Camp Storyline: Freshman impact

Certainly Arizona State is hoping to get a lot of production out of UCLA post-graduate wide receiver transfer Devin Lucien and its junior college additions. But which true freshmen have a reasonable or better chance at not only garnering playing time this year, but playing a major role?

SunDevilSource.com and Scout.com ranked this 2015 Sun Devil recruiting class as the program's best haul in recent memory, and perhaps since the inception of recruiting websites like ours. So it only stands to reason that some of the freshmen in the class will see playing time, even as ASU is a relatively veteran, experienced team.

Going into camp, here's a look at the seven freshmen we believe have the best chance of playing a lot of snaps and impacting the depth chart and our reasoning. As camp unfolds in the coming weeks, we'll update this accordingly.

Joseph Wicker -- Despite being a true freshman, Wicker is listed second already on the ASU depth chart at the 3-technique tackle position. ASU coach Todd Graham is consistently determined to try to put playmakers on the field defensively, and especially at the Devil backer position and 3-technique defensive tackle position. Fellow true freshman 3-technique tackle George Lea was available in the spring and looked good but his arrest in the summer may lead to a suspension of some length. Wicker probably ends up playing behind sophomore Tashon Smallwood at the position in a regular rotation, but could potential push past Smallwood if he come out of the gate quickly. We evaluated Wicker as the best defensive prospect ASU signed last year and expectations are high.

Thomas Hudson -- ASU is thin on scholarship bodies at the tight end position, especially guys who can play the in-line position and Hudson arrived on campus as the biggest and heaviest player at the position group on the roster, at around 250 pounds. That alone puts him in strong contention to see his way on the field, particularly as ASU likes to be able to put two and three tight ends on the field together, and these guys have had a tendency to get banged up in the ASU scheme. Junior tight end Kody Kohl is always going to be on the field in any formation that utilizes a tight end and a 3-back. The question will be which two players together give ASU the best overall capability. Since Kohl can play either spot, that comes down to whom pairs best with him. It could be Grant Martinez, Raymond Epps or freshman Jay Jay Wilson as 3-back, flex-type receiver, or it could be Hudson as an in-line or flex option. In heavier personnel groupings though, Hudson would seem to have an edge if he can provide the in-line blocking required.

Jay Jay Wilson -- As a 3-back option, Wilson has a lot of potential. He's a very good athlete and is already pretty physical and well put together. The Sun Devils don't have proven options here and Wilson is battling Epps and sophomore Grant Martinez, neither of whom is firmly established from a production standpoint as yet. The competition between those three players is something we'll watch closely over the next several weeks to see if anyone starts distancing himself from the others. Wilson is a dynamic athlete with size and versatility, so that means he's got a chance to be on the field a lot, especially because he's the type of guy who could be a special teams player.

Jason Lewis -- If Lewis had been on ASU's campus early in the summer like a lot of players he would be higher on this list. Like Wilson and Terrell Chatman, he's a great looking freshman. He also has versatility as an offensive back who can play different roles. That helps his chance of seeing the field, so it's very possible he could carve out a role of some kind, whether that's as a bigger ball carrier or receiving/blocking option. Let's assume for a minute that sophomore Kalen Ballage really does end up playing a fair amount on defense at Devil backer. If that happens, don't be surprised if Lewis absorbs some of the offensive reps at running back in support of sophomore Demario Richard. Lewis a big kid, at 235-240 pounds. Physically that would indicate he's more likely to be ready to play than a lot of incoming freshmen and running back is a position at which newcomers can more quickly assimilate.

Terrell Chatman -- Physically, Chatman has impressive tools and he's made a positive impression on players and support staff with his workouts this summer. There's a real possibility Chatman could beat out someone and play his way onto the field, most likely at the boundary side position behind senior Devin Lucien or the slot position behind Gary Chambers. The real competition may be between Chatman and sophomore Ellis Jefferson as they each try become the team's next feature wide receiver on the boundary side after Lucien and fellow seniors D.J. Foster and Gary Chambers depart following the 2015 season. The opportunity is there for Chatman to run with if he's able to take advantage of it.

Kareem Orr -- Though they have three seniors, the Sun Devils aren't particularly deep at cornerback, especially if sophomore Armand Perry stays at safety. Orr could very conceivably be the third or fourth cornerback option by the time the season rolls around, and that's assuming everyone stays healthy. Sophomore Ronald Lewis in particular is susceptible to a competition for the fourth spot here. With senior Kweishi Brown coming off a meniscus issue that limited him in the spring and senior Solomon Means needing to show increased physicality at the point of attack, perhaps Orr, a lanky corner who is well put together for a freshman, could even push into the Top-3. If so, he would not redshirt. Either way, he's got a big opportunity to show that he's capable of being a starter in 2016

Nick Ralston -- Ralston is someone who could serve a role for the Sun Devils even though he's likely to not play a ton of reps. We saw in the spring he is a good fit as a fullback type player -- someone who can lead block, catch the ball out of the backfield, and be a short yardage ball carrier. He may remind some of the fullbacks at ASU from a decade or two ago, like Mike Karney or Jeff Paulk. There's probably not a lot of difference between him now and a year from now, so might as well get him on the field, especially given his skill set. He's also a special teams candidate.


Sun Devil Source Top Stories