Portland State is a challenge to prepare for

With the quarterback battle in the rear view mirror, Dennis Erickson and the rest of the Sun Devils hit the practice field on Tuesday to begin preparation for their opening week foe, Portland State. The Vikings went through a head coaching change in the off-season which makes scouting that team harder than usual.

Only a day off of being named the starting quarterback, Steven Threet didn't put together his strongest session of fall camp. But neither did the rest of the team. Overall it was a lackluster practice for the maroon and gold but Coach Erickson didn't seem rattled.

In fact, he was rather jovial with the recent qualification of junior college transfer Aderious Simmons. The monolithic offensive tackle provides some much needed depth on a line that has suffered some unfortunate setbacks in the off-season.

"I thought it was okay. It was just a typical Tuesday in week preparation," Erickson said. "You're going to make mistakes on Tuesday and we did. One thing that's good though is Aderious (Simmons) got cleared. He's ready to go. He'll play both right and left in that game Saturday. But he's cleared and that's the most important thing. Now he can focus on school and getting ready to play and that's good news."

The Sun Devils' opening week opponent is somewhat of an enigma. Playing in the Football Championship Subdivision already makes scouting and game planning a difficult task. First year head coach Nigel Burton came to the Vikings this past December after serving two years as the defensive coordinator at Nevada, so it'd anybody's guess what kind of schemes he will employ on both sides of the ball.

"It's kind of hard to tell because we're not sure what they're going to do," Erickson noted. "All you can do is go by what Nigel has done in the past defensively. He's been the coordinator, been at Oregon State. Very similar to what Oregon State did. We're kind of looking at that and some of the things he did at Reno.

"Offensively they have a lot of the Reno stuff so they'll be in the pistol quite a bit, we think. We're just trying to get bits and pieces. A lot of their offense will be similar to our offense and what we've seen the last 30 days. We won't know until we get out there."

With Noel Mazzone taking over for former offensive coordinator Rich Olson, Sun Devil fans aren't entirely sure what they can expect to see out of their own offense. If the offense we've seen all summer on the practice field is the offense that shows up come game day we could be in for some fireworks. This year's offense looks worlds different than what fans have gotten used to over the last couple seasons but the way Erickson and his team prepare sounds consistent with the rest of his tenure in Tempe.

"We game plan but our offense is such that we have the basics of what we do and then we tweak it every once in a while," Erickson explained. "We're going to go with the basis of our offense that we've been practicing on and we're going to tweak it every week. Add something, take some things out, just depends what they're going to do."

On the defensive side of the ball, Clint Floyd has been shining since the team hit the field in early August. He recorded another interception in today's practice when he tightly covered a slot receiver all the way to the sideline before jumping Threet's pass and making a play on the ball. Coach Erickson spoke highly of the junior safety after practice.

"He worked his rear end off in the offseason," Erickson remarked. "He got bigger and stronger and faster. He's a great athlete. I knew he was a great athlete when I went to Crenshaw high school and he was starting at point guard for the basketball team. That's pretty good. But he's gotten bigger and stronger and he was hurt last year. Now he's healthy and that makes a difference. He's a leader back there and he can make a lot of plays."

Recently, the Sun Devils lost sophomore defensive tackle Will Sutton due to academic ineligibility. The move unquestionably hurts the depth of the defensive line, but Erickson is confident that defensive end Jamaar Jarrett can adequately eat up snaps at defensive tackle and help out the rotation there.

"He's really quick. Athletically, he's extremely good for a guy inside," Erickson said. "I have no question he could be a great player there. We're going to play him in there on Saturday some. He's a good option for us, he really is."

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