"To me, it's a matter of how you come together, what happens during two-a-days, what happens in the fall, injuries, who steps up and all those different things. We had a very good summer, from what I understand, as far as the offseason workouts."
Coming off his debut season in Tempe that resulted in a 10-3 record, Erickson is anxious to see what his team will do this year. With senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter returning, along with 13 other starters, there is no doubt that expectations will be high.
"There's nothing like playing," Erickson stated. "You can have a guy that's very talented, and there are a lot of them in our league, and a lot of new ones in our league that are going to be playing, but there's nothing like having that experience on the football field. With Rudy coming back, I feel very good about that aspect of it. Not only has he played a lot; he's been very successful. "
There are seven returners on each the offense and defense, including Keegan Herring. Herring, the 10th leading rusher in school history, will spearhead the ground attack. In addition receivers Mike Jones and Chris McGaha both bring experience and versatility to the receiving corps. The two combined for 107 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. The question remains, however, with the offensive line.
"We've got to establish our offensive front," Erickson acknowledged. "There's no question about that. We're going to be young. In talking about that, Richard Tuitu'u, who was at right tackle for us last year, will not play this year. He decided not to play football. So, Adam Tello will be our starter. I'm excited about our offensive front, but it is an area that's young."
"We've got [Shawn] Lauvao and Paul [Fanaika] coming back. They're the two experienced guys, and everybody else is going to be new. They're athletic, and it will be exciting to see how they come about. That's a real big question."
Regardless of the work that needs to be done on the offensive line, Carpenter needs to be able to get rid of the ball quicker.
"We're going to be involved in some different things, as far as what we're doing offensively," said Erickson. "I've been in a lot of offenses in my coaching career, and spread it out before people were spreading it out. So, we're going to do some of that, get it off quick and try to give him a little bit better opportunities. When you're in three- and five-step drops, you get it off a little quicker. He'll get rid of it. The offense will be conducive to him getting rid of it."
Junior defensive end Dexter Davis will lead the defense with the help of linebackers Mike Goethel and Mike Nixon. Also returning is safety Troy Nolan, who intercepted six passes in 2007. Davis has had 16.5 sacks in his tenure at ASU. The focus this year, however, will be on speed.
"We've got a lot of starters back, so we're about the same as we were a year ago," Erickson noted. "I think we're a little bit faster. We've got some young guys that will play and continue to improve our speed. We will continue to improve our speed all the time. That's what we believe in defensively, to play fast and play very aggressive. Our defensive philosophy is based on guys that can run."
It is essential that the Devils answer any questions that may be lingering early in the season. After playing the season opener against Northern Arizona, the team will face Stanford, ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in preseason polls, but not a squad Erickson will take lightly.
"Stanford, to me, is huge, that's our first league game at home," he said. "You can go on and on. It's a tough stretch, there's no question about it. The thing about schedules is, and I've grown to live with this the last four or five months, the schedule is the schedule and you go play it. You play them when they're there and just go play them," Erickson said.
And that's just the beginning. Further into the schedule the maroon and gold face an exhausting four-game stretch of Georgia, at Cal, at USC and Oregon. Georgia is ranked number one by the coaches' preseason poll while USC comes in second.
"Those are two great programs, and we just happened to play both of them. We happen to play both of them again next year, so that's just how it is," Erickson said.
The team will only be heading up to Camp Tontozona for only one day, and instead will hold training camp at Kajikawa Practice Field, as well as the new indoor practice facility.
"When you look inside of it and go inside of it, we've got so much room, more than any of the places I've been, as far as practice facilities are concerned," said Erickson. "It's going to be a huge advantage for us. So in saying that, there was no reason for us to go up there (Camp T) because of weather."
"There's an advantage to staying at home, as far as facilities, film work, our own weight room and all those different things. Tontozona has been great for this program over the years, and it was great for us last year. It doesn't have to anything to do with wanting to go up there or not; it's just our new facility."