Tontozona: Offensive depth chart analysis

What are the lingering depth chart battles on Arizona State's offense heading into Camp Tontozona action? We examine each position group here.

Quarterback

We know, of course, senior Mike Bercovici is the locked in starter and that will remain the case. In mop up duty we expect redshirt freshman Manny Wilkins will get the reps. Only in the event that Bercovici is hurt is there really some debate right now about which quarterback would get the call as the true backup.

ASU coach Todd Graham said he believes Wilkins probably has a slight edge over true freshmen Brady White and Bryce Perkins. ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has given a lot of reps with the second-team to White and Perkins in order to determine how far along they are in their development. Perkins really impressed us Friday in the quarterbacks position group meeting with how well he handled questions during Norvell's offensive installation. Tontozona will reveal which quarterback is the best No. 2 option.

Running Back

Sophomore Demario Richard has only elevated his physical capability heading into his sophomore year and appears poised to have a really big season as long as he's able to stay healthy. Fortifying the position, sophomore Kalen Ballage was perhaps the team's most improved player in spring ball and he's continued to look very solid at running back in camp. The only way he doesn't end up playing a lot here is if for some reason ASU ends up using him extensively at Devil backer. We don't expect that will happen right now.

De'Chavon Hayes will likely be the team's starter at the slot role in ASU's 20 personnel looks, but there's a real possibility ASU puts Richard and Ballage on the field together with one of them in the receiver role. Of course they could line up in the backfield together and likely will quite a bit. It's even possible the three could play together at times.

True freshman Nick Ralston could serve as a fullback and third-down weapon as a lead blocker, receiver out of the backfield and short yardage back. Those guys are all going to play. The question with this group is whether true freshman Jason Lewis will also be able to get on the field. The more Ballage plays on offense, the more likely that is.

Wide Receiver

This is the most broadly competitive position group on the ASU offense and perhaps on the entire team -- only defensive line/Devil backer is also in the running. Graham, Norvell, ASU wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander are all very bullish on the talent of the group. All have said this is the deepest ASU's been at wide receiver since Graham took over the program. Norvell has said it's possible this may be the best ASU's been at receiver, not just the deepest. That remains to be seen, certainly.

The Sun Devils are going to eventually settle in and play five and maybe six players here, and we know seniors D.J. Foster, Gary Chambers and Devin Lucien will be three of those players. Coaches have said good things about junior college newcomer Tim White, who has mixed between the first and second teams recently. Sophomore Ellis Jefferson is able to play both the 5-receiver position behind Chambers, and the 9-receiver position on the boundary side of the field where Jaelen Strong has departed.

There's a competitive battle for what will probably wind up being the sixth spot, with junior Frederick Gammage, junior Eric Lauderdale and redshirt freshman Jalen Harvey in legitimate competition, and possibly true freshman Terrell Chatman. With Gammage on the shelf in recent practices with an unknown injury, Harvey has stepped up and made plays.

Tight End

Junior Kody Kohl is the mainstay in this group and will likely be on the field whenever ASU has a tight end or 3-back in the formation because of his ability to play both roles. The real questions are twofold: who backs up Kohl and who plays when ASU's in personnel groupings that including a 3-back and tight end or two tight ends?

Sophomore Grant Martinez is in the running after improving his size and strength in the off-season, but Martinez hurt his left ankle Monday and was in a walking boot and on crutches. Sophomore Raymond Epps has also really helped his chances by getting quite a bit bigger during the summer. He's able to run and make plays on the ball, but is he physical enough as a blocker and does he know the playbook?

True freshman Tommy Hudson, at 250 pounds, is already the biggest tight end in the group, so he might be the best in-line option with Kohl at 3-back in those looks. Fellow true freshman Jay Jay Wilson was expected to impact the depth chart at 3-back, but he worked at Devil backer on his first day out of a green non-contact jersey Tuesday.

Offensive Line

The offensive interior is very straightforward, with seniors Christian Westerman, Nick Kelly and Vi Teofilo locked into starting roles at left guard, center and right guard, respectively. If one of them gets hurt, junior Stephon McCray is first off the bench and McCray can play all three positions. If someone else goes down, redshirt freshman Sam Jones has experience practicing at guard and is a very talented player.

Tackle is really where there's been more focus in camp and understandably so, with ASU having to replace two starters from last season. At left tackle, junior Evan Goodman is the heir apparent if he's able to rise to the occasion. So far he appears to be holding onto that spot. He's athletic but not as high-energy with his motor or intensity as would probably be ideal. Jones can also play left tackle, as he did effectively in spring ball when Goodman was out with a hamstring strain. Then there's true freshman Steve Miller, who looks like a star player in the making.

At right tackle, senior William McGehee is the odds-on favorite to win the job right now, with Jones also in competition there and true freshman Zach Robertson extremely talented but not necessarily ready just yet.


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