest difference being the presence of a game clock. "We will work against the clock in two minute situations in the first half and at the end of the game," explained Koetter. "A goal line segment, red zone, backed up, short yardage, overtime, plus some special team segments we didn't do last time like punt return."

Among the pleasant surprises in camp is linebacker Derron Ware, who is poised to have a strong senior season. "He was up there for most improved (player award)," said Koetter. "He and Travis Goethel are getting tons of reps with Robert James out. Derron was a guy that was in between positions last year (safety and linebacker), maybe didn't have the best attitude in the world…he's like a new man out here. He's always been a good cover guy and now he has become a really good blitzer off the edge – maybe our best blitzer off the edge. He's working himself into a lot of playing time." Koetter added that Ware and Chad Lindsey can both assume the role that linebacker Dale Robinson filled last year, being that extra defender on the line of scrimmage.

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