The display began in unique fashion. Rather than just kicking off and playing a “game” against themselves, coach Graham opted to start things off with some drills. First was a version of the old “Oklahoma drill” which involves one-on-one blocking with a running back. This version involved all three levels of blockers and defenders. It’s an interesting drill and it highlights individual effort.
Next came some red zone team run. This was essentially team offense versus team defense, as it called for 11 on 11. But the ball was spotted at the ten yard line and the offense was only allowed to run the ball. After that, the team was separated for some more position specific competition. The offensive linemen went one-on-one against the defensive linemen in pass rush drills. Meanwhile, the skill players did some 7 on 7 at the other end of the field. For most fans, these drills were probably somewhat interesting, but not necessarily exciting. For football folks, it was fun to watch.
Next came the meat and potatoes of the scrimmage. It was football minus the punt and kickoff units. The roster was split into two squads. First and second teamers were mixed in on both squads. But each team was given the opportunity to move the ball and score.
Some highlights/notes from that scrimmage:
1) Taylor Kelly is in Command
During this scrimmage, Taylor Kelly cemented his position as a leader of this team. Kelly had great pocket presence, completed most of his throws and was efficient running the offense. Any possible quarterback controversy or questions on that issue were put to rest for the time being. For proof, early in the scrimmage, Kelly hit Jaelon Strong on a go route for a 63 yard gain. It was a perfect ball.
2) Berco Struggled
Backup quarterback Mike Bercovici struggled in this scrimmage. Perhaps Bercovici was pressing a little. He may have been trying too hard to impress the coaches. Perhaps it was the mixed squad that caused some chemistry issues. Whatever the case, Bercovici did not play well. Early in the scrimmage he threw a bad interception that was almost returned for a touchdown. He forced several other passes into coverage that were almost intercepted and/or tipped. He also missed some open receivers. Sun Devil fans probably shouldn’t panic about this. Berco is an excellent quarterback and a solid backup. He just had a rough day in an unconventional setting.
3) The Defensive Front is in Better Shape than Expected
The departure of Sutton, Coleman, Bradford and Young probably had many fans worried about the defense. That worry is somewhat merited. Those players were a huge part of the defense. But the returners for the front seven are not that bad. Defensive linemen Marcus Hardison, Jaxon Hood, Edmund Boateng and Mo Latu along with LB’s Salamo Fiso, Antonio Longino, DJ Calhoun and Chans Cox are good football players. They’ve got the system down and know exactly what they are doing. They just need some experience. But they are not far behind from where they need to be.
4) The Secondary Needs Work
This is a headache for every coach in the pass-happy PAC-12. Every team throws the ball well. Every team has big, skilled receivers. That puts cornerbacks and safeties in a tough spot. ASU is in that tough spot. Damarious Randall aside, the returning secondary is untested and inexperienced. That spells trouble for any defense. There is talent in those positions. But coach Todd Graham and his staff have work to do in order to put a confident group out there on the back end of the defense.
Overall, a solid scrimmage for ASU. No one got hurt. The headliners performed well and some youngsters got a lot of reps. But while many of the players will view this as the end of spring, the coaching staff will view this game as the beginning. Now it’s time to start over. Conditioning, lifting, refining, and re-evaluating will be the order of the day until August. It’s a solid start.