Q&A with Coach Bryce Erickson

The speed on the ASU offense is much improved than last year and probably no other group has manifested that trait more than the running backs. Coach Erickson talked about this unit and the great strides they have made in fall camp.

Devils Digest: Coming out of fall camp how do you feel about this group as a whole?

Bryce Erickson: "I'm really excited and very happy with the way they worked in camp. I'm excited about the depth and the versatility we have at this position. There are going to be four running backs that are going to have a big time role in the things that we are trying to do offensively.

"More than that I have such a young, great group of players to work with. They all have a great attitude and it makes it fun coming to work and dealing with these guys. That's the thing that sticks out the most to me. It's been a great camp and it's a blessing to have the group that we have."

DD: With the new offensive scheme in place since the spring what kind of adjustments has the running backs group gone through and how do you feel about their grasp of the system?

BE: "I think we have come a long way since spring football. This new offense is all about putting the ball in the playmakers' hands and I think one of our strong points in this offense are our running backs and the playmakers we have there. I think this offense is very conducive to giving them the ball in different kind of formations and being in the shot gun I think helps them a lot.

"I think we have all adjusted really well to the new offense and we are very excited about it. We are going to have a lot of success this year offensively because opponents are going to have a hard time defending us. I truly feel that way."

DD: Cameron Marshall started camp in a slow manner but ended it on a much stronger note. Is that how you felt about his camp performance as well?

BE: "I feel exactly the same way you did . It's amazing what competition will bring to the table. I don't think it was Cameron just going through the motions, because since he's been here he has not been 100 percent healthy. Now that he's healthy he's not galloping when he runs and as camp progressed and he was getting more reps he felt more confident and was seeing things better. He started running the way he's capable of running.

"He missed pretty much all of spring football. I think that really hurt him, like you said, early on in camp. As the weeks went on he got better and better and I'm very excited about him. He's by far our most complete back and what I mean by that is doing a good job running the ball, having great hands and most importantly he's one of our best pass protectors."

DD: It's one thing to come with a lot of accolades out of high school, like Deantre Lewis, but it's another to back them up. Watching fall camp you can say that he has delivered on this expectations…

BE: "Oh he has delivered and will deliver more for us this year. He's going to have a significant role in our offense. It's just great that we have so much versatility at this position. Each player has their own running style. The thing I was the most impressed about with Deantre was his ability to learn and his football savvy. He never did any shotgun (formations) in high school and did very well picking up our system.

"He's a very vertical, north and south runner. His acceleration is special, and all he needs is a crease and he gets up the field in a hurry. Before you know it he's going to be up on the secondary. He's also a physical runner that is hard to bring down. He does a good job catching out of the backfield. One thing he needs to continue to work on, like all the backs, is pass protection because he has never done that in high school. He's been really working hard on getting better in that area and has the desire and the work ethic to get it done."

DD: On the surface it seems like Deantre and Jamal Miles are the same player, but they really are different runners…

BE: "I don't think they are similar. Jamal has great lateral movement and really quick feet. He's kind of a cutback player. He doesn't get the ball inside and as quick as Deantre does and that's something that he is working on. But if you want someone to take the edge and take the edge now – Jamal Miles is your guy. Not only that, he's our best receiving running back and he catches the ball by far the best out of all the running backs.

"He's a very versatile player and he'll have a significant role in this offense as well." DD: Can you talk about the camp James Morrison has had?

BE: "He's a big physical runner that will have a significant role too. This past Saturday he probably had the best scrimmage out of the backs last Saturday. He's has so much heart and desire. "

DD: Wanted to touch on the players who round out the group Marcus Washington and Taylor Walstad

BE: "I'm so proud of Marcus. He gresyshirted so he has been out of football for a year and because he really hasn't played a lot his senior season it's almost been two years since he has played. He came in the spring and he was like a deer in the headlights but what he did in the fall was absolutely tremendous. I think down the line he's gonna help us a lot. He's a runner that is very different than the backs we have right now. He's working on pad level and I think he understands the offense a little better. He's a physical runner and very coachable young man. I'm very excited for his future.

"Taylor has a ways to go. He really didn't get a lot of reps because of those other guys and I think this upcoming spring will be a big one for Taylor. I feel like he's still not 100 percent healthy and he ran around a little tentative. I think he needs a good off-season to grow bigger and work on his speed and we'll see where he's at when spring football comes. But he's a great young man and just like everyone in this group he has a great personality.

"I have to mention R.J. Robinson too. I'm real blessed to have a walk-on like him. He's probably the fire of that group and he works just as hard as the other guys. I have no problem putting him in the game and trusting that he can get the job done."

DD: So much has been talked about all the new faces on the offensive line. As much change as you've seen there in personnel have you see also any changes in their blocking schemes that may cause an adjustment with your running style?

BE: "The offensive line has probably made the biggest improvement in this camp. We've been flipping guys around but we are so much more athletic up front. We have guys that have some swag to them and it's about time. They don't back down from anybody no more. We‘re fighting back with the defense and the whole vibe, and the whole energy is great.

"They are opening holes for us. We widen up our splits a little bit and that group has done such a great job."

DD: In the week and half before the season opener what would like to improve in regards to the entire running backs group?

BE: "Pass protection. I want to continue to work on that and spend more time on that. We also just need to keep on hammering on the things that we have been doing. We need to make sure that we're 100 percent disciplined in our assignments, in our alignments, in our running tracks, catching the ball, all those things that make this offense go. We need to make sure that we are in great shape because this is a fast paced offense.

"I want everybody in this group to be very confident in the plays that are called, so they don't have to be so cerebral. They need to go out knowing what their assignments are and just go and play football. That's the level I want to get those guys to and I don't think we are that far away."

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