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September 11, 2013

Sun Devils want to run it better against Wisconsin

Arizona State didn't need much of a run game to beat Sacramento State but its players and coaches feel they'll have to do a lot more in that regard to improve to 2-0 Saturday.

Junior quarterback Taylor Kelly and the rest of the Sun Devil air attack got a lot of attention after gaining 364 passing yards and five touchdowns. The ASU run game took a back seat last week after only putting up 158 yards against the FCS opponent, which often chose to load up the box.

This week against Wisconsin the offense would like to have a more balanced attack and produce more on the ground, with head coach Todd Graham repeatedly saying the team that wins the ground game will have a clear edge in the contest.

Junior guard Jamil Douglas said the offensive did not play to its full potential in the run game last week.

"I don't think we played as physical as we should have," Douglas said. "Of course there's always things that we have to work out. I think we can play way better than what we did. The amount of points we scored, I don't think that was good enough."

The offensive run game starts with Douglas and the rest of the big men up front. The first couple steps by the offensive linemen will typically decide whether the run play is successful or not.

The lack of success was very disappointing for Douglas because he said the unit had been getting a strong push during camp against starting ASU defensive linemen like senior tackle Will Sutton and junior hybrid end/linebacker Carl Bradford.

Then when the group came out to play against Sacramento State, he said the players on the line were playing with some hesitancy and did not want to make a mistake.

For the offensive line to perform better against Wisconsin the front five need to relax and come off the ball aggressively.

"Last week, I didn't think we came off the ball as well as we needed too and we've been really getting after it this week," offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said.

Besides the linemen up front, senior running back Marion Grice would also like a bounce back performance against Wisconsin.

In his last game of 2012 against Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Grice had 14 carries for 159 yards and two touchdowns. With 14 carries against Sacramento State he had only 59 yards and a 6-yard touchdown run.

"For me, I was basically tip-toeing," Grice said. "I wasn't running as hard as I should. Now that I've been practicing harder, now I just need to fix what I did and make it better from last week."

In practice this week Grice said he has been working on being explosive every play and trying to run downhill on every touch.

ASU's opponent Wisconsin did not have trouble running the ball in it first two games and is averaging 390 yards per game, third best nationally at the BCS level.

Even Kelly knows ASU is not going to win this game solely through the air.

"Whoever runs the ball the most [will win]," Kelly said, echoing his head coach. "Getting the yardage, getting our offensive line and running backs involved a lot and just grinding it out and taking advantage of what they have."

The offensive coaching staff came into the preseason with the mindset to mold a physical offense with a strong inside run game.

Wisconsin has earned its reputation as a tough run-based team and the matchup presents a good opportunity for the ASU offense to prove it deserves the same respect.

"It's what we play for going up against the Big Ten champ, obviously a big, physical football team in itself," Norvell said. "Our guys are ready to go. We're going to put our hand in the grass, come off that ball and get after it."

The coaching staff will be looking at Douglas to get after it. The 6-foot-4, 301 pound guard has the unique ability of being very agile for such a large player.

Douglas is instrumental in the inside run game. Obviously the guard has to join with the center on key double teams to push the line of scrimmage back.

But Douglas's athleticism helps him pull around the other guard and move up to the second level to be a lead blocker for the running back on so-called power play calls.

"You see a guy like Jamil and he's pulling around there or if he's down blocking he generates a great deal of explosive power," Norvell said.

Douglas is ready to use his skills to change the perception of ASU around the country.

"We know we're a physical team and it's time for the world to know it," Douglas said.

ASU unveils membership drive

In an effort to grow its Sun Devil Club membership to 10,000 by its Sept. 28 game against USC, Arizona State has launched a 'Be the Solution' campaign.

"We want every Sun Devil to help shape our future by joining the Sun Devil Club," said Rocky Harris, Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Relations. "The Sun Devil Club provides scholarships to our student-athletes, creates a competitive advantage, and enhances our community. Sun Devil Club memberships allow everyone in our community to have an equal stake in our long-term success."

The membership drive included a press release that said ASU's athletics budget is "the lowest of any consistent Directors' Cup Top-25 program" and "ranks in the bottom third of the Pac-12 in both total revenue and annual donations."

New Sun Devil Club members are able to join for a $100 annual contribution or $9 monthly and may direct their gift to a sport-specific cause.

"The fan base in our community represents a competitive edge to Sun Devil Athletics that has not been captured to its potential in several years," said Gregg Tryhus, Sun Devil Club board president. "Since we all want success, we believe that there are many fans who would be willing to take at least limited ownership of the community's responsibility to help make that happen. The Sun Devil Club has been structured to be the conduit for that participation."

More information can be obtained on the Sun Devil Club website.

Notes

  • Freshman wide receiver Ellis Jefferson did not compete in the early team session observed by media on Wednesday, nor has he in at least the last week. Graham said earlier this week he is overcoming a strain.

  • Senior linebacker Anthony Jones took the first team reps at the spur today over redshirt freshman Carlos Mendoza. Mendoza got the first team reps on Tuesday, the only day he's received first-team reps in several weeks.

  • Coach Todd Graham said freshmen linebackers Viliami Latu and Alani Latu have impressed him and should get on the field this season. The brothers may make their debuts this week on special teams. Both were on the first team kick-off team and the second kick return team in practice Wednesday. Alani Latu also worked with the second punt team.


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