November 6, 2008

Weber to resume role as first-team punter

Dennis Erickson elected to replace Thomas Weber as the team's starting punter two games ago with Weber struggling for the first time in his college career with place-kicking.

The experiment of assigning punting duties to walk-on Trevor Hankins may prove to be short lived, however, as Erickson said following practice on Wednesday that Weber would resume the dual-role Saturday against Washington.

"He gets it off quicker (thank Hankins), but my biggest thing was getting his kicking OK," Erickson said of Weber. "He's kicking really well right now."

Weber made four of five field goal attempts against Oregon State last Saturday after not making an attempt in the three previous games (0-for-3). He had been struggling to get the ball aloft quickly, something that had previously not been a problem.

Erickson attributed Weber's missed field-goal against the Beavers to a timing issue with the snap, and it has been suggested that has been a contributing factor on other missed kicks this season.

Weber isn't the only position change the Sun Devils are expected to make on Saturday. While Thomas Altieri will remain as the starting center, Erickson said he is inclined to shift Shawn Lauvao from left guard to right tackle in place of Tom Njunge, who had several false start penalties in the Oregon State game.

"I think with Shawn the reality is he hadn't played out there in a game," Erickson said. "But he's very athletic, so he brings us a little more out there, pass protection wise in particular."

True freshman Zach Schlink would start in Lauvao's place at guard if Erickson follows through with the switch as expected.

"Zach's never played so it'll be interesting," Erickson said. "He's got a lot of talent. He's got a great future. We'll see what happens. It's a hell of a learning process for him. But he's big and the thing I like about him is he loves the game of football."

If Lauvao earns the start at right tackle, he will be the third player to man that position with the first-string, and the Sun Devils would have their third different line configuration of the season. Redshirt freshman Adam Tello started the first four games of the season at the position, but has not been a factor there since.

Scout team

The Sun Devils are in the midst of a six-game losing streak that is no doubt disappointing for fans that had high hopes for a team coming off a 10-win season, but Erickson said he continues to be encouraged by what he sees with the youth of the program.

"That's how I spend my day, when we're done game planning and we're doing with our preparation for practice at night. I spend a lot of time watching both sides of the [scout team]. We've got some good young athletes but we'll wait and see what happens.. As I've said many times I'm excited about the direction we're going in. If you can just build a solid base of young players and they come up through it for three, four years, that's when you win consistently. That's what we're trying to do."


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