Despite missing Arizona State’s previous four games due to a suspension, Morris Wooten led the team with eight tackles last Saturday, which suggests that he hit the ground running.
However, the reserve middle linebacker allows himself no learning curve.
“It was good to be back, but I’d never settle for eight tackles,” Wooten said. “My goal is to get at least 10 every game. I just hope to bring some intensity and aggressiveness to the defense. We need to get better as a unit, so we can win the rest of our games.”
The senior missed the Holiday Bowl last year and the first three games of 2008 due to an undisclosed team rules violation. The suspension was a tough descent for Wooten, a transfer from Glendale Community College who started eight of the first 11 games a season ago.
For much of spring practice and August workouts, Wooten worked with the third team as Gerald Munns secured the starting role in the middle.
Against the rush-first Georgia offense, Wooten — whose specialty is playing the run — stood out.
“He made some plays in there when he had an opportunity,” ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. “That was his first game back, and he should be able to help us as time goes on. He’s a physical guy who plays with a lot of emotion, and he can blitz. So, he’ll make us better.”
Wooten believes it is not too late to make up for lost time. He should get plenty of first-team snaps this week, as Munns will be absent to deal with what Erickson said was a personal problem.
“(Georgia) showed me what I need to fix as a linebacker,” Wooten said. “It’s not just going downhill. I learned a little patience. This next game against California (on Oct. 4), I’ll have to be patient and read my keys.
“This bye week will help. I’ve been working. I want to see things better and compete.”
BACK TO BASICS
Erickson promised the bye-week practices would have a spring feel, and Tuesday’s workout featured heavy fundamentals work and frequent substitutions during team drills.
“We’re trying to find the right combinations to win some games,” Erickson said. “This is the time we can do it, during the bye week. We’ll look at the tape and see who is doing well, and we won’t be afraid to make changes.”
A position to watch is right tackle, where Tom Njunge and Matt Hustad are attempting to take playing time from starter Adam Tello.
Asked if there were other options on the offensive line, Erickson said, smiling: “Is there a trading deadline? We missed it, huh?”
Starting defensive tackle Saia Falahola had surgery on a broken hand Tuesday morning and should return in time for the California game, Erickson said.
Linebacker Jeff Bereuter sat out with a sore elbow, and tight end Dan Knapp suffered a concussion in practice. Running back Keegan Herring (hamstring) participated, and linebacker Brandon Magee (pectoral) was in full pads but was kept out of contact.
Also, such players as receivers Chris McGaha and Michael Jones, linebacker Travis Goethel and defensive tackle David Smith are “proven guys who can use some rest and won’t do much,” Erickson said.
More than 100 recruits — seven on their official visits — attended the Georgia game.
“The atmosphere was good, and that was the most important thing,” Erickson said. “It was a good weekend.”
Quarterback Brock Osweiler (Kalispell, Mont.) and safety Matt Tucker (Aurora, Colo.), verbal commitments for the 2009 class, are expected to graduate from high school early and attend ASU in the spring.