Defense Dominates First Spring Scrimmage

Every sprint training, the most worn out cliché in baseball is that "pitching is ahead of hitting'. That saying can apply to ASU's football scrimmage today, as they white jersey-wearing players more than held their own against the maroon squad.

"The defense is definitely ahead." Said coach Koetter. "I don't put too much credence in why that is, they just played better. They turned over the ball a few times, they ran and hit well, and they never bent until the very end." Collectively, the Sun Devil signal callers were 7-21, and only a few completions traveled over 20 yards. This was due to a strong effort by the defensive line who harassed the ASU quarterbacks for most of the morning, as well as a solid showing by the backfield. Nick Johnson, Jimmy Verdon, Justin Burks, Jamar Williams, Brett Hudson, and Emanuel Franklin are players singled out on defense by Koetter.

Ironically, a running game that was somewhat stagnant last season had a very nice showing. The ASU running backs amassed 95 yards on 28 attempts, and the only three scores in the game came via the ground. Despite the absence of Loren Wade, who has had a tremendous spring, the quality depth at this position is quite apparent. Randy Hill who may have been overshadowed by his fellow redshirt freshman Wade, led all rushers with 33 yards on only five attempts.

Tim Parker, who led the Pac-10 in punting last year, had an impressive showing kicking field goals. The senior was 2-3 and both successful field goals were from 44 yards out. Walk-on Kyle Dixon was 1-2 connecting on a 35 yarder. Punting into some strong winds Parker unofficially averaged 37.8 yards, with his longest punt going for 47 yards. Daryl Lightfoot has seemingly shaken off his tendency to fumble punt returns, and was rock solid fielding the punting and showing a lot of niftiness eluding tacklers.

Stephen Berg and Jimmy Verdon both suffered ankle injuries during the scrimmage. . The severity of those injuries isn't known yet. Speaking of ankles, Adrian Ayala will undergo surgery next week on his own. However, it's not out of the question that he will be healthy for camp T. Loren Wade, Joey Smith, and Matt Fawley were all held out as a precaution, and should be able to go full speed on Monday. Tim Fa'aita was in Hawaii visiting his newborn child, and should be back on Monday as well. Ali Likio who hasn't participated yet in spring practice due to the death of his mother, is another player expected to join the squad in a few days.

Randy Hill enjoyed getting an opportunity to strut his skills today. "It was fun. After all the hard work we put in, it's just fun being out here. It makes you feel a lot better than redshirting last year. Last year I put in all this work, but I didn't get to show it on Saturday. It's nice to come out and show it here today." Hill also mentioned that while it was hard to redshirt, he values his year off because: "I got stronger and faster, and I know the system better." The local McClintock high school star sees brighter days for the Sun Devil ground attack. "Definitely. Our coaches really want to establish the running game this year, and the running backs and the offensive line are working hard on that. Everybody looked good today running the ball."

At the half way mark of spring practice, coach Koetter is generally pleased with the state of his team. "I feel good about the progress. In spring ball we can't all walk off the field happy the same day because we're playing each other – that's the catch. Compared to where we were last year on the first scrimmage our tempo was better. Proven players in spring ball have the tendency to not cut it all the way loose. You can't play that way, because when you go half speed people get hurt. The tempo will pick up more as we go on…The defense did a good job between the 40's, our zone blitz looked pretty good."

On the running game's performance he commented: "It's hard to work it live and gage it. I'm pleased with the way the backs hit the hole, but there's still a lot of things to work on. Most people that were here with us know that we simplified the running game, and went with only four plays and ran them over and over. That will pay off eventually. When you're mixing so many guys in and out, you'll have a missed assignment here and there. We're making progress there."

The ASU head coach mentioned that Chad Christensen and Kellen Bradley are in a tight battle for the backup quarterback spot. He also commented that Josh Golden and Emmanuel Franklin are still rotating at the second cornerback position. Koetter was pleased with Franklin, and said: "He is probably leading the corners with pass breakups and interceptions." We're making progress there."

When asked about the goals attained so far this spring, Koetter replied: "My main objective everyday in spring ball is to come out healthy, and we didn't quite pull that off. It's hard when you're playing with big strong fast guys, and you have then go live at certain times. You do everything you can to take precaution, but it's a rough game. Other than that we wanted to work between the 40's for our defense, we wanted to work on our punt game. It's the first time we went live in that phase, and Daryl Lightfoot looked good returning the ball…Randy Hill did a good job. As many young backs, his running is way ahead of his pass protection. But he shows a good ability to run between the tackles, and that's what you like about this guy. We need to run the ball better. We're gonna be a good passing team because we have such a good quarterback coming back, and we have the good receivers to go with it. I think that even though we lost Mike Pinkard, I think our tight end position will surprise us with their versatility."

Friday's practice will be in pads, but will be mostly a drill practice as part of a coaching clinic for visiting high school coaches. A scrimmage will take place on Saturday, April 12th, and will have some red zone and no huddle plays that weren't included today. Mike Affleck headed the list of the 2003 incoming freshmen in attendance. Others were Brett Palmer, Brent Miller, and Kyle Caldwell. Former Sun Devils Todd Heap, Mike Pinkard, Solomon Bates, and Mason Unck were there as well.

Scrimmage Statistics


Andrew Walter 4-7 84 sacked twice
Chad Christensen 1-7 18
Kellen Bradley 2-7 26 1 INT and one sack


Mike Williams 7-8 one TD
Cornell Canidate 9-23 one TD
Randy Hill 5-33
Germaine McKinney 7-31 one TD


Daryl Lightfoot 1-6
Terry Richardson 1-9
Matt Miller 1-38
Derek Hagan 1-18
Skyler Fulton 2-40

Ishmael Thrower had one INT Jimmy Verdon, Bart Hammit, and Josh Brayer each had a sack

Tim parker made two 44-yd FG's, and had a long punt of 47 yards.

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