(Photo: Courtney Pedroza/WCSN)
With two successive off-days looming on Friday and Saturday, the Sun Devil football team returned outdoors to practice on Thursday.
The Mike Bercovici-Taylor Kelly questions have seemingly died down, so Graham diverted his post-practice focus to more expansive topics.
“I told them today, ‘Think about every one of those kids you played high school football with—what they would give to play on Thursday night, game of the week.’ It doesn’t get any bigger than this,” Graham said. “This is why I coach. I love it. There’s nothing like it.
“This is the game (the game against UCLA on September 25) that determines the champion every year, so heck yeah there’s no doubt that this game is (big). I don’t have to give them any speeches to motivate them for this game.”
Graham said he was pleased with his team’s effort on Thursday.
“They had a great day today. Guys really flew around. We’re maturing. I felt like we got better this week. Great week of practice,” Graham said.
In the wake of the NFL’s off-field issues, Graham addressed how his role as a coach expands far beyond ensuring high-quality on-the-field performance.
“One of the things that we try to pride ourselves in is being proactive,” Graham said. “When I first got here, I spent a lot of time with just minimum expectation stuff. It’s just a minimum expectation to go to class. It’s just a minimum expectation to be respectful of other people. It’s a minimum expectation that you’re not going to get arrested, or that you’re not going to do something to embarrass your team.”
“But at the same time, we spend a lot of time on not just the minimum, but a high standard. I like the fact that I get emails about the things that our guys are doing above and beyond. That doesn’t mean we’re immune to somebody making a mistake or getting in trouble, but we constantly talk about it… I am responsible for 100 percent of what they do.”
Graham discusses off-field conduct. He addresses the gray areas that come with being a college student, yet still having the responsibility of representing a team, a family and an entire university.
Along with being a successful football coach, Graham said he is also an educator.
Marcus Ball on the Move Again
Redshirt freshman Marcus Ball is turning into the Josh Harrison, the Ben Zobrist, the Craig Biggio of college football.
In other words, he is becoming a living definition of the description “utility man.”
As has been documented before on WCSN’s football coverage, Ball is a bandit safety by trade. Yet in order to relieve Laiu Moeakiola of the demanding assignment that came with New Mexico’s triple option attack, Ball was converted to a SPUR linebacker.
The switch did not last long, however, as Ball was back practicing with the safeties to prepare for Colorado last week.
On cue with the every-other-week theme, Ball has received reps at SPUR once again to prepare for UCLA in this week’s series of practices.
“Really it’s just by necessity,” Graham said, alluding to Moeakiola’s injury and uncertain status for next week’s game. “We need help there. He’s doing great. We have him and Christian [Sam] rotating with the one’s every two snaps and he’s doing some good things.”
Fortunately for the Sun Devils, Ball is embracing his unique assignments and not agonizing about establishing a consistent body of work at one position.
“It’s not difficult. But it can be if you’re one of those guys who dwells on the circumstance and doesn’t get up there and watch film,” Ball said. “With the attitude that I have though, just getting up there and watching film at both positions, it’s not really difficult.”
Ball recognized that his set of skills is valuable to the team’s success.
“This game situation I could play safety, I could play SPUR. But it benefits the team just to play SPUR and have another safety on the field. UCLA’s a diverse team and they are going to take shots.”
Now fully healthy and recovered from his early-season shoulder injury, Ball is looking to make an assault on the starting position at either SPUR linebacker or bandit safety in the coming weeks.
Defensive Line: Marcus Hardison (End), Jaxon Hood (Nose Tackle), Demetrius Cherry (Tiger)
Linebackers: Christian Sam (SPUR), Salamo Fiso (SAM), DJ Calhoun (WILL), De’Marieya Nelson (Devilbacker)
Cornerbacks: Kweishi Brown (Boundary), Lloyd Carrington (Field)
Safeties: Jordan Simone (Bandit), Damarious Randall (Free)
- Speaking of the NFL, a Jaguars scout was in attendance. According to beat writer Adam Stites, who also covers the Jaguars for SB Nation, the Jaguars organization only scouts seniors. Thus, Marcus Hardison, Damarious Randall and Jamil Douglas presumably received most of the attention.
- As Stites documented in yesterday’s practice report, the Sun Devils continue to experiment with a 3-4 look on defense today. The scheme truly showcases the versatility of the Devilbacker, as Nelson would line up as a linebacker but then join the defensive line prior to the snap for a blitz package.
- As Graham continues to express hope that SPUR linebacker Laiu Moeakiola will be healthy enough to take the field against UCLA in a week, Moeakiola donned a green no-contact jersey for the third day in a row.
- Carlos Mendoza, who has been injured for the bulk of 2014, ran with the second team defense and shadowed DJ Calhoun at WILL linebacker.
- Tyler Whiley, a true freshman who was recruited as a defensive back, practiced with the wide receivers and also wore a green no-contact jersey.