Sun Devils Seek Back-Up

The seventh-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils may find out this week whether they deserve their loftiest ranking since 1996.
ASU plays host to No. 18 California. And while the Golden Bears (5-2, 2-2 Pac-10) are reeling after two straight losses, they represent the first true test for Arizona State (7-0, 4-0 Pac-10).

``I'm happy we're 7-0,'' coach Dennis Erickson said Monday at his weekly campus news conference.

``I'm happy that we're recognized. For us, what happens this week and the week after that and the week after that and the week after that, the next five games are going to tell where we end up.''
After Cal, the Sun Devils visit No. 5 Oregon, then play Pac-10 co-leader UCLA in Pasadena and face No. 9 USC in Tempe.

By the end of that stretch, ASU should know where it fits in both the conference and national picture.
Cal appears to be less intimidating than it was two weeks ago, when the Bears were ranked No. 2 and dreaming of a national title.

ASU took last week off, which allowed a few banged-up players to heal. One who didn't is starting tailback Ryan Torain, who is out for the season because of a with a toe injury.

The bruising 6-foot-1, 213-pound senior had started six of the seven games for the Sun Devils, rushing for 553 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught seven passes for 100 yards and two scores.

Torain will be replaced by a tandem of Keegan Herring, a 5-foot-10, 186-pound junior from Peoria, Ariz., and Dimitri Nance, a 5-foot-10, 204-pound sophomore from Euless, Texas.

Herring will start against Cal, but Nance is expected to see a lot of action.

Like Torain, Herring and Nance were recruited by Erickson's predecessor, Dirk Koetter, who was better known for cultivating quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. The fact that Koetter left Erickson a deep stable of running backs may be pivotal for ASU down the stretch.

Erickson said Herring ``brings you the explosiveness to take it to the house anytime. He's a little bit different. He's got great speed and quickness. He comes out of stuff that you wouldn't think a back could come out of.''

Herring has rushed for 480 yards on 73 carries, an average of 6.6 yards, and he has rushed for four touchdowns.

Nance has gained 193 yards on 37 carries, an average of 5.2 yards, and he has run for two scores.

``Dimitri, on the other hand, is somewhat similar to Ryan, obviously not as big or as tall, but he's more of a physical runner with great feet,'' Erickson said. ``He's got great vision.''

Nance's teammates call him ``Mr. 3000'' because he rushed for 3,173 yards as a Texas high school star.

``I think Dimitri will surprise you,'' Erickson said. ``He does some awfully good things.''

The Sun Devils hardly missed Torain after he was hurt early in a 44-20 victory over Washington on Oct. 13 in Tempe. Herring carried 10 times for 119 yards, breaking a 76-yard touchdown run, and Nance added 92 yards on 13 carries and had a 57-yard touchdown run.

``(Torain is) a guy that gets better as the game went on, but I believe we can do that with our other backs too,'' Erickson said. ``We're going to miss him, but there's not anything we can do about that. That's just part of football, you lose guys, whether it's college or high school or the National Football League, and you've got to replace them.''

Torain might not be the only offensive starter out against Cal. Tight end Brent Miller has a knee injury and may not play. Wide receiver Michael Jones had a concussion against Washington, but he practiced on Sunday and could be available against the Bears.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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