Erickson stated that Sullivan's decision making has vastly improved, and that the signal caller's diligent off-season conditioning has helped "re-define his body and working on his feet. His feet are so much better now than they were in the spring because of his hard work," said Erickson.
The ASU head coach noted that Szakacsy's arm strength has started to come back following an elbow surgery the quarterback underwent in the winter. "It's not where it used to be, but it's close," Erickson commented. "His zip on the ball is 100% better than it was in the spring and even in early fall…he brings some stuff to the table. The reason we made that decision now is so he can get some turns and he'll get a lot of turns the rest of this week."
Szakacsy was naturally elated with the decision to be named third string QB. As Erickson mentioned, Szakacsy's injury affected him the last several months, but the rehab efforts he went through have paid nice dividends in his eyes.
"You wanna play so bad and when the arm isn't there for you, it's tough and it's frustrating," said Szakacsy. "I wanted to have the surgery and get back to 100% as fast as possible. (In the) Spring I struggled, trying to get my arm strength back after surgery. So I'm improving everyday and I feel that I've made some strides. I've come a long ways since spring and I feel good right now. I just have to stay healthy."
While there's never a good time for an injury, the Camarillo (Calif.) quarterback knows about inopportune timing. His senior year was nearly wiped out due to a broken fibula, and having another injury just about a year later could have been demoralizing. Then again, an injury during a redshirt year is probably easier to swallow.
"You have to think positive," said Szakacsy. "You have to think everything happens for a reason. I'm grateful it happened my redshirt season instead of my (college) senior year. But last year was tougher than (HS senior injury) because it was my first year in college, and you want to go out and do so much. It was a successful surgery and I couldn't ask for better results than that."
Szakacsy is grateful for the opportunity to be named the third stringer, and vowed to keep on getting better. He's not worried about currently not playing at 100% health. "Everybody plays with pain," he noted. "I don't know if anyone doesn't play during the season nicked and bruised. It's part of the game and I just have to deal with it."
Szakacsy said that his understanding of the defensive schemes he's facing has improved since he got to ASU, but one attribute that has remained consistent is his deceiving speed and quickness when flushed out of the pocket.
In his prep career the ASU quarterback demonstrated his athleticism when in a 2005 Scout.com combine he recorded a 4.09 short shuttle time at, which was tied for the fastest among all players and the second-fastest among all quarterbacks at the 12 combines held that year. He also registered the top vertical leap (31 inches) and broad jump (9-feet, 5-inches) measurements and had the second-fastest three-cone drill time among quarterbacks at the Los Angeles combine.
"In high school I had a lot of opportunity to get away from trouble," Szakacsy acknowledged. "It's not something I'm not used to. But I think the coaches recognize that this is a plus because you want to evade some sketchy situations. I'm just gonna try to make plays when I can, but I also have to be smart and can't be running out there and getting blasted."
On the injury front, center Garth Gerhart, sprained his ankle in the Monday morning practice and his eventual date of return is unknown at this time. "Knowing Garth it will probably be a day," Erickson stated. "We'll wait and see…our backup center now is Andrew Sampson a true freshman."
Offensive lineman Matt Hustad, who tore his ACL last season, has been held out of the last few practices, including today's. Erickson said that the redshirt freshman re-aggravated that injury and it will be at least a week until he could possibly return to action. "It's something he's gonna have to rehab," Erickson noted. "It's not anything that is permanent for the year or anything. It's something that he got the other day in practice."
In terms of the team's practice schedule, the team will have practice once on Tuesday, twice on Wednesday, and have their last fall camp scrimmage on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Sun Devil stadium. Erickson announced that the squad will have Friday and Saturday off, and the team will hold two practices on Sunday. "Then we'll get into our regular game preparation (schedule), "said Erickson. "Which means Monday is off, and we start again on Tuesday and those practices will be in the evening. Thursday my plan is to go earlier, do some (drills) outside and then come back in here."
A few reserves have stepped up in lieu of injuries to players ahead of them in the depth chart, and the latest Sun Devil to do so is true freshman defensive end Lawrence Guy. "Lawrence is gonna have to play," stated Erickson, "that's just how it is. Right now he's our third or fourth defensive end and he'll get a lot of action this fall. We like what we've seen, and he's gonna play. It's that simple."
ASU's head coach added that he expects later next week to decide which other freshmen will play and which will redshirt. "You'll see more (true freshmen playing) than you did last year," said Erickson.
We believe that the following players, aside from Guy, have a very good chance not to redshirt. Those players are:
Offensive linemen Patrick Jamison and Zach Schlink have been running regularly with the second team and probably stand a fairly good chance not to redshirt. WR Keelan Johnson is another possibility to play this year, especially if he proves to be a valuable special teams player.
Earlier today it was announced that Rudy Carpenter and Troy Nolan were named team captains. In the stretching session before practice started, the tandem joined strength and condition coach Ben Hilgart in the middle of the field and lead the warm-ups.
Practice started with various kickoff coverage drills. Not only was Thomas Weber kicking to various returners, but the players auditioning for gunners on the kickoff teams had separate drills. The indoor facilities goal posts were seen for the first time during practice. Currently, they're located just on the north wall. They're similar in a few ways to Arena League goal posts, but they actually roll up from the wall rather than suspend from the ceiling. The posts itself are obviously not made from steel or any other metal.
The linebackers displayed excellent cover skills today and had a heyday picking off the ASU QB's. McFoy had two picks one on Carpenter and one on Stangel. Nixon intercepted Sullivan, Wooten picked off Szakacsy. Goethel dropped one of Carpenter's passes which should have been an interception, and another pass bounced off of him and into the hands of Cox who was credited with the pick. Guy batted two passes down (by Carpenter, Sullivan) and is looking very comfortable at second team DE. Guy and Moos had a tackle for loss on Bass.
Even though the quarterbacks were generally inaccurate (cornerbacks covering very well this afternoon) they did have several positive plays, many of them thanks to Nate Kimbrough who probably had the most catches of any WR this afternoon and overall had his best practice since coming back from injury. Even though he was wearing orange he was his normal fearless self out there. K.Williams and Robinson had some very nice catches in tight coverage. One Carpenter pass went through Munns' hands and into the arms of J.Williams who was able to tiptoe near the sidelines and make the catch.
On the ground Nance stood out among the RB's, but Bass, Herring and Woods had some nice runs of their own. When they were stuffed close to the line of scrimmage, linebackers Munns and Magee were the first ones on the scene.