ASU Football: What We Learned From This Year’s Spring Game


Those days are gone, as demonstrated at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday.

Arizona State’s 2013 Spring Game, part of its larger “Fan Fest” extravaganza, attracted more than 6,000 attendees—the largest turnout for a football scrimmage in these parts in recent memory—to see a preview of the 2013 Sun Devil squad.

ASU Head Coach Todd Graham and his staff established a flexible format the Spring Game, which allowed for close examination of the Sun Devil personnel in real-time game situations. The competition provided a number of insights into the future of Graham’s team heading into the upcoming season:

Taylor Kelly remains the No. 1 choice at quarterback

Kelly assumed the starting signal-caller role for the Sun Devils at the beginning of the 2012 season, and hasn’t looked back. On Saturday, the junior quarterback put up a solid—if not flashy—performance. Kelly completed 15 of 21 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. His favorite target was tight end Chris Coyle. Most importantly, Kelly continued to demonstrate strong leadership that has won the respect of players and fans alike.

Kelly must further develop his drop-back passing skills (continued reliance on scrambling could put his health in jeopardy), and find ways to get the ball to receivers on post and intermediate routes.

Grice, Foster & Company appear ready for prime time

ASU’s multi-faceted rushing attack harkens back to the power running of the Frank Kush era. Senior Marion Grice once again displayed his unique skills during the Spring Game, rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown. His athleticism and natural instincts are a volatile combination in the backfield. Look for Grice to garner national attention during 2013.

D.J. Foster didn’t see much action in the scrimmage, but appears to have gained bulk and muscle since last seen in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. This development will benefit Foster during the grueling Pac-12 campaign. Deantre Lewis did not participate Saturday after suffering a groin strain in practice last Thursday. Marcus Washington provided a nice change-up working with the second team.

Paul Randolph has assembled one of the nation’s best defenses

ASU co-defensive coordinator Paul Randolph had to be smiling on Saturday. He has quietly assembled a defense that is expected to terrorize opponents in 2013. The unit will feature returning stalwarts in Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, Devon Coleman, Jaxon Hood, Chris Young, etc., as well as key additions such as Marcus Hardison, Demetrius Cherry, Antonio Longino, and others.

The Sun Devil defense clearly set the tone for this year’s Spring Game (with Hood, in particular, showing marked improvement from last season) and will only get better with new personnel and ongoing conditioning in the fall.

ASU’s wide receiving corps is a work in progress

Kevin Ozier enters the 2013 season regarded as the leader of the ASU wide receiving corps. However, speedster Rick Smith proved his worth during the Spring Game with a handful of nice catches.

It’s no secret that the Sun Devils are banking their hopes on several important arrivals over the summer, including junior college transfer Jaelan Strong and freshman standout Ronald Lewis. The wide receiver position was a weak spot in 2012 and it’s imperative to find reliable outlets for Taylor Kelly’s passing game before the start of the upcoming campaign.

Question marks remain in the secondary

ASU is still in the process of sizing up talent in its secondary. With the departure of Keelan Johnson at the field safety position, all eyes are on sophomore Ezekiel Bishop and redshirt-freshman Laiu Moeakiola. The arrival of newcomers Marcus Ball, James Johnson and Damarious Randall will thicken the plot.

Senior Marlon Pollard and sophomore Rashad Wadood provide reason for confidence at cornerback alongside returning starter Osahon Irabor. Pollard had an interception during the scrimmage, and Wadood—who is competing with transfer Lloyd Carrington and senior Robert Nelson—stood out in pass coverage.

Kicking could be the Sun Devils’ Achilles Heel

Last season’s struggles in the kicking game have carried over into the new year. Both Jon Mora and Alex Garoutte had so-so outings on Saturday. Garoutte missed from 45-yards and Mora missed from 43-yards.

The outlook at punter seems much brighter at this point. Newcomer Dom Vizzare showed off his leg on six punt attempts, landing four inside the 20 with an average of 45.3 yards and a long of 54. Three-star prospect Matt Haack will also compete for the job.