Player Capsule: Marcus Ball
Weight: 215 pounds
2014 season quick review: Ball played sparingly, making an appearance in eight games as a reserve and finishing the season with six tackles in 2014.
Co-defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Keith Patterson's take: "Marcus is talented, athletic, smart, looks like a football player. He just hasn't had the best luck as far as staying healthy and getting a lot of practice reps and experience and that's a big part of it. Moving to Spur was kind of an adjustment for him too, everything is closer and happening faster and you have to be aware of what's going on and have some different techniques. He's learning and if he can stay out there and keep working and being a student of the game, I think it's going to all come together for him."
SunDevilSource.com analysis: When he suffered a broken clavicle at the camp-ending Tontozona scrimmage as a true freshman in 2013, Ball was derailed from the first-year playing opportunity that seemed inevitable at safety. He remained non-contact in the spring after surgery for the injury and then last summer was diagnosed with a medical condition that necessitated a slow build up back to normal football activities that led to missing a lot more on-field reps. When he was finally cleared in full, Ball found himself at Spur full time, a position that is different in a lot of respects from ASU's field and Bandit safety positions.
Expectations have been high for Ball since he arrived at ASU due to the way in which head coach Todd Graham and others on the staff have spoken about him, but a lot of unexpected hurdles have popped up along the way that slowed Ball's assimilation to college football at this level. If he's able to remain healthy and on the field, especially now that he's had a year to adjust to Spur, he may be able to get some continuity that improves his capability. While Ball is very smart and cerebral, he has had more missed assignment and alignment errors as a percentage of his scrimmage and game snaps than others who are ahead of him on the depth chart. Certainly he's one of the best looking guys on the roster fro a football physique standpoint, and moves well for his size, but he's got to take the next step from a mental processing standpoint. He's been too slow to recognize, identify and adjust on the fly, and prone to mistakes pre-snap and immediately post-snap that can lead to yielding big plays.
Projected depth chart status: It seems extremely unlikely Ball could push past starter Laiu Moeakiola on the depth chart but last season ASU saw a big step down from Moeakiola to whomever backed him up at Spur and if Ball can close that gap, it would be a great development for the Sun Devils. What will determine his success is whether Ball can gain better fluency of the defense and demonstrate that with consistency in a way that yields trust with coaches.