ASU Football: Spring Ball Wraps Up


This week, the ASU Football team saw their spring workouts come to an end.  The Sun Devils finished their allotted 15 practices on Tuesday.  The annual spring scrimmage was held on Friday at Sun Devil Stadium.  The final practices on Sunday and Tuesday were more conventional in nature and primarily focused on preparing for their first opponent on Sept. 5th.  (Texas A&M)

Fourth year head coach Todd Graham proclaims that this Spring was the “best we’ve had since we’ve been here”.  And that this team will be the “best that we’ve had”.  Sun Devil fans know that coach Graham has said these very same words every spring since he was hired.  Hard to argue, since his teams have gone 8-5, 10-4, 10-4.  Time will tell if coach Graham’s assessment of his team is accurate or not.  They’ll get a legitimate litmus test for how good they are when they take on the Aggies in Houston in the first game of the season.

Devils in Detail believes that this 2015 ASU team will be competitive, as they always are under Graham.  However, there are some question marks.  We’ll discuss the offense today.

The first question mark is the quarterback.  Undoubtedly, ASU is in a good place with Mike Bercovici as the current starting quarterback.  Sun Devil fans are surely familiar with Berco’s story and his exploits.  The fifth year senior has been in the program for four years and started three games last season, going 2-1.  So, even though technically speaking, ASU is breaking in a new starting quarterback, that’s hardly the case.

Strictly using spring football to grade Bercovici and the offense, Devils in Detail gives him a B minus.  Bercovici’s biggest flaw during his whole career is what the coaches call being “careless with the ball”.  Berco tries to use his cannon of an arm to fit the ball into tight windows.  Essentially, he takes too many risks with the ball.  It does appear that Berco is aware of this.  Throughout the spring, he could be seen making the routine play and checking down.

But in the spring game at Sun Devil Stadium, Bercovici threw two interceptions.  One could almost sense that Berco was itching to unleash his arm and go for the homerun play.  To be fair, he did hit DJ Foster and De’Chavon Hayes right on the numbers for big gains, throwing a rope 50 yards in the air.

But Devils in Detail is not convinced that Bercovici is completely changed or under control.  There is a long time between now and game one, but ASU fans should probably get ready to take the good with the bad with Berco.  He’ll probably light up defenses with his ability to throw the ball.  But he’ll also make some frustrating, risky throws that get picked off and hurt his team.

It would be irresponsible for any fan or analyst to also have some questions about the receiving corps.  The ASU offense lost two talented receivers that could have helped them this coming season.  Junior wideout Jaelon Strong opted to skip his senior season to enter the NFL.  He’ll probably go in the first round.  Sophomore Cameron Smith suffered a knee injury last season, and in his best interests has chosen to miss this season to rehab.  That’s two big, talented targets that ASU won’t have.

This development has forced the ASU offensive staff and players to adjust.  First, running back DJ Foster was moved to receiver.  With the emergence of some talented young running backs, ASU can afford to do this.  It appears that Foster is being moved around between the wideout and the slot position.  Fans can expect to see Foster moved around, perhaps even carrying the ball at times, but he’s primarily a receiver now.  And he’s a good one.  But this offense will need more than him.

Veteran receivers Fred Gammage and Gary Chambers are getting lots of reps with the first team.  They deserve that and they are producing.  But they are not the big play threats that Foster, Strong and Cam Smith are.  One question that everyone around ASU football has is: what’s the deal with Eric Lauderdale?  Lauderdale was brought in last year as one of the highest ranked JC transfer receivers in the nation.  Before the 2014 season even started, people were talking about how unstoppable the passing game for ASU was going to be with Strong and Lauderdale on the field together.

It never happened.  Lauderdale apparently struggled to pick up the Division I game and red-shirted.  And as of this spring, conceptually speaking, he’s still on the outside looking in.  Lauderdale has looked good at times, but still hasn’t emerged as an elite receiver.  For now, he’s just another receiver trying to get on the field.

Finally, there is the offensive line.  (once again, Devils in Detail saves the most important part for the end)  After losing Jamil Douglas and Tyler Sulka to graduation, the O-Line has to replace both starting tackles.  That’s no small task.  To make things worse, throughout the spring, Vi Teofilo and Evan Goodman were nagged with minor injuries and were limited in drills and live action.  This has to be very unsettling for the coaches.

While it may end up being a good thing for some younger players to get lots of reps in the spring.  It’s not a comfortable feeling going into the summer with a lot of flux on the offensive line.  For the last two seasons, ASU has been blessed at this position.  They’ve been healthy and consistent with personnel up front.  ASU fans are hopeful that after the summer, that trend will continue.

Overall, it was probably a successful spring session for the offense.  Many questions were answered.  A rhythm was established and roles were defined.  But there is a lot of work to do in this post-Taylor Kelly era.   And while the coaching staff may argue this, it doesn’t appear that ASU has the depth that they have been used to offensively.  There’s a lot of time between now and game one.  It will fall on the leadership of this team to move the offense from a B minus to an A plus.