(Photo: Jake Garcia/WCSN)
In the final night practice at Sun Devil Stadium before the season opener on Thursday, Arizona State players were dressed in pads and shorts for what was a notoriously light practice for head coach Todd Graham’s standards.
“We wanted to get under the lights to give them a run-through,” Graham said. “We ran through our entire gameday procedure. We talked about our Friday, Saturday, how I talk to them. Then we ran through somewhat of an abbreviated Wednesday practice.”
Now only six days away from the season’s start, Graham continues to reiterate the importance of his young defense acclimating to the speed and mental maturity of Division I college football.
“The thing that keeps young guys from being successful and playing is mental maturity,” Graham said. “It’s not anything bad, it’s just part of being a freshman. You go from being the king of the hill…and then what happens is you shut down a little bit.”
For the second day in a row (as beat writer Adam Stites documented yesterday), Graham singled out a few of his top-performing underclassmen.
The third-year ASU head coach showered praise upon safety DJ Calhoun for his tough, hard-nosed and relentless style of play. However, Graham also went on to say that Calhoun and freshman Christian Sam are battling for the starting WILL linebacker spot, a position unique to this Sun Devil defense.
Graham also spoke briefly on the intriguing potential that defensive back Chad Adams brings to the defense. Graham confessed that he occasionally regrets moving him to safety and not keeping him at cornerback. Yet, according to Graham, due to his versatility, tackling ability and intelligence, Adams may find himself in a starting position at some point in the season.
Defensive Line: Marcus Hardison (End), Demetrius Cherry (Nose Tackle), Tashon Smallwood (Tiger), Edmond Boateng (Devilbacker)
Linebackers: Laiu Moeakiola (SPUR), Salamo Fiso (SAM), DJ Calhoun (WILL)
Cornerbacks: Solomon Means (Boundary), Lloyd Carrington (Field)
Safeties: Jordan Simone (Boundary), Damarious Randall (Field)
Safety Marcus Ball did not dress out for Saturday’s practice and will wait to receive official medical clearance on Tuesday
With Ball sidelined, Graham stated that Jordan Simone and James Johnson are still in contention for the starting free safety position
Damarious Randall served as the primary punt returner for the limited action that was open to the media
Graham and the team’s four captains (Taylor Kelly, Jamil Douglas, Damarious Randall and De’Marieya Nelson) accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and were doused with buckets of ice water after the conclusion of practice
The Make a Wish foundation was also present at the Sun Devil practice. Afterwards, players and coaches greeted and took pictures with children with life-threatening medical conditions.