(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Exactly two weeks remain between now and the Sun Devils’ season opener against Northern Arizona University at Sun Devil Stadium. The team scrimmage on Saturday gave head coach Todd Graham and his coaching staff a better idea of where things will line up come September 3.
The scrimmage marked Graham’s first time seeing his team playing at the stadium rather than the standard practice field this season.
“Today was a good day,” he said. “It was nice to go into the stadium and get more of a game like situation. I thought the guys competed real well. We went about 140 plays. Mostly 2s against 1s and some 1s against 1s.”
While there are still some position battles that are undecided, the offensive line, namely at the center position, appears to be closer to a resolution.
Two upperclassmen who are in contention for the starting center job are A.J. McCollum and Stephon McCray. The position is up in the air along with most of the 0-line, which returns just one starter from last season, Evan Goodman.
“AJ McCollum and Stephon (McCray) are competing there,” Graham said. “We’ve got Tyler (McClure) competing there as well and Cohl Cabral has been there too. Cohl has gotten more work at the tackle position though.”
A position battle that Graham wasn’t as decisive about was quarterback, which has been at the center of debate since spring practice. With redshirt freshman Bryce Perkins out for an extended period of time, it is essentially down to Manny Wilkins and Brady White for the job.
Graham mentioned that both players looked “solid” during the scrimmage, but did not expand much further. It has been speculated that the team might go with a two-quarterback system, at least for the season opener, which Graham did not rule out.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “We are not going to alternate series with quarterbacks, but if it’s close enough, it might be a deal where the first series of the second quarter we kind of see how it progresses. We are going to play guys as we see fit.”
This coming week of practice will be important for both players in determining who will begin week one under center for the Sun Devils.
While Graham admitted he did not watch the scrimmage as much as he would have liked and focused more on the tempo, he did see some standouts.
“Tyler Whiley had a couple of interceptions. We had good pressure on the quarterback with the 1s. Cameron Smith was really good today too. He scored a few touchdowns.”
Whiley, a redshirt sophomore, has forced his way into contention to start at the spur linebacker position after a strong spring and fall. Smith, who missed all of last season with injury but was a big piece at wide receiver in 2014, should be a prominent piece in the Sun Devil offense.
Another wide receiver who has been impressive is freshman Kyle Williams. He has drawn praise from wide receivers coach Jay Norvell as well as fellow wide receivers Tim White and Ellis Jefferson, among others. Williams could force his way into the fold sooner rather than later.
Saturday’s scrimmage gave the Sun Devils a good look at what the starting group could look like week one, and the next two weeks will only add more clarity to the picture.