October 19, 2006

Football notebook

Rudy Burgess is expected to play extensively at cornerback Saturday against Stanford, Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter said following the conclusion of practice on Wednesday. Koetter talked about the reason behind the decision, which involves an injury to another of the team's defensive backs.

"We said clear back last spring and at fall camp and we said the day may come where we need Rudy on defense," Koetter said. "We're been saying clear since last spring if we had depth issues we were going to have to put Rudy back at corner and it looks like we're there."

The injury that precipitated the move, according to Koetter is one involving junior cornerback Chris Baloney.

What's happened is Chris Baloney had some tendonitis in the knee and that tendonitis progressed to pain in his upper quad," Koetter said. "He had an MRI earlier this week and he's going to have further testing but it looks like we're going to be without Chris Baloney for a while. It's just been bothering him in practice and he's been trying to gut it out and go in games."

Burgess is playing exclusively in practice this week, according to Koetter, "because he was hurt for two weeks and then we had all the various issues at wide receiver so we haven't had the chance to work him both ways. He's on a crash course on defense right now."

Koetter also spoke at length about kicker Jessie Ainsworth with regard to his kickoffs while using a shorter tee, and his performance on field goals this season:

"I don't know how much difference one inch makes (with the tee) but Jessie can really drive the ball," he said. "What a lot of guys have gone to is instead of a 4.3 hang time that turns over and goes to the goal line, a lot of the guys are driving the ball and just trying to drive it to the end zone. And when you hit it good, that works. But I thought he had two of them in the USC where he tried to drive 'em and he miss-hit them a little bit and one hooked out of bounds and the other he tried to hit in the right corner and he kicked it clear back in the left corner. In the old days when nobody could kick it out of the end zone there was such a premium on hang time and more and more guys came along with strong legs and they changed the tee; they're always trying to put more returns back in the game. I think it's affected him a little bit."

"If you look at Jessie's career as a field goal kicker, Jessie's been money inside of 40 yards and he's struggled outside of 40 even though in practice he's been good outside of 40. But in games for whatever reason, it hasn't been a distance issue, it's been an accuracy issue outside of 40. But inside of 40 it's been very good and last year when we scored a gazillion points we just didn't need Jessie for that many field goals and even this year even though we're not scoring as many points, we're doing a good job of scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Our red zone chances are, I think we're at 80%."

"I've sung his praises because I've seen him do it and I've seen him do it time and time again in practice. I go back to the Sun Bowl a couple years [where in practice leading up to it] Jessie was drilling 54, 55, 57 (yarders) 8 out of 10, 7 out of 10 and then we get in the game and miss them all and everybody wants to know why you keep trying them. You keep trying them because you make them in practice."

With Zach Miller just one catch shy of Todd Heap's career receptions record amongst tight ends at the school, Koetter addressed the talent of Miller.

"You look at what Todd Heap's gone on to do in the NFL," Koetter said. "He made a great catch for a touchdown last week. Todd Heap's one of the best tight ends in the NFL right now and he set that tight end record -- there's been plenty of tight ends at ASU over the years -- and he set that in three years and Zach has got there in less than three years and it just says a lot about the type of player Zach is … I think the significance of it is, you're going to get credit for the catch record but catching balls is just one thing he does among so many other good things for our team."

One of the consistent topics of discussion throughout the season has been the shortening of games due to new NCAA rules that keeps the clock running. That subject came up again on Wednesday with regard to the number of carries ASU running backs are getting, specifically back-up Keegan Herring.

"There's not many plays," Koetter said. "When you figure the top backs in the league are going to carry it 16 to 20 times - that's what most top backs do - and then you're going to throw the ball 30 times. You throw it 30 and [Ryan Torain] runs 20, that's 50 right there. And you know Rudy's going to have some scrambles in there. I don't know the exact figures for six games. I think we've had two games where we've been up in the 70s in plays but we've had at least three games where we've been in the 50s and it's just, this is a different year with this play deal … The old standards are out right now because of this play clock thing and it will be interesting to see if they leave it or change it back but the old definition (is no longer accurate/relevant).

Koetter said that defensive tackle Michael Marquardt, who did not travel to Los Angeles, will be ready to play versus Stanford. The head coach also spoke about some of the injuries that will have an impact on the depth chart this week:

On Brandon Rodd:

"He did a little rehab type stuff today. He's not practicing. He's day-to-day. He did some jogging, he did some lunging. He moving around a little bit. I would say it's probably doubtful right now. But we'll see if he's available to go. We just don't have great depth … I feel confident that Julius will do fine but we just don't have a whole lot of depth."

on Shaun DeWitty:

"He's just [can't] seem to shake his bad back. Anybody's who has ever had a bad back, it's good one day and stoved up the next and he just can't seem to shake it. It lingers going back to spring ball and it's frustrating. He's had an MRI, he's had tests. He just can seem to get to a place where he can run like he wants to run."


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