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ASU Football: Demetrius Cherry climbs to first-team role

(Photo: ASU Athletics)

The media was out in full force for Tuesday’s practice as it was the first featuring Mike Bercovici at the helm of the offense. Following an injury suffered by Taylor Kelly in the second half of a 38-24 victory over Colorado, Bercovici has been given the reins of an offense that ranks sixth in the nation in total points scored.

Kelly, who left the field on Saturday night in a walking boot and on crutches, was not at the morning media session and left before the end of practice. When he did leave though, the scene looked just as it did on Saturday night, with crutches and a walking boot.

“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him,” Todd Graham said of Bercovici. “Our players have confidence, everybody has confidence in his abilities.”

For a full roundup of the post-practice comments via Graham, Bercovici and offensive coordinator, Mike Norvell, be sure to check out Jake Garcia’s feature on the quarterback change.

Cherry blossoms at ASU

When Demetrius Cherry signed a letter of intent to join ASU in February 2013, it came despite offers from Michigan State, Illinois and California, among others. Yet, the junior college transfer was sidelined for all of the 2013 season as he redshirted and did not see the field.

More than a year and a half since he made a commitment to come to ASU, Cherry has finally cracked the starting lineup, earning first-team reps on Tuesday at defensive tackle. The swap in the lineup, which sent true freshman Tashon Smallwood to the second-team ranks, came on the heels of a very strong showing by Cherry against Colorado.

“Demetrius Cherry had the best game he’s had since he’s been here,” Graham said. “I feel really good about Cherry, he’s big and strong.”

For Cherry though, the rise to the first-team wasn’t about getting better as a player, but growing up as a person.

“I’ve been trying to change my act around,” Cherry said. “I want to try be a leader instead of just standing back. It’s time for me to start talking more and just improve my game, improve myself and my character.”

With Cherry in the lineup, the defensive line suddenly appears like more of a veteran group, as it will feature three juniors and a senior, presuming the starting group is Cherry, Jaxon Hood, Marcus Hardison and Antonio Longino.

Still, it’s lacking in experience as Cherry, Hardison and Longino all transferred from junior colleges and had limited time, if any, during the 2013 season. Cherry was nothing but positive though, about his experience in 2013.

“I feel like this was the best way,” Cherry said. “I’m glad I got to sit out a year and learn, and learn how things go. I came here from a junior college, just not ready.”

While Smallwood will still be in rotation, according to Graham, expect Cherry to earn the start against UCLA and use his run-stopping prowess to slow down an offense that averaged just under 200 yards rushing per game in 2013 and has managed 159 yards per game so far in 2014.

First-Team Offense

Quarterback: Mike Bercovici
Running back: Kalen Ballage
Wide receivers: Jaelen Strong (X), Cameron Smith (Y), Deantre Lewis (Z)
Tight end: Kody Kohl
Offensive line: Jamil Douglas (LT), Christian Westerman (LG), Nick Kelly (C), Vi Teofilo (RG), Tyler Sulka (RT)

First-Team Defense

Defensive Line: Marcus Hardison (End), Jaxon Hood (Nose), Demetrius Cherry (Tiger), Antonio Longino (Devil)
Linebackers: Christian Sam (Spur), Salamo Fiso (Sam), DJ Calhoun (Will)
Cornerbacks: Kweishi Brown (Boundary), Lloyd Carrington (Field)
Safeties: Jordan Simone (Bandit), Damarious Randall (Free)

Second-Team Offense

Quarterback: Manny Wilkins
Running back: Kyle Middlebrooks/Demario Richard
Wide receivers: Fred Gammage (X), Jalen Harvey (Y), Gary Chambers (Z)
Offensive line: Evan Goodman (LT), Sam Jones (LG), Stephon McCray (C), Devin Goodman (RG), William McGehee (RT)

Second-Team Defense

Defensive Line: Edmond Boateng (End), Emanuel Dayries (Nose), Tashon Smallwood (Tiger), Marcus Washington (Devil)
Linebackers: Ezekiel Bishop (Spur), Alani Latu (Sam), Carlos Mendoza (Will)
Cornerbacks: Armand Perry (Boundary), Solomon Means (Field)
Safeties: James Johnson (Bandit), Marcus Ball (Free)

Practice Notes

– Taylor Kelly wasn’t the only captain to go down on Saturday, as starting Spur linebacker Laiu Moeakiola left in the first half with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. While he wore a green (non-contact) jersey on Tuesday, things looked positive for Moeakiola, as he had no wrap or visible limitations with his arm. Furthermore, Graham said after practice that he will play against UCLA.

– Carlos Mendoza, who has long been the only injured player of note, is still wearing a green jersey and has his leg still heavily wrapped, but appears completely healthy in drills. He even earned the second-team reps at Will during 11-on-11 and was sprinting all over the field.

– It’s fun to think of the possibilities with 6’9 Paul Crawford, but he’s really just been relegated to field goal blocking since joining ASU. On Tuesday, he showed his prowess in that skill, blocking a Zane Gonzalez field goal attempt at the end of the media portion of practice.

– Emanuel Dayries earned some time with the second-team defense, and Graham said they’re trying to bring him along quickly so he can help with the interior defensive line. Dayries joined the Sun Devils late in fall camp, less than two weeks before the season opener and the true freshman hasn’t had much time on the two-deep roster.

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