The spring practices for ASU football are complete. And by and large, so is the reloading of personnel on the offensive side of the ball.
To be clear, coach Todd Graham never allows the competition to stop. Therefore, position battles will rage on until September. However, the depth chart seems pretty consistent and clearly set for most positions. The new arrivals will have some impact on that as the pre-season evolves.
For the offensive line, Nick Kelly has made believers out of the coaching staff at center, replacing Kody Koebensky. (graduation) Christian Westerman joins the O-Line by replacing Evan Finkenberg (graduation). He’ll play left guard, pushing returner Jamil Douglas to left tackle. Returning linemen Vi Teofilo and Tyler Sulka complete the right side. The coaching staff believes this group may be physically tougher and nastier than last year’s unit.
In the skill positions, De’Mariyea Nelson replaces Chris Coyle at tight end. Although it remains to be seen if Nelson can be an every down type of tight end. Running back DJ Foster replaces Marion Grice. Even though many fans thought the world of Grice, Foster may be something special at running back. His three starts at the end of the season were impressive.
At wide receiver, all-conference member Jaelon Strong returns to play one of the outside WR positions. He’ll be a huge headache for defenses again this year. At the other outside WR position appears to be Ellis Jefferson, although he is being pushed by Fred Gammage and Gary Chambers. Incoming JUCO transfer Eric Lauderdale is highly touted and figures to be on the field in some capacity, most likely the outside WR opposite of Strong.
That leaves the “slot” receiver position as really the only true opening for this offense. With Foster moving to RB and Rick Smith transferring out, there is no clear-cut “speed guy” that typically plays that position. It could be Cameron Smith. It might be one of the incoming signees (Tyler Whiley or Jalen Harvey). The entire receiving corps will be battling for reps at the slot or any other position this fall.
Finally, of course, is the quarterback position. This coaching staff doesn’t necessarily rave about one player over another, but right now, Taylor Kelly is in a secure spot as the starting QB. He is looking and acting the part of the starting signal-caller and he is producing like one in practice. It would take a huge set-back by him in fall camp to straight-up lose his job in competition. Devils in Detail doesn’t believe that will happen.
Every year, every team believes that their squad can be better than the year before. This offensive unit has some big shoes to fill. Statistically, they were #2 in the conference last year and in the top 20 nationally. On paper and in practice it appears that they will be just as good as last season, if not better. Now, ASU fans just have to let it play out and see.