ASU Football: Spring Ball is Here


Tomorrow, the ASU Football team returns to action for spring practice.  “Spring Ball” consists of 15 sessions to lead into the summer off-season.  Monday’s practice begins at 8:30 am at the Kajikawa practice field in Tempe.

Let’s First Look at the Offense:

For the Sun Devils, one of the priorities for spring practice is to establish a personality on offense.  Gone are quarterback Taylor Kelly, receiver Jaelon Strong and offensive tackles Tyler Sulka and Jamil Douglas.  That’s four starters that need to be replaced.  No easy task, but not the worst scenario.  Strong was nationally recognized.  Kelly won 28 games as a starter.  So at the skill position, all eyes are on the replacement at quarterback and receiver.

That means all eyes are on senior quarterback Mike Bercovici.  Bercovici is not the typical new starter.  As a backup, “Berco” started three games last season, winning two of them.  (UCLA, USC, Stanford)  He also played some pressure packed minutes against UofA at the end of the season.  The book on Bercovici is that he is a gun-slinger.  He can spin the ball pretty well and make big plays with his arm.  Of course, his downfall is being too confident in his arm and taking risks by throwing balls he shouldn’t be throwing.

ASU fans should probably prepare themselves to take the good with the bad when it comes to Berco.  He’ll engineer some thrilling drives and make some great plays.  But there is also a good chance that he will throw a vexing interception at a critical time.

As for the coaches, they have the ultimate confidence in Berco.  As do the players.  However, it will still be interesting to watch the chemistry develop with Bercovici in charge from Day One.  The other factor is that backup Manny Wilkins and highly touted newcomer Brady White will be on the field, too.  And both of them are very aware that head coach Todd Graham is not afraid to shake things up with his starting quarterback.  Just ask Bercovici himself, who was unexpectedly passed over three years ago by Taylor Kelly.

As for the receiver position, the assumption is that Cameron Smith will step up and be the featured receiving threat to replace Jaelon Strong.  That remains to be seen.  Most likely, the Sun Devil offense will have to rely on several receivers to make plays.  Junior College transfer Eric Lauderdale was highly rated when he joined the team a year ago.  He red-shirted, apparently struggling with the adjustment to playing at this level.  He’s talented, but unproven.  Also, keep in mind that “everything-back” DJ Foster will most likely be moving back to the slot receiver position.

With the emergence of a new, young group of running backs in DeMario Richard, Kalen Ballage and De’Chavon Hayes, Foster doesn’t need to play that position much anymore.  ASU fans can probably count on seeing a healthy rotation of the three young running backs.

Not too many people are talking about the new Sun Devil offensive line.  However, it is probably the most important aspect of this new ASU offense.  Replacing two starting tackles is no small task.  The coaching staff will undoubtedly be doing a lot of experimenting with the offensive line.  Competition amongst the players should be vicious, which is a good thing. With a quarterback that mostly thrives as a pocket passer, replacing the tackles on the O-Line is absolutely critical.  Success or failure of coach Mike Norvelle’s offense will hinge on who is playing those two tackle spots.

The time for talking and speculating is over.  Now, here in Spring Ball, is the time for the players to show it on the field.  It’s on the players and coaches to retool this offensive unit that has been one of the best in the country for the last three years.