Arizona State defensive coordinator Craig Bray’s boss has been so pleased with his work this season that he has nominated him for the Frank Broyles Award, which is given to the top assistant coach in the country. Bray’s boss is Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson.
“Craig has come in and taken a defense that nobody knew about and molded it like himself, how he teaches,” Erickson said. “The results speak for themselves. He is the leader of the defense. I don’t get in the way.
“We’ve kept it simple and looked at our personnel and determined what we can and can’t do. I don’t know if you can find an assistant that’s done better,” Erickson said.
ASU ranks 19th in the nation in total defense, giving up 318.9 yards a game. It is 16th against the rush, ninth against the pass.
Bray, who previously coached under Erickson at Idaho, Washington State and Oregon State, has kept a base 4-3 defense almost exclusively, rarely calling for blitzes. He has stressed repetition, and the Sun Devil defenders say that they play quicker because they are reacting, not thinking.
“We don’t run a lot of different stuff,” defensive tackle David Smith said. “Last year, we had a lot of movement and stuff, and that got us off balance. This year, we have been playing it straight up and kicking butt.”
The Broyles Award finalists will be announced on Nov. 27. The winner will be named at a banquet in Little Rock, Ark., on Dec. 4.
ASU is seventh in the latest Associated Press rankings and sixth in the two human polls — USA Today (coaches) and Harris Interactive — that factor into the Bowl Championship Series standings, where the Sun Devils stand sixth.
Louisiana State and Kansas are comfortably Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the BCS standings, controlling their own New Orleans title game destinies.
There has been speculation ASU could leap-frog third-place West Virginia by winning its last two games, but with a BCS average of .802, the Sun Devils are .086 behind the Mountaineers. That’s a challenging margin to overcome without the team in front losing.
Missouri is fourth and Ohio State fifth.
Quarterback Rudy Carpenter threw practice passes for the first time since he re-aggravated his right thumb sprain at UCLA on Nov. 10.
“He had to throw and get his timing back because he missed throwing all last week,” Erickson said. “I thought he did well.”
Defensive tackle Michael Marquardt (ankle) did individual work on the side, and Erickson said he is Thursday’s only question mark.