Morrison raring to go

After falling on tough luck and hard times in his first few seasons for the Sun Devils, James Morrison is healthy and ready to make his presence known in the ASU backfield. The sophomore may still be looking for his first ever carry at running back, but that doesn't dampen his confidence in his abilities to contribute in the 2010 campaign.

Entering his third season in Tempe, James Morrison feels that fall camp is going about as well as the first fall camp he participated in. In 2008, as an unknown true freshman walk-on, the running back was shocking coaches and fans alike with his abilities until a season-ending injury prevented him from possibly being one of the best stories on the team that year.

Only a redshirt sophomore, Morrison is suddenly the old guy in a group of talented yet inexperienced running backs looking to put ASU's new offense on par with its stellar defense. The early returns appear to be encouraging.

"First couple days are going well," Morrison admitted. "The offense is starting to click, the defense is doing their job as always so we're starting to come along as a team on the offensive side, and it's starting to look nice.

"The new offense is great because all we're trying to do is get the ball into the playmakers' hands in the open space and let them make plays, and we're actually adding a few more run plays. We're slowly installing stuff so we're getting it down mentally, going to hit the field and doing all the plays we installed that same day and we're just getting the offense down pat."

And in order to continue clicking the team must stay healthy, which is something Morrison knows all too well, but they may benefit from a good offseason work program.

"The summer program we did was great compared to previous summers," Morrison explained. "We did a lot more running, a lot heavier and harder lifting and we had more time off, but we were still putting in work: we were running stadiums, running up ‘A' mountain, just a lot of stuff.

"It's tough; back when I was injured and doing rehab and stuff like that, it was tough on the mind and the body because I was hurt, but now I'm just my mental game up now. I'm 100 percent, the ankle is feeling great, the body is feeling great and I'm just ready to work and get to the season."

"James looks good," said Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson. "He lost some weight and he's a lot quicker than he was. It's a pretty good group of back there right now."

Helping to take some of the load off Morrison's shoulders, while competing with him at the same time, is a young group of backs that can bring a plethora of talent in several areas.

"Our whole backfield is nice," Morrison pointed out. "We all have different styles, and we all bring something different to the table. We're about six deep right now, we're all good at our own little things: Cam (Cameron Marshall) is a powerful runner, Jamal (Miles) is a real speedy runner, and I try to do a little bit of both. Deantre Lewis, he's speedy, he can catch, we catch out of the backfield, we all run hard, so we all bring something different to the table and we all can contribute."

Along with his combo running style, Morrison has shown the best hands of any of the backs thus far in camp, making him a good candidate for third down reps along with Jamal Miles.

"I'm just looking to get any reps on Saturday that I can," Morrison asserted. "We starting using the Jugs (machine) with the receivers after practice yesterday, and during the summer we were on the Jugs, I try to get at least 100 catches in a day and it's starting to pay off. I still drop a few but we're trying to eliminate those and make 100 percent of my catches."

Being the senior running back on the team, Morrison has been noticeably more vocal than seasons past, and the younger guys seem to be listening.

"Cam and I, we talk and we're roommates right now so we both talk about how we have to be leaders," Morrison stated. "He's gotten a chance to play, I haven't, but he's played and I'm the oldest so we're trying to get a mix of those and show the other running backs that if they need anything they can always talk to us, but we're trying to take the leadership role on our shoulders."

As for his expectations for the upcoming season, Morrison sets the bar higher than just getting some playing time when called upon.

"I'd like to get the starting job," Morrison said bluntly. "I'd like to be the best running back in the Pac-10. I set my goals high so if I fall short I'll still be happy for myself.

"I want to go to the Rose bowl, the National Championship, like I said I set my goals high so if we fall short, I'm still satisfied."

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