(Photo: Courtney Pedroza/WCSN)
With the media only being admitted to view 15 minutes of Arizona State’s football practice on Thursday, it is not outside the realm of possibility to believe that season-changing decisions were being made behind the closed gates at Sun Devil Stadium.
Perhaps a new base defense was being formulated because the athletes in the Sun Devil program do not fit the mold for Todd Graham’s highly specialized defense. Perhaps new faces were getting reps with the special teams unit to attempt to correct its abysmal production. Perhaps a starting quarterback was named for Saturday’s contest against Stanford.
But based on the information disseminated in head coach Todd Graham’s post-practice interview, none of the above happened.
“If we played today, [Mike] Bercovici would play because I don’t think Taylor’s quite ready,” Graham said. “But if he’s ready by game time, he’ll play. It’s his team.”
Throughout the course of the week, Taylor Kelly has sported a green no-contact jersey, accompanied by a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of lineman’s cleats. Wednesday’s practice featured Kelly ditching the tennis shoes and opting to commence practice with heavily-taped spikes. That was the case again on Thursday.
“Taylor says he ready to go,” Graham said. “He’s repped and went through everything yesterday except for team session because we don’t want to take any chances of re-aggravating it with somebody stepping on it. Both quarterbacks are going to be available to play and I think both of them will play.”
Quarterback Bercovici was equally as vague:
“I’m excited for him to get back out there,” Bercovici said. “I couldn’t imagine being a senior and have a couple of games taken away from me. I know he’s busting his tail to get back on that field because I know how much that means to him, to be under center and to beat Stanford finally. Like I always have been, I’m going to be his biggest supporter. Whenever he’s out there, I’m going to be his eyes on the sideline, and whenever I’m out there, he’ll be mine.”
Whether or not it is Kelly or Bercovici who will be the “eyes” for the other will likely remain a mystery until ASU’s first offensive possession on Saturday.
Defensive Line: Marcus Hardison (End), Jaxon Hood (Nose Tackle), Mo Latu (Tiger), Demetrius Cherry (End), Edmond Boateng
Linebackers: Salamo Fiso (SAM), Antonio Longino (WILL)
Cornerbacks: Kweishi Brown (Boundary), Lloyd Carrington (Field)
Safeties: Jordan Simone (Bandit), Damarious Randall (Field)
- The defense also showcased a “small” package (which also happens to be the Sun Devils’ base defense) that featured Marcus Hardison, Viliami Latu, Tashon Smallwood and Edmond Boateng on the defensive line.
- While much has been made about the textbook nature of Stanford and what challenges that poses to ASU, Graham said that ultimately his team must be concerned about its execution. What Stanford does is out of his team’s control: “If we will eliminate the defects, the errors, the misalignments, that’s the key. It’s just us being at our best from a character standpoint. That means service; that means team first; that means do your assignment.”
- Mike Bercovici also spoke after practice and had some interesting words about his offensive line: “It’s a statement game, especially for our O-line. They’ve proved themselves so far, but this is going to be a game for them to really establish themselves as one of the best in the entire country.”
- In regards to what he is striving to improve this week, Bercovici said his entire game plan is about possessing the ball: “Owning the football is not just not throwing turnovers, but it’s knowing where to miss. I feel really comfortable with my reads. They’re very simple this week—it’s something that dates back to spring ball, same type of concepts. So basically, it’s putting the ball in the right spots so it’s either us or nobody.”
- Bercovici also compared pooch punting to golfing. He said that trying to pin the opposing team deep in their half of the field is like a delicate 60-yard shot with a 60-degree wedge.