Erickson Gives Positive Injury News

Stanford is a formidable opponent to begin Pac-10 play with, but throw in injuries to key players and it could have made the job that much tougher for Arizona State on Saturday. Luckily for the Sun Devils, Head Coach Dennis Erickson had mostly positive news about those injuries. Mike Jones didn't practice, but did run with team trainers and Erickson was pleased as to what he heard and saw.

"Mike (Jones) he had an MRI and it is nothing other than a slight sprain Achilles. He ran pretty good today, I'd be surprised if he didn't play," said Erickson, "It was kind of a freak deal, he ran around today and had an MRI like I said and met with the doctor, chances are he'll play Saturday."

Running Back Keegan Herring didn't get quite get the seal of approval to practice yet and Erickson said he wouldn't know his status until right before kickoff.

"Keegan is the same, there hasn't been any changes. I guess what everyone says now; he's a game time decision. If you listen to TV he's a game time decision, so I might as well use it too."

The surprise of the night came when linebacker Mike Nixon was not dressed. Nixon is suffering from strep throat and has a high temperature, but is expected to still play against Stanford.

"Mike (Nixon) is sick. He has a temperature, so he's real sick. They expect though that he will be able to play on Saturday."

Shawn DeWitty also returned to practice for a little bit and Erickson was confident that he would be ready to be used.

"It looked like it today, from what I saw. It looked like he was pretty close to 100%; if he is we will use him in certain situations."

The injury situation certainly doesn't help against a team that is on the rise. Going back to last season, Stanford has won back to back games for the first time since 2005.

"Stanford to me is the most improved football team in our league," said Erickson, "I'm not just talking about Oregon State last week, I'm talking if you track them back through last year, I've watched every tape on them last year and this last game, the way they've played physically, their attitude under Coach Harbaugh is an unbelievable improvement."

"From winning the big game (vs. Cal), to beating Oregon State they have a lot of momentum going. They deserve it; they play real physical on both sides of the football."

Quarterback Rudy Carpenter agreed and was impressed with the way their defense gets after the opposing signal caller.

"They are a well coached football team. Coach Harbaugh does a nice job up there with those guys," said Carpenter, "They play hard and physical and obviously they're smart individuals."

"I watched the Oregon State game, they blitzed them a lot. I think we are a more sound (on the offensive line), the test will be on Saturday."

Coach Erickson did highlight a change in philosophy for this year's Sun Devil team. Last year he said they were more of a run first team. In 2008, ASU will come out gunning and dare teams to stop their aerial attack. The Devils struggled to run the football against NAU, but Erickson says there really wasn't a chance for it to succeed.

"Probably run it a few more times, it is hard to get the running game going when you only run it however many times we ran it," answered Erickson to the question of how to fix the run game. "We've got to block people, but we have to see what they do to us. Our football team right now philosophically, we are going to come out flinging it. If they take people out of there we will run it, a little different than we were last year. We are a little different philosophically this year."

Carpenter thinks that ASU needs to stick to the run more, but as a quarterback, loved to hear his coach say that they were going to come out flinging the football.

"I think we need to just stick with it a little more. Last week I don't think we got the attempts that we wanted to, we have to call more runs and stick with it."

"We called a lot of passes and I think we will continue to do that. That is our strength on offense because we have a bunch of good wide receivers. But it is also important to be balanced."

A player that benefited from some of the injuries was Gerrell Robinson, who had probably his best practice of the season so far.

"Gerrell is playing a lot better. Like a lot of those younger guys you can sit in practice and two-a-days and say wow these guys are a talented group," said Erickson, "But things change when the lights go on and you get into that stadium, I don't care who you are or where you are. It's a different game. Then once you play in games, then you can continue to improve with those opportunities. Our young people will grow as they play during the season."

The Devils will wrap up their practice week tomorrow at Kajikawa Practice Field in preparation for Saturday's night game.

"With (Toby) Gerhart running it, their offensive line is back, we are going have to play our rear ends off. They are going to come in and try and knock our rear ends off."

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