By Monday afternoon, the Arizona State University football team will on its way to Camp Tontozona, the Sun Devils’ idyllic training camp under the shadow of the Mogollon Rim east of Payson, Arizona. The team’s week-long stay at “Camp T” will provide head coach Todd Graham and his staff with an opportunity to scrutinize hotly-contested position battles, work with younger players and JUCO transfers, and help veterans refine their skills.
As of this past weekend’s practices, the offensive and defensive rotations for ASU were as follows:
First team offense:
QB – Taylor Kelly
RB – Marion Grice and D.J. Foster
WR – Ric Smith and Alonzo Agwuenu
TE – Chris Coyle
OL – Evan Finkenberg, Jamil Douglas, Kody Koebensky, Vi Teofilo, and Tyler Sulka
First team defense:
DL – Gannon Conway, Jaxon Hood, and Will Sutton
LB – Anthony Jones, Steffon Martin, Chris Young, and Carl Bradford
CB – Lloyd Carrington and Osahon Irabor
S – Alden Darby and Vilaimi Moeakiola
Second team offense:
QB – Michael Eubank
RB – Deantre Lewis
WR – Cameron Smith, E.J. Jefferson, and Fred Gammage
TE – Darwin Rogers and De-Marieya Nelson
OL – William McGehee, Stephon McCray, Nick Kelly, Evan Goodman and Sil Ajawara
Second team defense:
DL – Marcus Hardison, Davon Coleman, and Jake Sheffield
LB – Antonio Longino, Salamo Fiso, Grandville Taylor, and Chans Cox
CB – Robert Nelson and Rashad Wadood
S – Marcus Ball and Ezekiel Bishop
Coach Graham and his assistants continue to experiment with different line-ups and sets on both offense and defense, so the aforementioned starting rotations aren’t carved in stone. However, with Camp T set to begin, it’s worth considering the following developments at key positions:
- Mo Latu had been practicing with the second team defense, but is finding his way into the starting set with greater frequency. At his current weight of 370 pounds, Latu brings impressive size and strength to the defensive interior, and could develop into a major force at stopping the run (an area of urgent need for the Sun Devils).
- Grandville Taylor has shown flashes of promise when given a chance to practice with the starters. Chans Cox and Anthony Jones have also demonstrated their potential. Cox, in particular, has provided a glimpse of the talent that made him a standout in-state recruit.
- Marcus Ball and Viliami Moeakiola have taken turns at the starting safety position, and will provide much-needed depth at this critical spot. Ball, a freshman, could emerge as a starter when the season begins against Sacramento State. His work at practice has impressed coaches, and he appears to have the size and instincts needed to make an immediate impact at the Pac-12 level.
- Lloyd Carrington has been another bright spot in the Sun Devil secondary. Playing at the corner position opposite senior Osahon Irabor, he has been harassing receivers on their routes and breaking up plays. However, Robert Nelson is pushing Carrington hard for the starting cornerback job.
- Redshirt junior offensive lineman Jamil Douglas recently switched from right tackle to left guard, giving redshirt junior Tyler Sulka a chance to move up at Douglas’s previous spot. This change appears to be benefitting an O-line that has been questioned for a lack of depth.
- At Camp T, all eyes will be on heralded JUCO wide receiver Jaelen Strong, who is already making his presence known by sparring with Irabor during practice. If Strong can get the best of Irabor during their one-on-one matchups, it will be a very promising sign for the Sun Devil receiving corps.
- Newcomers Ellis Jefferson and Cameron Smith are making waves of their own in the early days of fall drills, and will vie for playing time alongside Strong and veteran Ric Smith.
- Last season, third-string quarterback Mike Bercovici was a forgotten man on the ASU sideline. All that appears to have changed in 2013. Bercovici has captured attention with his quick release and (quicker) feet during the early stages of camp. But he will have to battle last year’s backup Michael Eubank for the No. 2 position as the season approaches. Eubank continues to display the running skills and strong arm that are his calling card.
- Redshirt junior Taylor Kelly appears firmly seated in the starting QB role. ASU coaches have praised his leadership abilities and overall command of the Sun Devil offense.
- What’s not to like about ASU’s situation at running back as the Sun Devils head to the cool pines of Payson? Incumbents Marion Grice and D.J. Foster both appear to be faster and more muscular than last season. Look for this pair to emerge as major stars in the Pac-12 Conference. The apparent return-to-health of junior Deantre Lewis is icing on the cake for offensive coordinator Mike Norvell.