Pads produce high energy session

There are few absolutes in football and one of them is that the first day of pads produces an energetic session full of hitting and an intensified pace. Thursday's ASU practice stayed true to that script and naturally pleased Head Coach Dennis Erickson.

"We flew around on defense and you could see on a couple of those things what kind of speed we have at linebacker," said Erickson. "We lost some guys (at linebacker) but we're getting to a point maturity wise where some of these guys are juniors and sophomores.

"I thought offensively it was good. We have a lot in right now and we'll have to cut it back a little bit so we execute. We have some guys with pulled muscles. I can't imagine how many plays we've run in the last three days. We've run 100 plays a day, so we have to set it back a little bit. But I'm happy with where we are at. The speed of our football team has really improved in all aspects."

Erickson added that he was pleased thus far in the spring with several skill players such as George Bell, Aaron Pflugrad and Jamal Miles, and mentioned that Marcus Washington who joined the team in January has been a pleasant surprise for someone who hasn't played in a year.

It would be natural to assume that a high spirited practice is one that players take great pleasure in and Erickson stated that he could tell that his squad is having more fun on the practice field than it has had in a while.

"It's like they're on a schoolyard again and that's how it should be," remarked Erickson. "I think a lot of it is the no-huddle and you know that the offense is attacking back. It just makes it a lot more fun."

The new and improved Morrison

As true freshman, then walk-on James Morrison showed what a brute force he can be at running back. Injuries slowed him down his first two years. These days he's some 20 pounds lighter and is proving that he can successfully mix in speed with strength to become a viable offensive weapon.

"He reminds me of what he was he first got here," said Erickson of Morrison's spring performance. "It's good to see that."

"I just tried to get my mindset right," said Morrison. "My leg felt good last spring but in my mind I couldn't trust myself all the way. But coming into the winter I was trying to be one of the hardest workers out there and it's carrying over to the field.

"I feel like if I need to get down the middle and lower my shoulders I can still do that, but then again I wanted to shed some pounds so I get on the edge with some defenders in space and try and make some moves and get lose. I still feel strong in the weight room. In the winter I got up to 475 squatting one day. I still have my power…upper body and lower body. I'm at 205 and I'm feeling as good as I ever felt. This is the lightest I have ever played at."

The running back added that "fixing up his diet" swearing off fast food and eating home cooked meals have helped him trim down.

"I'm from here," said the former Phoenix St. Mary's player, "so my Grandma has been fixing me meals. I told her what I wanted to do and she has been fixing me up."

Morrison indicated that he loves the increased physicality of practice on Thursday and feels that the offense has been able to improve its performance under those conditions. Overall, he feels as if the up tempo offense has been tailor made for a running back like himself.

"We're running more downhill and not stretching as much," explained Morrison. "We can see the defense. We are all doing a good job."

First line of defense showing well

The Sun Devil defensive line comes back virtually intact from last year, and even the loss of All-Pac 10 lineman Dexter Davis isn't being felt at defensive end with players such as James Brooks and Gregory Smith performing at a high level.

"James has really been a leader," commented Erickson. "He and Lawrence (Guy) have really stepped up. Saia (Falahola) and those experienced guys are playing well. Jamaar Jarrett is playing very well too. I look at Bo (Moos) and how he has improved over the three years that he has been here."

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