ASU coaches boost intensity of practices ahead of Michigan State

Sep 6, 2018, 5:02 AM
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)...
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

As Arizona State offensive lineman went through run blocking drills at Tuesday’s practice, offensive line coach Dave Christensen tried to set the tone for Saturday’s game against No. 15 Michigan State.

“Full speed or when you play Saturday they’re going to kick your [butts],” Christensen said. “You better play physical now.”

On the other side of the practices fields, linebackers coach Antonio Pierce orchestrated tackling drills, standing pairs of players five yards apart and having them tee off on one another while working on technique. Throughout, Pierce repeated, “Run his [butt] over,” constantly shouting the phrase above the forceful sound of clashing helmets and shoulder pads.

The Spartans are likely to provide a much stiffer level of competition than UTSA did in ASU’s 49-7 win Saturday. So Tuesday’s practice was a wake-up call, the message clear: Play tough, and play physical.

“I grew up in the land of the Big Ten,” ASU offensive coordinator Rob Likens said. “I grew up a huge Ohio State fan back in the day Woody Hayes and all that, and so Big Ten — it elicits a certain response with me. Toughness, big, they’re gonna be bigger than us, you know they’re going to be very physical. They fly around to the ball and they’re gonna try to punish you when they get there. So they try to gang tackle and run and get a lot of people there, and they’re flying, throwing their bodies into the pile, just trying to punish you and stuff like that. So that’s what you can look forward to with those guys.”

Every facet of ASU’s Tuesday practice was infused with an increased amount of intensity and physical force. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum was heard yelling at players to block with more toughness on kickoff coverages. Running backs coach John Simon rehearsed physical pass protections with his backs. Tight ends coach Donnie Yantis ran his group through an intense blocking drill.

“You got to match [Michigan State’s energy],” Likens said. “I tell our guys all the time–there’s a great book by Mark Batterson I read, ‘Chase the Lion’ and a lot of people in this world hear the roar of a lion and they turn and run. You hear the roar of a lion you got to turn and run after it, and that’s how you face adversity. And that’s how you face a team like this, you don’t run from it. You hit it head on, meet it on, and let’s go.”


Expect the ASU offense to employ some new conceptual plays that weren’t used against UTSA.

The Sun Devils’ rushing duo of sophomore Eno Benjamin and freshman Isaiah Floyd packed “a nice one, two punch” as described by Likens in that game. They’ll attempt to have the same success against a defense ranked No. 2 last year in the country against the run.

In Week 1, Benjamin rushed for 131 yards on 16 carries while Floyd added 79 yards of his own on nine attempts. Because of its rushing success, ASU didn’t need to employ all of the packages it prepared; but it’ll be ready to unveil more on Saturday.

“Yeah I think we ran a total of two concepts last game which we went in with about 10 maybe and we thought 10 was not even a lot,” Wilkins said. “So we ran about two, maybe three, pass concepts, so (we) kept it very vanilla. If we needed to we would have busted them out, but we ran the ball really well and what we were doing was working. So if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”


Not observed in attendance: DB Joey Bryant (knee), WR Curtis Hodges, RB Trelon Smith (suspended), QB Ryan Kelley (shoulder), OL Steven Miller (personal absence)

Out: OL Zach Robertson

Green Jerseys (non-contact): None

Returned to practice: DB Evan Fields

Out for season: DB Tyler Whiley (ankle), WR John Humphrey (Achilles)

This story appears on courtesy of a partnership with, part of 247 Sports and home for the most detailed information on Arizona State football.

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