Devils to Face a Stout Bruin Defense

Arizona State and UCLA are similar in other ways other than their overall record and conference mark (4-6, 3-4). Both squads posses a fairly strong defensive unit, and Sun Devil head coach Dennis Erickson talked about the challenge that awaits his offense next week.

After two days where the scout teams got the majority of the snaps, those units went back to donning their gold jerseys as game preparation for UCLA began on Thursday.

"They're a good defensive team, one of the best in the country," said Erickson. "They got two tackles in (Brian) Price and (Brigham) Harwell that are good as anybody in our league and maybe as good as anybody in the country. They played well against everybody.

"You watch every game they played, going into the third, fourth quarter it's been tight. They're a very good defensive team in all areas – they were a year ago (too). That's what we have to deal with next week."

On offense for UCLA, things haven't been as successful. Bruin signal caller Kevin Craft leads the league with 16 interceptions, and has just seven touchdowns. Erickson mentioned that there won't be any additional effort to rattle Craft, because the defensive plan already calls for that strategy.

"We always try to put pressure on them (opposing quarterbacks)," stated Erickson. "Like any game, the biggest thing is to take the running game away. If you can do that you get them in long yardage situations and then you're not executing well because of down and distance. That's what happens to us all the time. It's a lot easier when it's 3rd and 5 instead of 3rd and 15.

"He (craft) is a good athlete. Everybody talks about the interceptions but he has made a lot of plays for them. You think of the two games, Stanford and Tennessee, what jumps out at me is that he's taking them down the field at the end of the game to win it."

Praising Paul

The UCLA contest will mark the last game at Sun Devil stadium for many seniors, including offensive guard Paul Fanaika who started as a walk-on and earned a scholarship in his sophomore season.

"The improvement that he has made since we've been here is amazing," remarked Erickson. "Everybody looks at how big he is (6-6 336) but he's also very athletic, very tough. He's been very consistent for two years at right guard. He's having a good year for us."

Saluting the Scout Team

When Erickson talked about making the most of the bye week, he mentioned the extra work the scout members got to put in on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. In some ways this was a reward for an underappreciated yet vital, aspect of the team.

"It (the Scout Team) is never talked about enough," explained Erickson. "How hard those guys work…when you're on offense or on defense, first team runs eight plays in a row and the second team runs five plays in a row – the scout team has to run 13 plays in a row. Being on the scout team, unless you've been there, is hard.

"You have to give the right look, go 100 miles an hour and if you don't you get your butt chewed out. It's hard but everybody goes through it unless you don't redshirt. The better we get obviously the better we are prepared for the game. If you go against the defensive scout team, and they're not lined up correctly…that makes a heck of a difference. Our graduate assistants spend a lot of time making those (play) cards out to show them and make it as close as it's going to be like (during a game).

"I don't know if you ever get prepared for the speed of things that happen, but at least the alignment of what's going on."

Erickson added that a good recruiting class with many players who end up redshirting, will naturally enhance the quality of a scout team.

The ASU coach commented that walk-on and scout team member cornerback Gerald Flunder tore his ACL and MCL in the scout team bowl yesterday. "They're gonna wait three weeks and then have surgery," said Erickson. "It was a deal where nobody hit him. He fell and then the knee went (out)."


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