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Burgess making a bang at wide-out

Redshirt freshman makes case to be starting receiver

 by Christopher Drexel
 published on Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Four members the offensive line run through drills at practice on April 5 on the practice field. The offensive line has been short handed as of late./issues/sports/658534
Four members the offensive line run through drills at practice on April 5 on the practice field. The offensive line has been short handed as of late.
 

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Of all the ailments the ASU football team had last season, the wide-receiver position may have been the most severe. But if spring football is any indication, the Sun Devils will have some medicine in place come fall.

Through three weeks of spring practice, redshirt freshman wide-out Rudy Burgess has turned several heads, not only because of his playmaking abilities, but because of his flashy speed.

On Saturday, during the second scripted scrimmage this spring, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Burgess looked like a diamond among stones on offense, as he grabbed three passes for 95 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown on a day when the defensive players mostly dominated. Other receivers combined to drop five passes from senior quarterback Andrew Walter.

Burgess has made himself a prime candidate for the starting wide-receiver position opposite junior Derek Hagan. The role has been up for grabs since last season's offensive player of the year, Skyler Fulton, maxed out his eligibility.

"It's open to all of the receivers right now," Burgess said. "I'm working pretty hard, so there is a good chance that I might be able to step up.

"I hope to come out here and stretch the field and take a little bit of pressure off of D-Hag. I know a lot of teams are going to key on him, so I hope I can be a second threat."

Burgess also has made a name for himself on special teams, as he had a number of impressive punt and kick returns on Saturday.

"We've been looking for a return man that says 'I'm the return guy, and everybody on the field knows it,' " head coach Dirk Koetter said. "We want to have someone separated from the pack. Rudy Burgess definitely, definitely did that today. Rudy Burgess said 'give me the ball, and I'll make yards.' "

The thin maroon line

The Sun Devils have been shorthanded on the offensive line as of late. On Saturday, three of the unit's top 10 players were out of commission.

Sophomore Zach Krula, who is expected to start at right guard, was out with a concussion, which he suffered Friday. Redshirt freshman Julius Orieukwu will soon have surgery for a shoulder injury, and sophomore Stephen Berg left the scrimmage early after rolling his ankle.

As a result of being undermanned, the defensive line outplayed the offense for the first time this spring.

"I think anybody that's been at spring practice would agree that the offensive line has been fairly dominant this spring. Today, the defense got the better of them," Koetter said.

Senior center Drew Hodgdon said playing shorthanded made for an intense scrimmage for the 'hogs.'

"The hardest thing is when you have a couple guys go down and some guys have to take all the reps," Hodgdon said. "We had some guys take about 70-80 plays -- that's a game right there."

Up-Hill

The sporadic career of junior tailback Hakim Hill appears to be going north again, as he carried the ball 18 times for 67 yards in Saturday's scrimmage, the most of any tailback. Sophomores Loren Wade and Randy Hill, who are ahead of Hakim Hill on the depth chart, ran for 25 and 61 yards respectively.

"When Hakim has days like today, we all know his talent," Koetter said. "The key for Hakim is consistency. Randy and Loren are both more consistent than he is, but today he was the main man."

Stewart update

Senior strong safety Riccardo Stewart, the captain of the defense, expects to be back to practice today in limited capacity after straining a ligament and breaking up scar tissue in his ankle last week.

Stewart said he will get in some drills, but "start slow."

"There's only a week left of spring ball," Stewart said. "There's really no need to push it. I got four weeks until summer starts to get it fully healed."

Reach the reporter at christopher.drexel@asu.edu.



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