November 19, 2008

Nance makes most of opportunity against WSU

When Arizona State beat Washington on Nov. 8, running back Dimitri Nance didn't even see the field.

The week before at Oregon State, the junior had one carry for one yard.

For the first half of the season Nance was the featured back, but he seemed to be getting phased out.

"The coaches just told me to stick in there and hang in there and I'd get my chances," Nance said. "So I just took their word and waited for my chance."

That opportunity came last Saturday.

Nance did not receive a carry in the first half of the Washington State game, but the coaches called his number at halftime and he responded.

"It was good to see him come in and run like he is capable of running," coach Dennis Erickson said. "He's a good football player. We saw that the year before and it was good to see him come back to his old form."

Nance finished last weekend's game as the team's top rusher with nine carries for 47 yards, his most since the USC game.

For Nance, who went through a six-quarter stretch without any playing time, getting back out on the field and performing well was redemption.

He knows he is a good running back and couldn't stand sitting on the sidelines. He wanted to be in the game.

"I had been out for a couple of games so I just had to get in there and run how I know how to run," he said. "It was real difficult to sit out. I was happy for my teammates who were running so well, but I wanted to be out there too.

"Everybody just told me to stay focused and I knew it wasn't the end of the world so I just tried to stay in there and I knew when I got my chance I would go in there and represent. Do what I do."

Early in the season, Nance had some well-documented fumbling issues.

He has put the ball on the ground five times this year and the opponent has recovered it three of those times.

Nance even had stretch of three straight games (against Georgia, Cal and USC) in which he had a fumble in every game.

But Erickson said Nance's broken thumb on his right hand was under publicized and that injury had a lot to do with the ball security problems.

"He had that thumb (injury) and I think we underrated all that stuff," Erickson said. "Things weren't going well and he fumbled it a couple of times during that (losing) streak. Obviously it didn't cost us the game but people look at those things because they jump out at you on TV."

Erickson said he plans to stick with Shaun DeWitty and Keegan Herring as the primary rushers for ASU when it faces UCLA on Nov. 28, but if Erickson feels he needs to switch things up, like he did against WSU, Nance could once again get some additional handoffs.

"We're going to start the same way we've started and see how it goes," Erickson said. "If we feel like we need to put [Nance] in early then we'll put him in early. It's just kind of how the game goes."

Nance hopes the game goes his way.

"I always want to go in there and help my team the best I can," he said. "I'm a competitor and I want to play."

Young guns

The Sun Devils are in the midst of a bye-week and, as usual, did not practice with a scout team on Tuesday.

Erickson kept most of the first team limited in practice to allow them some rest while giving the younger guys some much-needed reps.

"It was nice to see [the young guys] out there practicing and running something other besides the scout offense or defense," Erickson said. "It's good for them to get a chance out there.

"We'll do the same thing tomorrow and part of Thursday then we'll start on UCLA."

The final period of the day was semi-live with the offense and defense going against each other in full pads.

The defenders were not tackling the offense to the ground but they were wrapping up.

Some of the young players who shined included: wide receiver Tony Simmons, who has had a great last two weeks on the scout team and really benefited from a non-scout quarterback; wide receiver Gerell Robinson, who made two nice catches after beating a defender on each play; and running back Jarrell Woods who broke several tackles on what could have potentially been about a 70-yard touchdown run.

Missing DTs

Neither starting defensive tackle, David Smith and Lawrence Guy, practiced Tuesday.

Smith is still sidelined after suffering his fifth stinger of the season Nov. 8 at Washington.

Guy was not at practice at all, but Erickson said he was just taking care of "an academic thing" and that he would be back Wednesday.

Back out there

After sitting out the last month, safety Clint Floyd returned to practice Tuesday.
Floyd suffered a lacerated kidney against USC and has been unable to play since.

Tuesday he was wearing an orange jersey designated for non-contact players and was taking reps with the second and third team.

Last week, Erickson said if Floyd continued to recover at his current rate that he could be available to play as early as the UCLA game on Nov. 28.

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