Eddie Elder's approach to his first start for Arizona State was a simple one.
"It was either make the play or look stupid," the junior safety said bluntly. "I wasn't trying to look stupid."
Elder looked far from it in the Sun Devils' season-opening win over Portland State. An interception, a quarterback pressure in the end zone that led to a safety and several nice open-field tackles made for an impressive debut.
After a strong spring, Elder struggled out of the gates in fall camp, unable to collect a firm grasp on the first-string safety position opposite junior Clint Floyd. In fact, Elder didn't earn the starting nod until the week of the opener.
The diminutive 5-foot-10, 190-pound defensive back, who transferred from College of San Mateo in California, said it took him some time to get comfortable with some of the schemes and concepts being handed down by the defensive coaching staff.
"It's just focusing on the little things and being patient," Elder said. "Everything else takes care of itself. The coaches give you the game plan and you've got to execute."
Elder has shown diversity in his abilities, allowing the coaching staff to use the junior college transfer in a number of ways. He has been called upon in nickel situations and has shown an early penchant for being able to play effectively against the run near the line of scrimmage.
"Eddie did some really good things [against Portland State], obviously," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. "He'll get better as he plays every day. He hasn't played much outside of junior college, but he's an athlete."
Elder, a Sacramento, Calif., native, said he was champing at the bit to get his first taste of action at the major college level. With a physical stature smaller than most he play his position, proving he belongs is a constant mission.
"I was anxious to show what I can do because I felt like I had something to prove," Elder said. "I'm a small [defensive back] and people think my size is my negative, but it's not a negative.
Elder's father, Bryant, never allowed his son believe that his size could keep him from being a productive player. The elder Elder would often tell stories of players who knew that thrived in spite of a smaller frame.
"My dad always told me that the littlest people that he knew back in the day were the hardest hitters," Elder said. "I was always pride myself on that."
Deantre Lewis missed a majority of Wednesday's practice with a migraine headache. Erickson said the freshman running back has no history of migraines and expects him to be on the field for Thursday's practice.
After missing Tuesday's practice with a root canal, sophomore cornerback Deveron Carr was back in action Wednesday.
Junior wide receiver Gerell Robinson continues to participate fully and should be available for Saturday's contest against Northern Arizona.
"It looks like he'll play unless something changes," Erickson said.
Sophomore defensive tackle Toa Tuitea was fully dressed out and worked on the side but did not participate in team segments of practice.
Freshman defensive tackle Junior Onyeali left the Dickey Dome after a mid-practice scuffle with junior tackle Dan Knapp, but Erickson didn't give a reason for the departure.