September 11, 2008

Reserve linebackers may see first real action

It is no secret that the ASU football team will be depleted at the linebacker position on Saturday.

Starting middle linebacker Gerald Munns is out following his finger surgery Tuesday, Brandon Magee partially tore his left pectoral in the weight room and won't play, Chad Lindsey left the program earlier this week and Morris Wooten is still suspended for one more game.

Needless to say, the Sun Devils need somebody to step up when they take on UNLV this weekend.

In Munns, absence, Mike Nixon will start in the middle and Ryan McFoy will start on the weak side. Travis Goethel will line up at his usual position on the strong side.

ASU has had all week to let those three work together and learn exactly how each other plays. Also, the coaches have been shoring up a No. 2 linebacking group.

So far, Coach Dennis Erickson likes what he has seen.

"I feel good about where we're at," Erickson said of his linebackers. "I think our depth [is good], obviously because some young guys are maybe a little bit better than it's been in the past."

Two of the young guys Erickson said are going to get more playing time are Shelly Lyons and Oliver Aaron.

But just because Lyons figures to see more of the field Saturday, that doesn't mean he has approached practice differently this week. He has maintained the same intensity.

"There is a sense of opportunity, but it's not a case of stepping it up because I have been," Lyons said. "I always practice hard."

Munns and Magee were both at practice Thursday wearing street clothes.

Munns had his left arm in a sling and a cast covering his injured pinky. Magee had tape covering his injured pectoral.

Still a question

Erickson still doesn't know the availability of running back Keegan Herring (hamstring) and Andrew Pettes (groin) for the UNLV game.

He said he will make the decision on whether the two starters will play before the game on Saturday.

If Herring is out, Dimitri Nance will once again be the featured back.

If Pettes is out, Stanley Malamala or Dan Knapp will slide into his starting spot; both will likely play large roles. Jovon Williams, who starts at the other tight end position in the two tight set, could see an increased role in the offense too.

Since fall camp opened quarterback Rudy Carpenter has been trying to get the tight ends more involved in the passing game, and he said having Pettes out will have a big impact on that position group.

But, he said, this will be a good opportunity to get some of the younger tight ends some game experience.

"[Pettes out] affects [the tight ends] a lot," Carpenter said. "But Dan Kanpp had a good game last week and so did Jovon, so it gives those guys a chance to keep on getting better."

Movin' on up

Safety Jarrell Holman and linebacker Colin Parker were taking extensive reps with the No. 2 defense Thursday.

Holman lined up at the safety position where Clint Floyd had become a staple, and Parker was taking second teams reps over Oliver Aaron on the weak side.

However, Erickson did say Aaron will get playing time Saturday.

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