If anyone on Arizona State's team knows about dealing with internal struggle, it's senior linebacker Gerald Munns.
Two seasons ago, Munns left the program after just three games to attend to personal issues. While the problems Munns went through were no doubt different than the issues plaguing position-mate sophomore Vontaze Burfict, in some ways, he can relate.
"Sometimes it's hard to understand when that switch you've got to turn off," Munns said, when asked about advice he'd give Burfict. "As football players sometimes you're asked to, for six seconds be an animal and for 26 seconds be completely calm and sometimes that's hard for guys. I've had issues with that, everybody has. Definitely for him, he has to know other teams are out there looking to get into conflict with him. I'd just tell him you can't let that extracurricular stuff get in the way."
Munns, a Chandler Hamilton High product, will start for the first time this season at middle linebacker following ASU coach Dennis Erickson's decision to discipline Burfict for his on-field actions.
With Burfict leading the Sun Devils in tackles by a wide margain, Munns knows he has a difficult task ahead of him, especially with mobile Washington quarterback Jake Locker staring him in the face on every down.
"I thought [Burfict] had an excellent game versus Oregon, probably one of the best games I've seen him play," Munns said. "He was running to the ball, he was making plays in the backfield. It was pretty good to see us shut down Oregon's run game compared to teams they've played this year, last year and before.
"But it's definitely an exciting task to get in there, get a job and be able to prove yourself once again. Sometimes coming off the bench it's hard to catch fire, you get out there and sometimes at linebacker you diagnose plays a little bit slower if you're not out there getting a feel for the flow of the game so it's definitely nice to get out there and get more reps."
Munns said there may have been a bit of a defensive lapse in the first half against Oregon State Saturday, but the team remains confident and stable despite suffering its third consecutive loss and ninth straight FBS loss to October of last year.
"Any of those three games we lost were winnable football games," he said. "A couple breaks here or there, a couple less mistakes on both sides of the ball we can correct, we could be 4-1, 5-0, 3-2, whatever it is, but we've got to put the past behind us and start progressing and I think for the most part we have. We had a little bit of a setback last week on defense as far as the first half goes, we accept that, we're moving forward and we're going to take steps in the right direction each week from here on out."
Junior defensive tackle Lawrence Guy did not practice due to illness but is expected to be healthy enough to play by Saturday according to Erickson.
Freshman running back Deantre Lewis (shoulder) practiced and should be available Saturday.
For the second day in a row, ASU's first-team linebacker group had a different look. Wednesday, juniors Oliver Aaron and Shelly Lyons flanked Munns, with junior Brandon Magee on the second team. Junior Colin Parker received some second-team looks at middle linebacker.