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ASU Football: Taylor Kelly returns to practice

(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)

Before Thursday, Taylor Kelly had missed 12 consecutive practices and two games in a span of exactly four weeks.

But in the final practice session of Arizona State’s second bye week, that streak came to an end.

Limited Takeaways from Kelly’s Limited Practice

It was not an emphatic end to the streak though, as Kelly donned a green, no-contact jersey and was heavily limited during the portion of practice open to media viewing. He wore tennis shoes for the first drills and then changed into cleats about halfway through. The throws that he made were nearly all flat-footed, three-step drop backs that did not showcase his mobility.

Nevertheless, the mere fact that he was in pads and practicing is encouraging.

“[We’re] just easing him back in a little bit just to kind of see how it goes,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said in his only statement regarding Kelly. “Obviously, we’re preparing with both of them (Mike Bercovici and Kelly), but we’re expecting him to be back.”

Kelly then succinctly addressed the media:

“I’m just taking it day by day and we’ll see how I feel… I’m going to be here for the weekend. [I’m] going to do my same normal schedule for rehab and continue to stay in condition,” Kelly said.

When asked if he experienced any pain on Thursday, Kelly said that he would prefer to not give an answer to that question.

Though both Kelly and Graham stated that he is on course to return against Stanford next Saturday, it would undoubtedly alleviate the minds of the coaching staff, his teammates and fans if Kelly could participate in a few practices at full speed.

When asked how many practices at 100 percent it will take for him to be an absolute “go” next week, Kelly said, “I’m not sure—a lot of mental reps and the speed and the timing and stuff. I’m doing as much as I can throwing-wise at practice, so it’s just staying up on that.”

Obviously, although Kelly practicing is a step in the right direction for the Sun Devils, many questions remain unanswered.

First-Team Defense

Defensive Line: Marcus Hardison (End), Renell Wren (Tiger), Mo Latu (Nose), Demetrius Cherry (End)

Linebackers: D.J. Calhoun (SPUR), Salamo Fiso (SAM), Antonio Longino (WILL)

Cornerbacks: Kweishi Brown (Boundary), Lloyd Carrington (Field)

Safeties: Jordan Simone (Bandit), Damarious Randall (Field)

Defensive Adjustments

If the above formation looks a bit out of the ordinary, your keen awareness on the Sun Devils defense is heralded by all the WCSN football staff.

Gearing up for a run-heavy Stanford team, the Sun Devils have been working on a 4-3 power package. Rather than showcase a hybrid defensive end/linebacker in the Devil-backer position, ASU has opted to roll with four defensive lineman in this week’s practices.

Though not commenting on specific schemes is a trademark of Graham, he did acknowledge that he is inclined to continue to use a rotation on the defensive line:

“Up front, I do like the rotation. I think playing more guys, keeping them fresh, is good. It’s frantic. Those no-huddles are really frantic—that’s what’s caused us to have 10 guys on the field. Last year it was easier because we had the same 11 guys out there most of the time.”

Practice Notes

* Jaxon Hood was not in attendance on Thursday. His stranglehold on the starting spot is about as secure as anyone’s though, so expect him to occupy his normal position at nose tackle against Stanford.

* Nevertheless, Graham did offer encouraging words about his replacement Renell Wren: “Renell is really progressing. He’s got a chance. I think he’s real close to playing.”

* Laiu Moeakiola and Viliami Latu wore green, no-contact jerseys for the third day in a row.

* Graham’s closing words on another week of practice: “We’ve had a great week fundamentally getting better. We went back to really the basics. We spent about 15, 18 minutes a day tackling, blocking. [We did] a lot of individual, very little group work. We spent time working the standard formations and standard plays we’re going to see. We’ve worked on Stanford, but it’s also been a lot of fundamental technique.”

Follow Jacob Garcia on Twitter @Jake_M_Garcia or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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