With first-string running back Keegan Herring still not practicing due to an ankle injury, Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson has been forced to explore other ball-carrying options for the Holiday Bowl.
Those include Preston Jones, a fifth-year senior who has 25 carries this season — seven in the last nine games — and Jarrell Woods, a sophomore who has not played all year.
“Keegan has not practiced,” Erickson said on Tuesday. “I can’t worry about the guys who are not practicing. I can only work with these who are. We’ll get those guys ready to play and see what happens as we get closer to game time.”
Herring, injured in the Arizona game on Dec. 1, and safety Josh Barrett (knee), who has not played since the Southern California game on Thanksgiving, could still take the field against Texas on Dec. 27, Erickson believes.
Sophomore Dimitri Nance, who has shared many of the running back duties with Herring since Ryan Torain’s season-ending foot injury, is getting most of the practice carries.
Erickson said that he would not be leery of using Woods in a bowl game with no regular-season experience.
“I’d feel the same about anyone that hasn’t played,” Erickson said. “But I’m excited for him. I have a lot of confidence in him. He’s big and physical, but hasn’t played because of injuries. But he could do well when he gets his chance. I’ve seen it happen a lot of times.”
ASU’s “bubble” indoor practice facility, scheduled to open before the 2008 season, has been compared to the structure at Texas, which Longhorns coach Mack Brown said has been invaluable since its opening in 2002.
“It’s been one of the most important improvements that we’ve made to help us win the national championship (in 2005),” Brown said. “I think any coach experiences the fact that when kids are out in the heat too much, that affects their practice. You can’t be productive.
“The indoor facility is a huge advantage.”
The $8.4 million ASU practice structure will be constructed at the site of the current band field at Rural Road and Sixth Street.
The signing period for junior-college players intending to enroll for the spring semester begins today, and ASU is expected to receive letters of intent from two Pasadena (Calif.) City College teammates, offensive tackle Tom Njunge and cornerback Terell Carr.
Njunge and Carr are the only juco players among 15 known commitments in the Sun Devils’ 2008 recruiting class.
Signing day for high school seniors is in February.