Erickson Pleased with Team's RB Depth

As the season opener with Northern Arizona rapidly approaches Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson fielded questions about the Lumberjacks and the health of some of his players.

After some struggles throughout summer ball, the Sun Devils' offense has started to gel and they have strung together several quality practices. The offense was alive and firing again today. First and second team offenses moved the ball well and were able to put the ball in the end zone a number of times when working inside the red zone. But despite their recent success Coach Erickson is still not ready to anoint them.

"It's hard to say (where the offense is)," said Erickson. "I wasn't any different last year and I wouldn't be any different five years from now. You don't know how good you are until you start playing games. We'll know better about where we're at. One good thing is we have a lot of experience in a lot of areas. So that is a real plus. We have guys that have played a lot and that helps."

The Sun Devils' head coach talked more about Northern Arizona. He continued to place praise on his season opener opponent and stressed mental preparation.

"We've studied (NAU). I've known (NAU Head Coach) Jerome (Souers) for a long time and he's an outstanding coach and he's done a great job up there," Erickson noted. "They'll come down, and I've mentioned this before, I've been in this situation on both sides of it. They're going to come down and play their rear ends of and if we don't play like we should we'll lose the game. We better be ready to play."

Erickson's concern is well warranted. The last time the Lumberjacks made the journey down from Flagstaff they gave the Sun Devils all they could handle and kept it close throughout the majority of the game. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Sun Devils' superior talent and depth prevailed. Coach Erickson discussed the importance of depth, specifically at running back, heading into week one.

"You're always concerned (about injured players). People say, ‘Why would you even think about playing Ryan Bass?' That's why we're playing him, because he's good enough to play," Erickson explained. "You go through a season at that position and you might end up going through four or five of them. (James) Morrison might not be in redshirt very long too. The bad thing is that (Shaun) DeWitty is hurt and Keegan (Herring) is hurt. The good thing is we have a lot of depth there with Dimitri (Nance) and Jarrell Woods is running good. I feel bad for them not having the opportunity to play but I feel like we have a lot of depth and we'll be fine."

"I'd like to see (Herring) play," Erickson stated. "But again, that's why we have depth. That position we went through it last year some. We had guys hurt all the time and it's the nature of the position. That's why we try recruit a lot them. Hopefully Keegan can play. He might play. Then again, if there is any chance then I'm not going to put him out there where he can end up missing five or six games."

Center has been a position that has intrigued all of fall camp. Junior Thomas Altieri and freshman Garth Gerhart have been in a heated battle for the starting job since the spring and both have spent time running with the first team. Gerhart had been held out of practice for some time now due to injury but returned today.

"(Gerhart) is back, but he's still not full speed. That's probably a game-time thing whether he will play or not," noted Erickson. "He could play, we'll just have to wait and see."

Erickson also shed some light on the situation with freshman wide receiver A.J. Pickens.

"Pickens is still out. It's a deal with the Clearinghouse. It's something that's going to be taken care of but it seems to be taking a little more time than we thought."

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