Sun Devils Won't Take NAU Lightly

One might imagine this to be all too routine for Sun Devils head coach Dennis Erickson as he fielded questions Monday morning about the season opener with the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. But the grizzled veteran spoke with energy in his voice and was on point with quick witted humor.

"It's a start," Joked Erickson. "The first game, as I've mentioned many times, this is an exciting time. Everybody is anxious to see where they are at. I don't know if you can continue to practice against each other and see where you're at. This will be a start for us to find out exactly where we're at."

In typical Erickson fashion, he gave up plenty of respect to his opponent despite the fact that this time the opponent hails from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as D1-AA).

"I've known (NAU Head Coach Jerome Souers) for many, many, many years and he does a tremendous job up there and has for a long period of time. Seems like the last couple of times they played us we were lucky to get out of it alive." Commented Erickson.

The Sun Devils skipper offered a couple of his past experiences as further reason to take Northern Arizona as serious as any other opponent.

"I look back on my career and when I was at Oregon State the year we won the Fiesta Bowl and lost one football game we opened with Eastern Washington in Corvallis and had to score at the end of the game to win it. We were very fortunate to win that football game," Recalled Erickson. "The year before that we played Georgia Southern in Corvallis and won by three points."

"(NAU) has a great program. Their players are going to come down here and they're going to be hungry and they don't have anything to lose and they're going to give us everything that we want," Proclaimed Erickson. "The bottom line for us is that we need to be ready to play. It's the start of a season. It's an opponent that if we don't play well we'll get beat. That's the nature of it and you hear the old cliché that I say all the time 'One at a time', this is the start of twelve opportunities for us. We're excited to play the game."

The Sun Devils offensive captain and quarterback Rudy Carpenter dished out similar amounts of respect to a team that he had some struggles against in 2006.

"We played Northern Arizona two years ago. I think it was 14-14 at halftime," Carpenter remembered. "I'm not going to lie. This game for me is a little stressful because I know that we're playing a team that has everything to gain by playing us. They're going to be ready."

"I know a lot of those kids are from the Valley and they're going to be playing in front of their family in our stadium and its going to be a big deal for them. The played us tough two years ago so there should be no reason why our team shouldn't be ready to play and ready to come out and play to the best of our abilities."

Although Coach Erickson and Carpenter were lavishing the Lumberjacks with praise and respect, there was a definite sense of confidence that ran through the two.

"(The Offense) is right where we should be. We had a pretty successful camp. I think our camp allowed a lot of the younger guys to get experience. Guys like Kyle Williams who needed a lot more reps than he usually gets. Guys like Kerry Taylor who needed a lot more reps than he usually gets. And because we had Chris (McGaha) and Nate (Kimbrough) and even Mike (Jones) out for long periods of time throughout camp it gave those guys a chance to make some catches in scrimmages and some big plays for us," Said Carpenter. "The offensive line did a great job this camp. The running backs are obviously a good group. I think we are in a good situation right now."

The head coach also spoke about the excitement that comes with starting a new season.

"When I quit getting jitters I better get out of the business. I always have jitters," Announced Erickson. "That's what it's all about. The excitement of coaching the game and coaching in the opener and coaching every game you play."

Erickson stated that he thinks Garth Gerhart is healthy enough to play where there be no need to burn Andrew Sampson's redshirt. James Brooks is healthy and will be back. The status of both Brandon Smith and Shaun DeWitty is uncertain at this time. Chris McGaha performed well in yesterday's practice and Erickson believes he will be a go for the NAU game.

The ASU head coach added that true freshmen on offense Ryan Bass, Gerell Robinson, and Zach Schlink will all play in the season opener. Lawrence Guy, Brandon Magee, Shelly Lyons, Josh Jordan, and Clint Floyd will suit up on Saturday on the defensive side of the ball. All other true freshmen are expected to redshirt.

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