Spring evaluation: Spur preparedness grades

The Spur position is challenging in the Arizona State scheme and other than Laiu Moeakiola, there isn't a proven player on the roster with experience at the spot. How prepared are others?

1. Laiu Moeakiola (junior) -- Though he didn't practice at all in team activities during the spring as Arizona State allowed Moeakiola to heal up, he didn't need to. Moeakiola has already demonstrated he's one of the most -- if not the single most -- competent player on the Sun Devil defense when it comes to understanding and executing his role. There was a stark difference in the productivity and seamlessness of ASU's defense when Moeakiola wasn't able to be on the field due to the shoulder injury he battled from the Colorado game through the rest of the schedule. The Spur position is perhaps ASU's most demanding and yet Moeakiola has no glaring deficiency. He efficiently covers receivers in space, is stout against the run, gets off blocks, is a sure tackler, and a creative, savvy blitzer who finds a way to induce pressure. Perhaps most valuably, he has a calming presence on the unit overall, and it operates much more functionally when he's on the field. Preparedness Grade: 4 / Potential Grade: 4.5

2. Marcus Ball (sophomore) -- Certainly Ball looks the part of a high level football prospect. He's a long and impressively put together athlete who also can bend and move well for his size. But football competency in college and beyond largely comes down to mental preparedness, instincts and toughness, and those things are honed through not only the right habits but also experience. It comes more innately to some than others, and with Ball, it's not as natural to play Spur as it was for Moeakiola, for example. An injury and an unrelated medical condition kept Ball off the practice field for much of his first two years in Tempe, and that's hard to overcome when you're not getting a lot of practice reps at a position that is so difficult to play and certainly not second-nature for Ball. This spring was really the most uninterrupted stretch of time he's been on the field in his thee years at ASU. Unsurprisingly, during that time he showed the most growth and development since arriving at ASU, with some very flashy exhibits of range and play disruption potential. Now it's a matter of not being tentative with his footwork, having good eye discipline situationally and understanding formation and play tendencies from an opponent and his corresponding assignments, and executing those things in a more consistently instinctive manner. He could easily improve his preparedness grade with a strong pre-season camp in August, as he's on the cusp of doing so this summer. Preparedness Grade: 2.5 / Potential Grade: 4.5

3. Luke Williams (senior) -- A summer addition upon ASU coach Todd Graham's initial arrival in Tempe three years ago, Williams has yet to see the field in any meaningful way as he heads into his final season of eligibility. But he hasn't backed off at all in terms of his practice habits, as the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder brought a lot of effort to the field during the spring, and with that came his fair share of playmaking. He's had a more natural feel at the Spur position than in a deeper safety spot, and likes to attack moving forward or laterally, doing so with pretty good play anticipation. He's not as athletically dynamic for the role as others, nor as physically imposing -- those things being his limiting factors -- but he could be a serviceable option here if Moeakiola goes down. Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential Grade: 3

4. Ezekiel Bishop (senior) -- Bishop has always looked more comfortable in run support and playing in closer quarters than a back end safety playing in wider swaths of field, and Spur enables that. Though not big, he's a physical hitter who likes to pursue and delivery a blow. He's undersized though and doesn't handle key reads as well as needed to quickly enough diagnose what's happening on the field. That really hurt his potential at safety and it remains something he'll need to improve upon at Spur. Preparedness Grade: 2 / Potential Grade: 3

Preparedness/Potential Grade Key

5: All-American level performer

4: First/second team all-league level performer

3: Mid-level Pac-12 performer

2: Fringe Pac-12 performer

1: Non-Pac-12 level performer

Editor's Note: Players are ranked in terms of overall current preparedness and not based on potential. Sophomore safety James Johnson worked at Spur some in the Spring but is projected as a field side safety. We are only listing players at one position in these updates.


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