Archive for the ‘Omar Bolden’ Category

As die-hard football fans, we all love the contact within the game. We jump out of our seat when pads and helmets collide on the gridiron. On the other hand, a major drawback inside the sport revolves around player safety and the injuries that follow.

It is always concerning when the training staff jogs onto the field, towel and water bottle in hand. Within a moment, the serious nature of the injury is observed. No matter what, positive or negative, a gesture to the sideline is passed along.

With each passing second, coaches, fellow teammates and all of the fans in attendance hold their collective breath.

Unfortunately, when a cart enters the playing surface, the news is never good.

This same scenario has played out far too many times in Tempe, Ariz. Dating back to spring practice, All-Conference shutdown cornerback and senior leader Omar Bolden injured his knee and is in danger of missing the entire 2011 season.

Along with Bolden, wide receiver and deep threat T.J. Simpson also tore an ACL during practice in preparation for the upcoming season.

Leaving spring ball, Erickson and the Sun Devils still felt confident with their squad. Although the key injuries during spring hurt, the depth Dennis Erickson recruited was expected to step up.

Although, much of the high praise Erickson’s Sun Devils have garnered this offseason stems from their experience and strength in numbers—especially the upperclassmen.

With each passing practice, another key contributor or slated starter has picked up an injury. Some players’ injuries are not as severe as the aforementioned names, but over the weekend, another big name for Arizona State found himself surrounded by sports medicine personnel.

Brandon Magee, starting linebacker and “backbone of the defense” according to quarterback Brock Osweiler, tore his Achilles tendon early in fall camp’s first scrimmage.

Magee’s injury certainly hurts the Sun Devils’ plans at dominating the Pac-12 on defense. Yet ASU still has quality talent to fill the void at outside linebacker.

The Sun Devils starting linebacking corps was set to read “No. 6, No. 7, and No. 8” in terms of jersey numbers. Now, Magee’s No. 8 will likely be filled by Oliver Aaron’s No. 18.

Maroon and gold fans might remember Aaron from his highlight moment against in-state rival Arizona, where the Gainesville, Fla. native forced and recovered a fourth-quarter fumble.

Aaron’s intensity and ferocious style of play fits well with the other defenders, but Magee’s knowledge, nose for the ball and composure will need to be replaced.

Brandon Magee and fellow Corona Centennial High School (Calif.) teammates Vontaze Burfict and Shelly Lyons had a chemistry that no other linebacking corps in the nation could match.  Magee also played an integral part in calming Burfict in crucial in-game situations last fall. As we all know, Burfict can occasionally boil over. Magee played a good Dr. Phil in many of those moments.

Aaron can try his best, but Burfict has to control what is above his shoulders. Although he is not the most senior member on the defensive side, or the roster—in fact he is not even 21 yet—Burfict will be forced to lead. Everyone knows he can speak with his pads and his hard-hitting tackles, but motivation comes in many forms.

How he chooses to lead should be very telling for the fans in the valley of the sun.

This Sun Devil team has high expectations for their future. Even through these impactful injuries, the goals are still far reaching. And that mentality has to remain consistent within the locker room. Another injury, at any position, could fracture that confidence, but the belief must be rock solid.

Injuries occur throughout all levels of football. Fortunately for college coaches, 85 scholarship players and nearly 40 invited walk-ons are at the staff’s fingertips.

Moments such as these should not be considered “red flags” or a time to press the “panic button.” A door is opening for a younger player to rise to the occasion and perform.

All of these players snapping on their chinstraps with a pitchfork on their helmet want to play football at the highest level. Now, they have their audition.

It’s time to step into a new role.

Published on August 15, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports”

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Spring football is often referred to as a double-edged sword. All of the drills, countless repetitions, increased emphasis on fundamentals and multiple intra-squad scrimmages are necessary evils of spring practice.

Although the points and touchdowns scored during these workouts do not count towards the games in the fall, the injuries sustained will have a big impact and prove long lasting.

Dennis Erickson’s Sun Devils landed on each side of the sword, picking up serious knee injuries in back-to-back workouts and losing key pieces of ASU’s championship puzzle.

First, on Thursday night, word came out regarding starting wide receiver T.J. Simpson, who injured his knee during practice.

Simpson, who is expected to have an MRI exam this week, said, “right now, it doesn’t look good.”

Last fall, Simpson emerged as a go-to target and deep threat for the ASU offense, hauling in 29 passes for 481 yards. Simpson was ASU’s leading returning receiver entering his senior season.

“When I heard the pop, I knew it wasn’t normal.” Simpson responded.

However, injuries during spring and fall camp are just that, normal.

When spring practice commenced, Erickson’s squad had minimal flaws. With 18 starters returning, it was easy to buy into what Erickson and the Sun Devils were selling.

A bone-jarring defense tag-teamed with a prolific offense ready to take the next step in the college football world, was everything fans in the valley of the sun could hope for.

But hopes and dreams of a Pacific-12 Championship were put on hold, once again, with a catastrophic knee injury.

Omar Bolden, ASU’s senior captain and unanimous first team All-Pac-10 cornerback, left Saturday’s scrimmage on the third play. The severity of Bolden’s knee injury is still unknown, but initial views of the injury were not promising.

Bolden’s potentially lengthy loss extends further than just the Sun Devil’s lockdown cornerback spot. As a team leader, the Sun Devils grew up as a cohesive unit alongside Bolden.

As the shining star in Erickson’s debut recruiting class, Bolden took the Sun Devil fan base by storm both on and off of the field. From the moment Bolden pledged to the sun-drenched Tempe campus, maroon and gold fans adored him.

Who can ever forget Bolden’s words? Omar Bolden’s signing day video

“I think it might be…No. Ain’t gonna be a Trojan. I’m going to be an Arizona State Sun Devil!”

After beginning his career as a freshman All-American in 2007, Omar Bolden has appeared in 41 games throughout his career, including 22 consecutive starts from ’07-’09.

Even to this point in Bolden’s career, after many high school standouts fall by the wayside, Bolden has caught the eye of many prominent NFL organizations to continue his career on the next level.

The opportunity to turn pro was appetizing, but as Bolden said during his January 7th press conference, “I have decided to take my talents to the next level…I mean, take my talents to the next level, at this program.”

Expectations for a breakout season by the Sun Devils and Bolden kept the playmaker’s talents in Tempe.

Now, it appears those talents will be sidelined indefinitely.

As the injury bug hit the Sun Devils, fans, players and coaches all felt a swift kick in the gut.

Erickson shared that sentiment as he said, “When you see two guys like that go down, you almost feel like not practicing.”

During spring practice and fall camp, fans hold their collective breath until the first game’s starting lineup is announced. Now, fear of further injuries to even more prominent utility players is a concern.

A week ago, the Sun Devils appeared oozing with depth. Now, with vocal leaders and star players sidelined, the perceived depth will be put to work sooner rather than later.

With starting safeties Eddie Elder and Keelan Johnson sidelined for precautionary reasons this spring, along with Bolden’s injury, the secondary is a worrisome area for maroon and gold supporters moving forward.

Although there is never any good news regarding injuries, on the bright side, the Sun Devils have five months to fill in the gaps and keep hopes and dreams alive for a breakout season in 2011.

In the meantime, Erickson and the Sun Devils will try to rehabilitate the swagger that’s lost with Bolden and Simpson.

Published on April 3, 2011 

“Kris Francis on Sports”