Herring's Workload Unknown for Bowl game

SAN DIEGO - Running back Keegan Herring isn't 100%, and while Head Coach Dennis Erickson is encouraged by his progress, he said that the junior's number of carries in the bowl game remains to be seen. Consequently, sophomore Jarrell Woods stands to see his first action of the year.

"I assume they'll be improvement from now until tomorrow night," said Erickson on the health of Keegan Herring. "Yesterday has been the best that he had been and he's been able to practice almost full speed. Hopefully he'll play some – I just don't know how long he'll last."

Jarrell Woods, who according to Erickson wasn't healthy until the "10th or 11th game" of the season, has been performing well in practice with his increased number of reps. Nonetheless, Erickson is naturally realistic in how different Woods' performance in practice can be from playing against a high caliber opponent. "Playing the University of Texas on national T.V. is a hard way to start it," Erickson commented.

Depth Breeds Success

The loss of star running back Ryan Torain after week seven could have proven to be a powerful blow that could have derailed the team's offensive fortunes the rest of season. This is where the depth at running back came through and helped the Sun Devils to their most successful season this decade.

"Anytime you lose a great player like we did, sometimes you fall apart," Erickson explained. "Irregardless of the position, and we've seen that at quarterback in a lot of programs here as of late. That's why you have to have good depth particularly at some of those skill positions, so it doesn't fall off like it has in some of those programs. Our guys have done a nice job picking up the slack.

A Season for Change?

Erickson stated that his current team's personnel still does dictate an offensive style that will run the ball often. However, changes could be looming in the near future. "Next year we might be different," he noted. "Next year we might be four, five-wides all the time. The strength of our team is running the football, and we have to able to have some success to open the passing game or we're gonna have problems tomorrow night."

Texas' Speed Not Limited to Offense and Defense

Erickson called the Longhorns' special team units "very solid" and their speed has certainly got his attention. "They get whoever they want in the state of Texas," he commented. "California, Texas and Florida – you're talking about the three best states for athletes. There's great speed in Texas. Speed is such a huge thing in special teams in returning, covering, all those different things."

Bowl Outcome Won't Determine 2007 Success

Erickson acknowledges the great strides the program has made this season. On that note, he doesn't believe that losing the Holiday Bowl will negate that progress. "Obviously it helps if you play well and play well against a program like Texas," he said. "But what we've done and where our program is at, where people really believe now we can take it is probably the biggest thing."

When it's all said and done, winning games instills validity and credibility and helps the coaches effectively get their word across. This rings even more true when the coaching staff is new to the program, as was Erickson's at end of 2006. "You can talk to them about being accountable, being disciplined and all the things we ask them to do when we got here in December," said Erickson, "and if they do that – that's great. But when all of the sudden they start seeing success from that, and they start to believe in what you tell them – then you're over the biggest hurdle of them all and that carries over to our younger guys. They know what's expected and see it work."

The effect of that success is not only a solid foundation for program to build upon, but also the best sales tool available. Ultimately, the best recruiters on the football team are the players themselves. "There's a good feeling from our players and our coaches as far as a family is concerned, so now it's a lot easier to recruit. When recruits come in and you get them on campus, they spend a lot of time talking to the players," Erickson noted. "So when they (the current players) been around and had success, they're a lot of good vibes there."

Erickson added the current recruiting efforts of the team are netting bigger results than this time last year, and they're courting a caliber of athletes that haven't been pursued by ASU in previous years. "We got some commitments that are unbelievable right now," he remarked. "So that's a plus."

Promising Redshirt Freshmen

Bowl practices often help the players who redshirt to hone their skills and provide invaluable preparation for next season. The Sun Devil skipper mentioned the importance of that fact since there are some roles that need to be occupied, especially on the offensive line that will be mainly addressed by the players who sat out the 2007 campaign.

"You see some of those young offensive linemen getting better," Erickson remarked. "Richard Tuitu'u is getting better all the time. Garth Gerhart is gonna battle for that center position. You see the two young linebackers (Derrall Anderson and Oliver Aaron) we got from Florida getting better and better, James Brooks, Dan Knapp…those are all things you see as the season goes on."

"Being on the scout team has been good for a lot of them. What's great about our group is that the older guys really coach the younger guys all the time. Particularly during this bowl period."

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