This isn't much of a news story. But I want to talk about Dennis Erickson's style and how he motivates his team.
Erickson is a "one game at a time" type of coach, focusing on the task at hand rather than looking forward to the glory games. He reminds me of a sure-handed wide receiver, in the sense that many players are thinking about their first step before they make sure they have the ball in their hands. That's when teams can sputter, when the focus isn't where it needs to be.
Erickson also is realistic, since he has been around so many teams of varying quality and depth. He knows when he has a good team, and he knows when it's not as good as it should be. He won't pump up the team's ego; if anything, he puts the team down and makes them want to prove his public comments wrong.
Here is an example from the Stats LLC preview of UNLV @ ASU:
The Sun Devils also have a major area for improvement against UNLV. ASU's goal-line offense sputtered early against Stanford, as the team settled for two short field goals and was behind 7-6 midway through the second quarter.
"We've just got a lot of work to do," Erickson said. "We're not near where we need to be to compete in our league. I just don't think we're there yet or close to it."
The Rebels (1-1) found that out about themselves the hard way last Saturday. UNLV opened its Mountain West Conference schedule with a 42-21 loss to No. 22 Utah, allowing 35 straight points to squander a 14-7 lead.
"We have to eliminate penalties and play four quarters consistently," fourth-year Rebels coach Mike Sanford said. "In reality, we have not played four good quarters of football yet."
UNLV is 7-30 under Sanford, but that hasn't stopped Erickson from sounding concerned about the Rebels. Those concerns may be well founded regarding running back Frank Summers, who had 87 yards in each of the Rebels' first two games, scoring a pair of touchdowns against Utah.
"He is about 235 pounds, and he's a beast who can really run in there," Erickson said. "They move the football and they play a good defense. They are very capable of beating us. We are a team that has to focus every week against every opponent and if we don't, then we're not going to win the game and our players know that."
Dennis Erickson is a lot of things, and our rivals like to make him out to be some sort of recruitment villain. In reality, he is just an amazing motivator who gets the best out of all his players. He's exactly the type of coach Dirk Koetter never will be, and he's exactly what ASU needed to turn the corner and become a legitimate Pac-10 Conference challenger.