(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
In its final spring practice before Saturday’s scrimmage, Arizona State did not get much closer to answering questions that arose at the beginning of practice, but it is enthusiastic about the team, especially the offense.
All position battles will carry over to the fall, as expected. The one getting the most attention, and rightfully so, is the quarterback battle. Manny Wilkins, Bryce Perkins, and Brady White are all considered options to be QB1, and none of the three have the clear edge right now. All three have received reps with the first team since the beginning of spring practice.
A lot of emphasis was placed on special teams on Wednesday’s practice, with various players getting opportunities in the return game. Tim White and Gump Hayes are expected to be the primary kick and punt returners respectively.
The offensive line has some of the most turnover from last season. With key cogs like Christian Westerman and Nick Kelly moving on, the Sun Devils will return only Evan Goodman on the line. Offensive Line coach Chris Thomsen is satisfied with where his unit is at the conclusion of spring practice.
“I think we are making progress,” he said. “There are still things communication wise with getting on the same page, but I’m overall pleased.”
The uncertainty at quarterback and offensive line has thrust the two top running backs, juniors Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage, into more prominent roles on offense. After being sidelined for the first few games of last season, Ballage in particular will have high expectations for this season.
“Me and D-Rich (Richard) are probably the most experienced group on this team,” Ballage said. “We have been playing since we were freshmen, so it’s easier for us to catch onto things, we get it a lot faster than some other players do.”
Ballage also said that even with the revamped offensive line, he does not think it will be any tougher for him as a running back. He also mentioned that he spent a significant amount of time this offseason getting stronger, something that he has already proven as an asset on the field.
Overall, head coach Todd Graham was happy with the Sun Devils performance in today’s scrimmage and considered it a good way to wrap up their spring practice slate.
“I saw a lot of explosive plays,” he said. “Tim White has some big plays both ways, Kalen (Ballage) had a good run, defense had some takeaways in the first half. The two-minute situation was back and forth; I think the defense had a little bit of an edge there. Lots of positive things overall.”