Fans waiting for any jockeying in the nine-horse race for Arizona State’s starting tailback spot will have to be more patient.
The aspiring runners — Rudy Burgess, Cornell Canidate, Shawn DeWitty, Keegan Herring, Randy Hill, Preston Jones, Antone Saulsberry, Jarrett Sayas and Price Wilks — cannot do much to distinguish themselves in helmets-only practices, coach Dirk Koetter said on Saturday.
"That position, more than any other, guys can look good just running around," Koetter said. "We’ll see how things start shaking up when they have to start blocking and tackling."
The Sun Devils practice in shoulder pads today and Monday, then begin full-pads work on Tuesday.
Burgess is at the top of the depth chart right now, and much of the future movement depends on his durability.
If need be, Burgess — a sophomore who was moved from wide receiver due to a void at tailback in 2004 — could be utilized in a runnerreceiver role, much like USC’s Reggie Bush.
He feels he can be an every-down back, but Burgess (404 yards rushing last year, including 125 in the Sun Bowl) said he would accept whatever job Koetter gives him.
"Whatever we need to do to win," Burgess said. "If someone comes in and beats me out (at tailback), that’s fine because I can concentrate on another role on the team."
With school not yet in session and no limits on practice time, Koetter is insisting the Sun Devils do things to his satisfaction — no matter how long it takes.
On Saturday, Koetter kept the team on the practice field almost an hour after the scheduled finish time of 10:30 a.m. That followed Friday’s workout, in which his squad made up for a 56-minute lightning delay by staying on the field past 10 p.m.
"It’s fall camp, and we have these guys 24 hours a day," Koetter said. "You don’t want to cut corners on the little things because it could come back to bite you in a big way. We’ll take care of those things now."
Wide receiver Derek Hagan is anxiously looking forward to the September issue of Playboy, which he wants to read for an article.
Hagan was named to Playboy’s preseason All-America squad. He and the other team members took part in a photo shoot at The Pointe Hilton at Tapatio Cliffs in Phoenix earlier this summer.
How hard will it be to not peruse the other, ah, features in the issue?
"It will be very difficult," Hagan said, chuckling. "Believe me, though, my picture is the one I want to see the most."
Some ASU players were tabbed to run 40-yard dashes after Saturday’s practice. Koetter said that the results on the stopwatch are not as important as the psychological benefits.
"All those guys who say they run a 4.4 (seconds) probably didn’t run one just now," Koetter said. "No one likes to run a 40 at the end of practice, but we make the kids do that to show them mentally that, hey, you might be tired, but you can do this."
Sophomore Mike Pollack will work with the first team at left guard at least through Camp Tontozona while junior Stephen Berg (shoulder) has limited contact. . . .
Sophomore Jeremy Payton is currently the first-string nickel back. . . .
Koetter had "nothing significant" to say about ASU’s No. 18 ranking in the preseason USA Today coaches poll.
The Sun Devils are the second-highest ranked Pac-10 team, behind No. 1 USC. California is rated 20th.