The Arizona State football team arrived at Camp Tontozona just outside Payson where they’ll be spending the remainder of the week practicing once a day leading up to their scrimmage on Saturday morning. The Sun Devils are looking to build off their Pac-12 South Championship and 10-win season a year ago.
— Sun Devil Football (@FootballASU) August 12, 2014
Here are five story lines to keep your eye on over the next few days as Todd Graham’s Devils ramp up to their season opener August 28th against Weber State.
1. Getting Defensive…former stars Carl Bradford, Will Sutton Chris Young and Alden Darby among others are all in NFL camps so there are holes to fill up front. One player who Graham believes needs to take a big step forward this fall is senior defensive lineman Marcus Hardison. Graham believes, although the group is young, there’s plenty of talent and potential playmakers who could emerge this season. You may get a sneak peek at those this week.
2. Go D.J., You’re My D.J.…a true freshman who enrolled early in January, linebacker D.J. Calhoun is expected to see playing time and possibly start when the post-camp dust settles. This four-star recruit was wanted by nearly every Pac-12 school but in the end chose ASU. Past weak-side backers (Brandon Magee, Young) have thrived in Graham’s system in Tempe. The hard-hitting Calhoun’s success would greatly elevate the Devils’ defense.
3. Make Special Teams Special Again…kicker Zane Gonzalez impressed as a true freshman but ASU’s other special team’s units were below average at best. The Devils used a handful of different punters last season finishing 119th in the nation in net punting. Their punt return game didn’t fare much better (96th nationally). Graham has stressed special teams success since arriving and believe there is more overall team speed on the units but only time will tell.
4. Rush to Judgement…it won’t be easy…okay, close to impossible to replace Bradford and Young’s combined 36.5 tackles-for-loss and 16 sacks in 2013 but in the pass-happy Pac-12 you’re a sitting duck if you fail to put consistent pressure on the quarterback. Graham, along with defensive line coaches Paul Randolph and Jackie Shipp will be keeping a close eye on their options over the next couple weeks. The most experienced player up front is junior Jaxson Hood who is expected to make his fall practice debut at Camp T. after dealing with some “personal issues” according to Graham.
5. Healthy Equals Happy…in last season’s Camp T. scrimmage safety Marcus Ball injured his right shoulder essentially ending his true freshman season. After redshirting, he’s expected to be a mainstay this fall. The offensive depth chart is deep and balanced but the same can’t be said for the other side of the ball so it’s important the Sun Devils get through the week with little more than the usual bumps and bruises of camp.