Tuesday morning, the ASU football team begins spring practice. It’s the first of 15 practices planned over the next 5 weeks. It’s the first look at the new Sun Devil team for coaches and fans.
For college football junkies, spring football is akin to a birthday or New Year’s. It’s a new beginning. There are new faces in the huddle. Position battles are raging. There are new coaches and new voices. Every program in the country has players bouncing around full with optimism.
ASU is no exception. This spring, the Sun Devils have a ton or reloading to do. The first order of business is to build a new defense. Not so much a new scheme, but new personnel. Coach Graham and his staff have to find replacements for 9 defensive starters, among them Will Sutton, Carl Bradford and Chris Young. Analysts close to the program will immediately start rattling of names of the likely personnel to fill in the gaps. But the reality is that right now, nobody really knows who is going to assert themselves at all the various positions. That’s what spring ball is all about. The off-season is where unexpected surprises are borne. Coach Graham espouses competition. An unknown, or rather a player that was not expected to contribute can emerge as a contender. (See Gannon Conway)
On offense, the “open seats” are a little more limited. It’s unlikely that returning starters Taylor Kelly, DJ Foster, Jamil Douglas, Jaelon Strong and a few others will get beat out, but it’s a safe bet that every job will have to be earned. And the coaches will be searching for new players that are hungry to produce.
To be fair, this isn’t August. That’s when the chips will be down for position battles. But Spring football is where those battles begin. And it’s why spring football is intriguing for teams around the country. Everyone is curious how team chemistry will be affected, who will step up in leadership roles and who can fill big shoes.
ASU has a lot of momentum right now. Coming off a 10 win season where they were the PAC-12 south champions, there is a lot of buzz around the program. Skeptics will be eying Todd Graham and company to see if they are building something in Tempe, or if they just had a “decent year”. Time will tell, but Spring Football is where that discussion begins.