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August 4, 2011

Offense show signs of maturity in red zone work

Junior linebacker Vontaze Burfict stood motionless with his hands on his head, seemingly in disbelief.

Arizona State junior quarterback Brock Osweiler had just perfectly threaded a pass to senior receiver Aaron Pflugrad in the back corner of the end zone in between the diving hands of Burfict and junior cornerback Deveron Carr.

Another touchdown, one of at least eight in the red zone segment of Wednesday's practice.

There were times -- more frequent than the offense would care to admit -- two years ago when a couple of touchdown catches in the same practice period would have been considered an achievement.

Burfict appeared to not want to believe those days are long gone, but they are, and the offense sure let him know about it.

Every touchdown reception led to intense celebration from the entire offense, the release of multiple years of pent up frustration at being unable to get over on their white-clad defensive mates.

Thing were going so well for the offense and its players were doing such a good job getting under the collective skin of the defense that after a generic incomplete pass, Burfict mock celebrated in an apparent effort to deliver a message, one that hasn't needed to be delivered in his time in Tempe.

Act like you've done it before.

"The offense being able to compete against the defense," Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson said, "it has not been like that. Now it's a competition."

Erickson and his staff led an aggressive and physical-as-possible practice for the second day in a row sans pads and shells, a sure sign of what they hope to instill in this team throughout camp.

"The best competition since I've been here between the offense and defense," Erickson said. "And that's how it's got to be. Obviously, I don't want to get anybody hurt. But they were having fun, too. To me, it's a big step to where we're going."

Burfict may not like that now, but if the offense is playing like they were in the red zone Wednesday in another month's time, he'll take his hands off his helmet and put them together. A lot.

Roll Call

Freshman receiver Karl Holmes participated Wednesday after being clearly by the school.

Redshirt freshman tight end Josh Fulton conditioned on the sidelines after missing Tuesday for undisclosed reasons while junior defensive end Gregory Smith sat out due to a hip flexor strain.

Freshman offensive lineman Devin Goodman was a sideline onlooker after not attending Tuesday.

Sophomore running back Kyle Middlebrooks started the session but left midway through with a minor ankle sprain.

Notes

  • Redshirt freshman kicker Alex Garoutte had a better effort after a shaky opening practice a day earlier. He connected on 6-of-8 field goal attempts including his only try from 47-yards.

  • Sophomore defensive tackle William Sutton and end Junior Onyeali were regularly in the offensive backfield pressuring the quarterback in an 11-on-11 segment. Defenders have an advantage in non-padded work but the duo look like an impressive inside-outside tandem of pass rushing.

  • The boundary side linebacker position looks to be one of the most closely contested on the roster with senior Colin Parker working with the first team Wednesday after senior Shelly Lyons was slotted there a day earlier.


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