Thursday Practice Report

Cornerback Nickell Robey will be asked to contain Arizona State's high-risk, high-reward passing offense.

Passing Fancy
Guess who leads the Pac-10 is passing yards per game this season?

Maybe Matt Barkley or Stanford's Andrew Luck, perhaps shaggy haired Nick Foles down at Arizona.

Nope, it's Arizona State quarterback Steven Threet, averaging 268 yards passing per game.

The former Georgia Tech and Michigan signal caller has thrown for 2,144 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, giving a spark to the Sun Devils.

Under new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, Arizona State has switched to a shotgun spread passing attack this season to great success, boosting its production by nearly 10 points per game.

"This team is throwing the ball all over the place with four wides," assistant head coach Monte Kiffin, who worked with Mazzone with the Minnesota Vikings, said. "It's a whole different deal you know. The quarterback is playing well, they're throwing it well all over the place. The stats show it."

It also represents a significant challenge for USC, which has struggled with spread-based offenses all year long, allowing 275.8 yards passing and 27.9 points per game.

But Threet's penchant for turnovers could be the great equalizer, throwing 13 interceptions, four including a pick-six against Oregon.

"Once he makes something good happen, he just starts gunning it to the point where he throws a lot of interceptions," cornerback Nickell Robey said. "It shows up big time on film how he gets real overwhelmed. We got to make him throw the ball and make the plays."

For Robey, who returned to practice after undergoing a root canal Wednesday, that could include plenty of blitzes. The true freshman showed a knack for getting to the quarterback in fall camp, but has yet to record a sack this season.

"I know I'll be in some blitzing packages, come off the edge and make a lot of confusion on the offensive line," Robey said. "Coming into the game, I got to play extra fast because there will be a lot going on."

Bradford OK With Role
Since rushing for a career-high 223 yards against Washington, running back Allen Bradford has just 69 yards in the three games since.

The senior says he's all right with his role after suffering turf toe in practice before playing Cal.

"Instead of missing the games, I tried to play in them and tried to play hurt," Bradford said. "But the Oregon game, Coach Kif saw I wasn't running and took me out after my third carry. It wasn't like I wasn't in the game plan.

"I can't really be too mad about it. These last five game, I've got to make sure I'm even healthy before I get on the field."

Hot Reads
-Center Abe Markowitz did not practice Thursday and is back in a walking boot. Markowitz returned to action this week after breaking his right foot in fall camp.

Tight end Blake Ayles, defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo and offensive lineman John Martinez did not practice.

Offensive tackle Tyron Smith and running back C.J. Gable were limited.

-Kiffin said he has not made a decision regarding who will start at middle linebacker, strong safety and left guard.

"We're still getting a look at it and it may be something where we rotate people. We'll figure it out as we get closer," he said.

-Linebacker Malcolm Smith on wide receiver Robert Woods' end around in practice Thursday: "I wasn't even looking when he did the extra move. He didn't get me."


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